Recognising International Women’s Day
9th March 2018
ADRA-UK launched its first series of Lunchtime Talks on International Women's Day (Thursday 8 March) in collaboration with the BUC Women's Ministries department. Ain't I a Woman was a 60-minute educational programme focusing on gender parity, led and attended by members of staff from ADRA-UK, the British Union Conference (BUC) and the Adventist Discovery Centre (ADC).
Gender equality is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations 'to address a broad range of social and economic development issues'. As a humanitarian agency, ADRA-UK's work with women focuses on literacy programmes, maternal health, clean water and sanitation, and food security in many countries. The video clip that opened the session highlighted the importance of the work of the agency in helping to close the gender gap in many developing countries and focused on the enormous strides that these women have taken because of ADRA's initiatives and partnerships. The session was opened by Stha Nyamusara, Accountant for ADRA-UK, who gave an overview of the reason for International Women's Day and the rationale for the workshop.
Bearing in mind the latest research, the Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the short quiz that followed highlighted the fact that even in developed countries, there are still major inequalities to women. The smooth transition from the statistics to the Gender Bias game was delivered by Desiré Lewis, Team Assistant, who facilitated three questions for small group discussions.
And the final part of the session was a dramatic monologue written and performed by Sharon Platt-McDonald entitled, 'Eve's Plight' based on the first woman that God created. This tied together not only the challenges that women face both in the developing and developed world, but the struggles that are faced even by woman of faith in their daily lives. The intensity of the narrative was made even more powerful by the costume and the props that she used as she quoted from Joshua 1:9 urging the attendees to be 'strong and very courageous' in the face of hardships, disappointments and trials.
"I am happy that the team were able to run this special workshop on International Women's Day," said Pastor Bert Smit, CEO of ADRA-UK, "as it not only highlights the development work with women, but its huge impact on the lives of children as well."
Last year, we were able to assist over 200,000 women to improve their lives both overseas and in the UK and pray for the blessing of God so that we can help even more achieve greater gender parity in 2018.
Dr Jude Jeanville who speaks passionately about the plight of women contributed to International Women's Day with the following article:
Women have been and continue to be indispensable in God's design for civilization. From the beginning until the end of time, they will be pivotal, and essential to our lives and happiness. Women do not only possess bodies to birth babies, but they do have a brain to birth ideas and great plans.
The recent outcry in the international media for parity and fairness for women is inescapable. The abuse and harassment handed out to women because of their gender and male privilege are debilitating.
The call for parity and equality for women must not be the work of some feminists, #MeTwo, and #PressForProgress movements only. Central to the preaching of the gospel is liberation of the oppressed.
The Church, as part of its mission, is obligated to wash patriarchy and misogyny from its hands: from its teaching, practice, polity and policy. This must begin by engaging in the sound exegesis and hermeneutics of Scripture. A theology toward woman ought to be articulated. The Christian Church's flawed interpretation of a few passages of scriptures has contributed to the misogynistic and patriarchal teachings of the Church, leading to the subjugation and disparity of women for thousands of years.
An essential starting point would be Genesis 2:18 "And the LORD God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." The Hebrew words 'ezer knegdo' are used as a descriptor for woman in Genesis 2:18. 'Ezer' is frequently translated as 'helper', which some have come to interpret or understand as an inferior or one in a supporting role. Unlike the English word 'helper', the Hebrew 'ezer' implies no inferiority; in fact, this word most frequently refers to God in the Old Testament, meaning protector or rescuer. Its modifier, 'knegdo', means 'suitable', 'face to face', 'equivalent to', or 'visible'.
God did not create an inferior being to alleviate man's need for companionship; instead, God created an equivalent human. In her book, The Adventist Home, Ellen G White commenting on this subject said, "Eve was created from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him."
Ancient Judaism literature reflected a negative view toward women. Josephus, a Jewish historian, points to the Law that declares "women to be inferior in all matters and…should be submissive"; Philo, a Jewish philosopher, argues that women ought to stay at home, "desiring a life of seclusion"; Sirach, an Apocrypha book, states, "better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace." (Sir. 42:14 NRSV)
When a Jewish male woke up, he would thank God for three things: that he was not a woman, that he was a Jew and not a gentile, that he was a freeman and not a slave.
The Church Fathers' assessment of women, under the banner of Christianity, does not fare any better than that of the first-century Jews who were instrumental in moulding the church in its early birth, after all the original apostles had died. Tertullian (2nd and 3rd centuries), Saint Augustine of Hippo (3rd and 4th centuries), and Thomas Aquinas (13th century) blamed Eve, and thus all women, for the demise of humankind.
Tertullian had this to say about women: "The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live on too." Saint Augustine branded Eve as a 'temptress' and that all women are capable of the same. Thomas Aquinas stated that women were "defective and misbegotten."
Many of the early Church Fathers held and promulgated very warped views of women and consequently these were interwoven into the church's theology and practice and led to a theology of suspicion about women. The implications of the church's teachings and views on women did not only impact the Christian church, but society as a whole as Judeo-Christian teachings became very pervasive.
The Church, God's voice on earth, should have a declarative statement towards a theology of women. Women was equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Taking a stand to give women their due is a stand to protect the image of God. A paradigm shift must be imminent to effectuate parity, inclusion, protection and affirmation for women.
The Church as 'The salt of the earth', must follow in the footsteps of its founder, Jesus, who against the conventions of His day, defended the plight of women and gave them voice, value and visibility.
[Catherine Anthony Boldeau and Dr Jude Jeanville ]