"What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce."
- Mark Twain
If you haven't read Half the Sky yet, drop what you're doing and read it. No really, do it. Now. I am using this book as one of the central texts in the class that I am teaching this semester about feminism and social work practice. This book covers three primary topics regarding women's issues in developing nations: 1) sex trafficking and forced prostitution, 2) gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape, and 3) maternal mortality. It talks about the plight of women all over the world as they are abused, neglected, trafficked, and forced into slavery at the hands of patriarchy. It also issues a call to action and sheds light on how to begin addressing these issues. It is a beautiful book...and it gets my head all twisted over the women in Africa and specifically in Mozambique.
Mozambique, compared to other African countries, appears to be somewhat progressive when it comes to women's roles in society. Although it is still ranked at the bottom of the United Nations' Human Development Index, Mozambique has produced one of the largest numbers of women in leadership positions in Africa. As of January 2010, Mozambique's parliament comprised 39.2% women, the second highest number in Africa, and ninth highest in the world. Additionally, Mozambique recently appointed the only female Methodist bishop in all of Africa. This is amazing.
And yet, there is still a dire need for advocacy on behalf of women in this country. The Hanhane Women's Shelter near Massinga in Mozambique (one of many humanitarian projects run through the Mozambique Initiative) houses dispossessed women whose families allege that they are "witches" and have banished them from their home. Other women living here have been abandoned by their families because of their state of disability. There is no such need for housing for men because men would never be banished from their homes in this way. Women around the globe, and specifically in Mozambqiue, remain disenfranchised and victimized solely on the basis of their gender.
Which is why I am hereby dubbing myself a "Feminary"...that's right folks, a feminist missionary. This is not to the exclusion of the needs of men; however, because we are called to minister to the "least of these" as Christians, I cannot neglect the gender-based hierarchy that places women on the lowest rungs of society. Despite the stigma that surrounds us when we identify as feminists, feminism is really just the radical notion that women are human beings entitled to equality. Equality should not be a radical concept at all in this day and age, but unfortunately, it often is. Advocacy for equality is what is required of people who identify as Christians and/or as activists. As the authors of Half the Sky assert, we can turn oppression into opportunity for women as we advocate for equal access to education, health care, and fair wages. I am honored to partner with my brothers and sisters in Mozambique to continue this advocacy work on behalf of women there.