"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.
I remember the looks I garnered in college when I started realizing that I was--and then calling myself--a feminist. It's amazing how negative a connotation that terms still carries, particularly when men use to address themselves. Similar problem with the term, "liberal." They are associated in the larger culture with weakness, superfluous militancy, and progressivism that is exclusionary.ReplyDelete
“But may not women, as well as men, bear a part in this honourable service?” Undoubtedly they may; nay, they ought; it is meet, right, and their bounded duty. Herein there is no difference; “there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus. “Indeed, it has long passed for a maxim with many, that “women are only to be seen, not heard.” And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings. But is this doing honour to the sex? Or is it a real kindness to them? NO; it is the deepest unkindness; it is horrid cruelty; it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any woman of sense and spirit can submit to it. Let all you that have it in your power assert their right which the God of nature has given. You. yield not to the vile bondage any longer. You, as well as men, are rational creatures. You, like them, were made in the image of God; you are equally candidates for immortality; you too are called of God, as you have time, to “do good unto all men.” Be “not disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Whenever you have opportunity, do all the good you can, particularly to your poor, sick neighbour. And everyone of you likewise “Shall receive your own reward, according to your own labour.”ReplyDelete
-John Wesley, Sermon 98, “On Visiting the Sick”, III. 7.
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