It’s International Women’s Day.
You could think that’s not particularly interesting or noteworthy. Just because we have heaps of advantages in the UK and tend to take equality for granted, don’t forget that being female is still a huge struggle for survival and dignity in many parts of the world.
At a lunch for Christian women leaders in New Delhi a few months ago, the issue of female infanticide produced passionate debate. Girl foetuses are routinely aborted because parents want sons. According to the 2011 census report, the child sex ratio in India has dropped to 914 girls for every 1,000 boys – the worst ratio in over 60 years.
Tehmina Aurora, who organised the lunch, is a rights advocate in New Delhi and sees inequality all the time. “Indian girls need protection whether they are in the wombs of their mothers or on the streets of their cities. There is a great and deeply rooted prejudice against women in India.”
Women and girls face violence and hatred in many places just because they are female.
When Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery or spoke to women as equals, when he took time with widows and praised the faith of the woman who washed his feet with her tears, he was advocating for the rights of women. Sadly his message is needed just as much today.
My friend Joyce Shiuza lives in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman. She has gone there from Kenya because she heard God’s call. I think I would have been tempted to ignore a call like that!
It is a place of desperate poverty and violence. Anyone under 18 has never experienced peace. Girls are raped on the way to school or when they fetch water – rape is used as a weapon by roaming militia groups.
It’s estimated that a woman or girl is raped every minute.
How can I possibly understand that sort of statistic as I sit in my flat in London?
The extra-hard part is that these girls and women in Congo believe in Jesus and cry out to him for protection and peace.
So what are women like you and me to do? I need to remember that we can make a difference in the lives of these girls and women who have no protection and no power.
Yesterday, I met some lovely women who had come to discuss how we can speak out on issues like these. We chatted about inequality in the Anglican church over lunch but also recognised that there are some BIG issues likeCongowe need to notice.
If feminism is advocating for equality and dignity for women and girls, then we should all be feminists because God believes in those things too.
So what’s to do?
Chat? Yes. Pray? Definitely. Take action? It’s about time.
You can be a part of a global network to empower girls and women to be change-makers so we can end extreme poverty. For details of local action which you can take and campaigns to get involved in, visit Woman to Woman. Ordinary girls and women can be extraordinary.