Women being bold

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Today is that day when we specifically take time to celebrate all that women have achieved socially, economically, culturally and politically. Even in my lifetime so much has changed and I enjoy being able to celebrate that fact. I have been thrilled to see women who have, over many decades, helped to forge forward new discoveries and initiatives being celebrated too within the media (I think, for example, of recent films such as Hidden Figures).

However, there is so much still to be done. And so much inequality in so many areas too. I shudder when I think of the amount of gender violence that still occurs around the world. I feel sick when I think of young girls still being subjected to genital mutilation and women simply accepting daily violence from their husbands as they don’t see any way out. This year’s hashtag for IWD is #BeBoldForChange. Each one of us, in our own spheres of influence, can be courageous and bold. But can we punch above the line and stand up for what we know is right? Can we add our voices to all those saying enough is enough, it’s time for change? I try to write about such issues of inequality whenever I can, and am so grateful that I get to work for charities that are doing something practically, on the ground, to help women trapped in vicious cycles. But a day like today causes me to stop and ponder: am I doing enough? What else could I do?

As a Christian I firmly believe that God is for women. He champions us, loves us, cherishes us;  He shows us how we should be treated – and how we should treat others. May we always look to Him for guidance and openly receive His unending love, grace and mercy. May we listen when He prompts us to reach out, perhaps beyond our comfort zones, to help those who are unable to help themselves.

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International Women’s Day

I love marking International Women’s Day each year because I feel my life is enriched and challenged by the women I not only have around me but those that I either read or write about around the world too. This year, I’ve created an acrostic poem to highlight some of the qualities I find truly inspiring about women in the world today.

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Incredible strength of character;

Not afraid to speak their minds;

Tough on the outside, but tender-hearted too,

Enriching the lives of others by what they do.

Reality for so many is not what it should be,

Never allowed to choose – to be free.

At times I ache for women trapped in unjust lives,

Terrified for them – and feeling helpless besides.

In their response to life they inspire me:

Once more facing the day with determination;

Not allowing circumstances to dominate;

Always responding with dignity;

Loving those around them with such grace and mercy.

 

Women around the world

Overcoming hardship, injustice and prejudice daily.

My own world is cossetted by comparison – but still I face obstacles;

Endurance and education is key for us all.

Not settling but pushing ourselves to go far;

Solid faith in who we are.

 

Don’t ever stop believing in yourself,

Always aim high – you have what it takes to see it through;

Your very existence spurs me on to be the best I can be too.

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International Women’s Day 2014

Happy International Women’s Day! We have so much to be thankful for – but there’s also much to reflect upon. I have had the huge privilege of writing some of my own reflections about IWD2014 for Christian Today. You can read them here.

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I was also able to spend some time this week gathering quotes from some amazing, inspirational women who told me what IWD2014 means to them – either a day to celebrate or a day to think about a particular issue. One such woman is Dr Ruth Valerio, Churches and Theology Director, A Rocha UK, who told me that:

I’d like IWD to be a day when we celebrate the role of women in producing our food. Did you know that 60–80% of food in most developing countries is grown and/or processed by women and that women are the main producers of the world’s staple crops (rice, wheat and maize)? And yet, shockingly, they only own 2% of the world’s land. Let’s give thanks today for the women around the world who grow our food and use that to remind us to be mindful of each mouthful that we eat.

And here is what Julia Immonen, founder of Sport For Freedom, said:

International Women’s Day is a really exciting opportunity to celebrate what it is to be a woman – gentle, yet strong and determined, and to be thankful for those who have gone before to make so much possible and achievable for us as women today. It is also a day where we can stop to recognise the fact that many women within the UK and throughout the world are still subject to terrible injustices. Our work at Sport For Freedom focusses specifically on the injustice of human trafficking in the UK that we long to cease to exist by seeing an end to modern-day slavery in our generation. I believe that we all have a role to play in this mission; we can’t all do everything, but we can all do something. Let’s celebrate this International Women’s Day and also be challenged to use our freedom to fight for those who do not have theirs.

To read what the others shared with me please click here.

Taking stock on International Women’s Day

I am currently editing a fantastic book that seeks to empower women by freeing them from the chains of needing to seek affirmation constantly and looking for the answer to the question Am I Beautiful? It reminds us that as women made in the image of Beauty itself, we are all indeed beautiful, so we need to learn to rise above all the pressures – self- and society- and culture-applied – to accept that. And it also urges us to remember that there are far too many bigger issues, far too many pressing needs, for us to simply be preoccupied with ourselves. We need to be able to move on and make a difference, to be the world changers that women significantly seem to be. The brilliant author, Chine Mbubaegbu, cites some UN statistics:

‘There are 900 million women and girls facing extreme poverty. Women own just one per cent of the world’s wealth, we earn just 10 per cent of the world’s income and half a billion of us can’t read or write.’ And yet, it is being recognised around the world by governments and development agencies that women certainly make a huge difference when given the chance. That, while we earn less than men generally, when we do work we reinvest 90 per cent of it into the health, nutrition and educational needs of our families – as opposed to the 30–40 per cent of men that do so.

Chine’s citation of such facts and figures whetted my appetite so I went in search of more on the UN website. And found some other interesting ones:

  • Over the years women have begun to enter various traditionally male-dominated occupations, but are still rarely employed in jobs with status, power and authority or in traditionally male blue-collar occupations.
  • Women are still under-represented among legislators, senior officials and managers, craft and related trade workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers.
  • Specifically, women are still under-represented in national parliaments, where on average only 17 per cent of seats are occupied by women.
  • There is a persistent gender pay gap everywhere – while it has begun to close slowly in some countries it is still unchanged in others.
  • Despite all these changes, women still continue to bear most of the responsibilities around the home: caring for children and other dependents, preparing meals and doing other housework. Around the world, women spend twice as much time – at least – as men on unpaid domestic work.

While all of these facts start to get me riled, it is the information about violence against women that angers me the most. This is a UNIVERSAL phenomenon – not just occurring in so-called under-developed nations but right under our noses here in the West too. Our ‘developed’ nations can hide some horrific secrets under the surface. Charities such as A21 have done a great job in raising our awareness of such issues as human trafficking but there is so much more that can – and should – be done.

I was horrified to read the following in the UN stats report The World’s Women 2010: ‘In many regions of the world, longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept being beaten by their husbands, even for trivial reasons. Whether for burning the food, venturing outside without their husband, neglecting children or arguing with their husband, in quite a few countries a very high percentage of women consider such behaviour sufficient grounds for being physically hit.’

Wake up women – and men – around the world! We are worth so much more. No one – absolutely no one – deserves to be treated with less respect than another. I hope on today, of all days, we can celebrate all that is good about womanhood and determine afresh to fight against the injustices that so many of our sisters in countries all around the world are facing right now.