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by Frederick Clarkson, first published in the WomensENews commentator on February 24, 2010

A religious think tank has issued a manifesto about breaking the silence in religious communities about a host of sexuality issues. It hasn’t stirred much media attention, but Frederick Clarkson thinks it could be revolutionary.

(WOMENSENEWS)–The Religious Institute has just issued a 46-page report on the state of sexuality in religious communities and a manifesto that seeks to transform the status quo.

Goals include improved pastoral care of marital relationships, domestic abuse and infertility, and training for prospective clergy in sexuality-related matters.

The institute calls for religious leaders to provide lifelong age-appropriate education for youth and adults and to become more effective advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health in society.

Clergy are often first responders in matters of domestic violence and potential (and actual) suicides by young people struggling with sexual identity. The Religious Institute points out that these first responders have usually received little to no training for the job.

A singular strength of the document is that it offers an uncompromised progressive vision that does not conform to recent fashions in seeking “common ground” with conservative
evangelicals and Catholics.

Particularly striking in this regard is its call for a society in which there is full access to reproductive health care, including abortion, marriage equality and full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of religious communities.

Since it was announced two weeks ago, the report, “Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade,” has generated little media attention beyond a few regional newspapers and online news sites.

Sometimes, this is the quiet way revolutions begin.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA and Co-Founder of the Blog Café Thawra

While reading the excellent book Purple Hibiscus from the outstanding Nigerian author and previous Princeton lecturer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I got to thinking about abusive relationships and how women get stuck in them, unable to break free from these iron shackles. In the novel, the heroine endures torture from her father, who tells her he’s doing this for her own good.

As the world is getting ready for the 54th Commission on the Status of Women to be held in New York in March, that will review and strengthen the commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, domestic violence and abuse against women are now more than ever getting attention from both national and international authorities.

In my whole 25 years of existence (Don’t laugh, I know it’s a small number, but it just goes on to proving my point, which is,(keep on reading)), I have witnessed women being abused verbally in public by their partner or by their father, I have heard testimonies of physical abuse given by young women, women under 30 years of age, already carrying the burden and repercussions of such emotional and physical turmoil so early on in their woman’s life. To many, the abused woman is the married woman suffering beatings from her alcoholic husband. This cliché, like all clichés, has a lining of truth, but let us not forget that abuse can be physical, but also emotional, that it can happen to any woman, and that it can also take place in a parent-child relationship. Besides, violence can also be perpetrated by women, but as the vast majority of violence against women cases recorded have been made by men, we will stick to the gender angle for the purpose of this article.

I have often wondered why women who find themselves in such a relationship do not simply leave their very own private hell.  While it seems very easy to have this rather judgmental kind of reaction, things are far from being so black and white, many shades of grey can appear: many women could be afraid not to be able to sustain their family financially without their partner’s support, some others claim they still love the person who abuse them, some will even tell you they were guilty of something and deserved this outburst of violence, and some will simply not realise they are being abused, because to them abuse is only physical, and they won’t have the appropriate tools to unveil the emotional mistreatments.

While it is possible that many women probably think along these lines, I’m also convinced that something in their partner’s attitude keeps them emotionally attached to them, triggers something in their mind and heart for them to stay or makes them feeling so guilty and worthless that they become grateful to their partner for “putting up with them”.

Studies have shown that the abusive partner is generally somebody who exerts some kind of power upon their victim, whether financially or emotionally, which puts the abused woman, right from the beginning, in a dependent situation. Right at the start of the relationship, there is a will to dominate the other spouse or partner. The process will slowly creep on the relationship: it’ll be a hurtful comment, or a slap. These incidents will be followed by justifications such as “But I’m only saying this because I love you”, or “You provoked me, I went out of my mind, I’m sorry, It will never happen again”.

 

It will happen again.

Emotional manipulation is a big component of the abusive partner’s attitude, along with making the victim feel guilty, put the blame on her. In the eyes of her aggressor, an abused woman has all the flaws in the world, and she should be grateful that he’s staying with her. Insults, degrading comments and intimidating measures will happen often, leading the woman to feel worthless, guilty, and to continuously ask herself if what her aggressor is saying is true: Is she really such a bad person? And if so, why is he still staying with her? Surely, he must be an outstanding person?

And there you go. This is how a woman can endure so many unspeakable treatments and this is how this vicious circle starts.

However, it doesn’t stop there. In order to ensure a firm grip on his prey, and make sure that his partner will never leave him, the abusive man will know how to cajole and seduce his spouse/partner. While continuous violence will eventually lead to a defensive reaction from the victim, an alternation between evil and angel will have her confused: “He can be so adorable; I must be really awful to him sometimes to push him to this extent”. The violent partner will be charming in society and with other people, only throwing from time to time the degrading comment (with a smile and condescending laugh) to the woman accompanying him. These strategies are equivalent to brainwashing, and with such an oppressing burden, no wonder mistreated women have trouble leaving their homes.

This is why it is tremendously important to teach women, not only about their rights, but also about how to identify the first signs of an abusive relationship, when it is not too late to intervene or for the woman to seek help.

Just think about what difference it would make if women would walk into relationships aware of these twisted strategies and manipulations.

Maybe women would have more confidence in themselves.

Maybe a woman wouldn’t die each week in Europe following violence from her partner.

While we reflect this year on Beijing+15 and on the status of women, let us not forget that education is not only knowing about national laws protecting women or CEDAW. It is also giving women tools that they can use before they actually need to resort to these laws.

It’s called prevention, and it works.

Ladies, you’re aware now.

By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA and co founder of the blog Café Thawra

Hello, my name is Paola, and I’m a shoe addict.

This being said, I know how vain and somehow laughable such a statement might sound to the sane citizen, but the clue’s in the name, and when you hear “addict” you don’t particularly think “reasonable”, “reflective”, “composed” or “together”. You think “mental”, and, well, you would probably be right.

I suppose this trait of mine has quickly been spotted by my supervisors at the World YWCA, as one of the first examples they gave me to illustrate our associations’ awareness raising campaigns against violence against women was the YWCA of Scotland’s shoe exhibition.

When I learned about it, something popped in my head and I thought, “This is IT. This job and I were MEANT TO BE”.

So my bright pink clad, elevated, feet couldn’t run fast enough to go and learn about this event that now regularly takes place in various YWCAs around the world.

In 2002, the YWCA of Scotland, shocked by the appalling number of women who die each year at the hands of their partners, decided to write to around 180 famous and not so famous Scottish women, asking them if they would be willing to donate their shoes for an anti-violence against women shoe exhibition. The women could take their shoes back after the exhibition, or donate them to the YWCA to be auctioned in order to fundraise and support the work undertaken with victims of domestic violence. 104 pairs of shoes were thus collected and exhibited with the picture of the woman whom it belonged to, with a message from her, and the event took place during the 16 days of activism for the elimination of violence against women.

104 pairs, for the 104 women that die following domestic violence each year in the United Kingdom.

Fair enough, I hear you say, but why shoes?

The shoes were standing alone in the otherwise bare exhibition hall, forming a silent path that looked as if composed of the dead women’s footsteps. As visitors walked around the exhibition, they could read the messages of all the women that had donated their shoes, women such as J.K Rowling, who donated the pair of Jimmy Choo’s she wore at the premiere of the first Harry Potter movie. The empty shoes were like the unfinished lives of the battered women, women who could, just like their sisters who gave the shoes, have been successful authors, respected lawyers, loved mothers, or whatever they would have liked to be.

If only their executioner had let them.

The experience proved to be so moving and cutting edge that it has been replicated in various YWCAs and at various events, including for example the YWCA Week Without Violence. The YWCA of Australia launched for example the Seventy7 pairs of Shoes exhibition, and the some branches of the YWCA of the USA have also followed suit.

Some might think that using shoes might be a bit frivolous, that, even if it got the organisation’s message across, shoes are not “serious”. To these people, I would answer two things. Firstly, a pair of shoes tells you a lot about a woman, about her lifestyle, her likes, her personality. It is the most essential accessory in a woman’s life, and thus is a very powerful tool to use to raise awareness about VAW.

Secondly, I’ll simply borrow French Author Jean Cocteau’s quote, who said: “Frivolity is the dignity of Despair”.

Please ladies, remember to never let anybody take you out of your shoes. And if they try, walk away.

In style.

YWCA Scotland would be happy to support and advise other YWCA’s thinking about launching their own exhibition.  A more detailed description on how we done ours is over the page.  For further information please contact reception@ywcascotland.org

The Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network has recently launched the Restoring Dignity initiative, engaging senior religious leaders, women and men of all faiths, survivors of violence, and youth to End Violence Against Women. The response to the initiative, “so far has been inspiring”, says Jacqueline Ogega, Director of the Women’s Mobilization Program at Religions for Peace, a collaborator of Ecumenical Women.  Faithful women and men are taking leadership and becoming active in the Restoring Dignity– End Violence Against Women campaign at http://religionsforpeace.org/initiatives/women/restoring-dignity.html.

restoring dignity 

 

 

Please join and take action today!

With the official launch of Phase II of the UN Secretary-General’s and UNIFEM’s Say NO—UNiTE initiative, the initiative will count actions by individuals, governments, civil society partners and faith-based partners. You can show your support by visiting the Say NO website and take action by:

On this webpage, you are invited to create your own resources and actions, update photos from your interfaith event, and even link videos to youtube! And the best part, it’s very easy to use! But if you have any snags, send an email to GlobalWomenofFaith@religionsforpeace.org for technical support.

 

TAKE YOUR FIRST ACTION TODAY! Sign the Call to Action to the UN Secretary-General by 23 November 2009.

 

by Paola Salwan

In September 1995, thousands of people made the historical move of adopting the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action during the World 4th Conference on Women. The declaration, although not legally binding, quickly became a comprehensive reference policy document on women’s rights and women’s lives throughout the world for governments, NGOs, international organisations and the global women’s movement. The twelve critical areas of importance and concern outlined in the declaration (Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional environment and the girl child) paved the way for the other documents that try to ensure and enforce women’s rights, such as the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 or the third Millennium Development Goal, which is promote gender equality and empower women.

A review of the implementation of the BDPA has taken place every five years since its adoption. A political document was drafted at Beijing +5, “Further Actions and Initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, in order to deepen the understanding and application of the BDPA.

For Beijing+15, governmental delegations, but also NGOs, UN Bodies and international organisations attending the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010 will assess and evaluate the progress made on the implementation of the Beijing document. Delegations will be invited to share good practices and experiences, but also to reflect on the challenges that are still lying ahead for women around the world. Many different spaces will be available for participants to express themselves and try and build strategies for women’s rights. The outcome of theses meetings should be a vision for the substantial improvement of women’s lives , in line with the Millennium Development Goals.

In order to prepare this ever-important session, many regional events are already taking place around the world, such as the Africa Regional Task Force for the Beijing Review Process or the 2009 Asia-Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing +15, organised around the theme “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future”. These events are mainly put together by NGOs and civil society, while the high level and experts review meetings that are also being undertaken in each region towards the end of 2009 are organised by ministries and national ministries or regional commissions.

It is indeed paramount to have these events, as well as the review of the Declaration, taking place, in view with the current status of women around the world. If we follow WHO’s statistics following a 10-countries study:

  • About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
  • Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
  • Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Worldwide, up to one in five women report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
    • Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.

It’s time the world wakes up and truly makes the Violence Against Women a top priority on the global agenda. VAW not only traumatizes the women as individuals, it also affects the community as a whole. In societies where women are less represented than men, where women die from honour killings or domestic abuse, the cohesion is likely to be loose and a lack of resources may arise.

Women are homemakers, more often than not bread earners, mothers, sisters, and pillars of the family and of the society. To violate and abuse them is to violate and abuse the society as a whole.

Beijing+15 will be a platform to fight this battle, but we need more of those.

Go on, promote Gender Equality, participate in Beijing+15 events, follow the news on Gender-based violence, spread the word. Every voice counts.

by Sarah Armitage. Cross-posted from inspiremagazine.org

The Burmese military is using rape and sexual violence against ethnic women and girls as part of a deliberate strategy to attain and strengthen control.  Charity worker Sarah Armitage reports
 
Rape. It may be a small word, but it has a meaning that carries the power to destroy individuals, families and entire communities. All around the world, rape is used against women as a show of power and control. In Burma, it is also used as a weapon of war.
 
A couple of weeks ago the Burma Army, the military force of the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), began a new offensive along the border in Karen State. Almost 4,000 civilians fled for their lives across the Moei River into Thailand creating an extensive emergency crisis. In the days leading up to the attacks, the Burma Army entered villages in the area forcibly recruiting soldiers and porters.
 
On 12 June, Naw Pay and Naw Wah Lah chose to stay in their homes rather than try to outrun the Burma Army soldiers heading towards their village, a few hours’ walk from the border.

Naw Pay, aged 18, was eight months pregnant and Naw Wah Lah, aged 17, had a six-month old baby to care for.  It was a decision with dire consequences. When found by the soldiers they were taken out of their homes and gang raped. Afterwards, both young women and the unborn child were brutally murdered. Karen-Women
 
Tragically, this is not an isolated case. Over the past few years, a number of women’s groups based in Burma have produced reports documenting the systematic use of rape and sexual violence by the Burma Army against ethnic women and girls.

The number of known rape victims, some going back as far as 1995, is just under 1,900.  However, this is only a fraction of the true number as so many women are afraid or unable to speak out about what has happened to them.

Sometimes rape is carried out with such extreme brutality that for the victim, death can be the only possible outcome.
  Read the rest of this entry »

by Malte Lei

The CSW – the Commission on the Status of Women – is an annual event.  Hundreds of women from all around the world come together in New York  in February in order to advocate for the rights of women  and girls.  These women come from all backgrounds – they are professors, teachers, social workers, economists, pastors, students, or mothers. They know what’s really going on in their communities, and are well aware of the needs of the people, probably more than the average government official in the UN system. To help the UN to hear the very needs of women and men, boys and girls “on the ground”, and to incorporate these needs into a strong statement – the Agreed Conclusion – is a main goal of the participation of women during CSW and the reason why they are invited by Ecumenical Women.

cross-posted from UNIFEM

Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic, widespread human rights violations in the world. It occurs in every country, rich and poor, and affects women and girls, regardless of age or socio-economic status.  Despite its alarming proportions and deleterious effects on so many levels, it has long been a silent epidemic that has only recently, due to decades of tireless effort and dedication by the women’s movement and concerned human rights activists, been placed high on global, regional and national policy-making agendas.

To advance UNIFEM’s work and accelerate progress in implementation and upscaling, the organization’s vision and future directions are set out in this 2008-2011 Strategy, A Life Free of Violence: Unleashing the Power of Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. It looks at seminal reports, worldwide initiatives, and expert consensus and emerging issues in academic, advocacy and policy circles. It also provides an overview of UNIFEM-supported programming, work in progress at other UN agencies in the context of UN reform and other opportunities available to accelerate progress, such as the Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women.

Under the overall theme of ending impunity and strengthening accountability, the strategy’s four pillars centre around: furthering implementation of existing commitments and promoting upscaling; aligning informal and formal justice systems with international human rights standards; addressing rape as a tactic of warfare in conflict and post-conflict situations; and targeting primary prevention with key groups, especially men and young people.     Download your own copy.

I am a third-wave feminist.  And sometimes, I have no idea what that means.

At the Ecumenical Women Orientation two weeks ago, we worked with feminist theologian Caryn Riswold to elaborate on what it is to be a third-wave feminist in today’s world.  Three generations reflected on whether the distinction of “third-wave” is even helpful. They worried about where the next generation will take us.  And, they expressed concern over whether feminism itself is dead.

Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation
Caryn Riswold speaks at the EW Orientation

Women spanning six continents reminded each other of the various perspectives that a global movement brings to feminism.  We noted with joy young women like Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, who hosts a radio show for young girls, embodying a bridge between the second and third waves.  Privileged feminists of Ecumenical Women were reminded of the needs of a far greater population of women—those for whom reproductive justice is not an option; whose decisions are often made for them; whose bodies are made vulnerable to domestic violence, human trafficking, and crimes of war and terror.

Suddenly, we weren’t facing the nuanced standards of a privileged third wave anymore, riding on the shoulders of our mothers who fought before us.

2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Tamar, a young woman who is raped by her brother Amnon with the permission of her father—none other than King David, who the Bible so faithfully upholds as the greatest leader in Jewish history.  Because she is physically weaker than her brother, the passage tells us, Amnon is able to force her into having sex with him against her will. After this, we are told that because of the actions that he himself chose to perpetrate against her, he comes to hate her “with a hatred greater than the love with which he had loved her.”  So Tamar puts ashes on her head and she tears her robe in grief.  Her father David is angry but does nothing, and her brother Absalom encourages her “hold her peace.”

We never hear what happens to Tamar after this story. The horror of discovering this rape in the Bible is eclipsed only by the realization that even the author cares not what happened to Tamar after all was said and done.  Her life, her name, the “rape of Tamar” – these all serve in the text only as a function to explain why later her brother Absalom, who told her to stay silent, kills her brother Amnon, who raped her.  In the story, Tamar is property to be protected or violated. She is a figure whose violation represents not her own personal grief but her family’s public shame; a woman whose grief is but a footnote in the long opus to political power that we find recorded in the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »

General Assembly resolution 61/143 called for the Secretary-General to establish a database “on the extent, nature and consequences of all forms of violence against women, and on the impact and effectiveness of policies and programmes for, including best practices in, combating such violence.” In connection with International Women’s Day, 8 March 2009, the database has been launched. The information received from governments in response to a questionnaire forms the core of the database. Learn more about the UN’s work on this topic from the Issues on the Agenda page on Women.

cross-posted from Sparkfly, an Ecumenical Women blogging friend

I want to preface this post by stating I have never been raped. I do not know what it is like to experience such an atrocious violation. I am writing from the perspective of an outsider who wants to stand in solidarity with her sisters, locally and globally, who have experienced this atrocious violation. I want to be sensitive to those who have been raped who may read this post and disagree with me. I believe it is every woman’s right to choose weather or not she publicly acknowledges the rape she experienced. It is her right and it is not my right to persuade her to do otherwise.

Yesterday [Wednesday, March 4] I attended a workshop called “She says no to violence”. It was sponsored by UNIFEM. A variety of panelist spoke eloquently about the need to decrease violence against women and how that was happening in the contexts from which they came. The room was warm. The day was late. My mind began to wander.

During the question and answer portion of the workshop my attention surfaced in time to hear an NGO representative say, “Of course I would rather have a gun held to my head than be raped.” She was responding to a panelist’s response to her original question and comment. Ironically, the woman who made the statement was from a women’s peace activist group. Leaving the workshop, I walked with the peace activist to the next gathering. She told me she had never been raped and that she could not imagine her personhood being violated in such a traumatic way. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kathleen Stone, CCUN Chaplain

Morning worship is extremely important for the Ecumenical Women delegation. Being able to effectively ground the day in a firm Biblical faith along side a commitment to address injustices facing women around the world is an incredibly important skill. Both practically and theologically, claiming biblical stories together every morning is powerfully energizing, and has become a focusing tool for those who then spend the day at the United Nations. Doing so every morning during the Commission ushers amazing power to change the ideologies that limit women’s choices and power.

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This year, Ecumenical Women’s Opening Worship at their orientation told the story of Ruth and Naomi. Through dancing, singing, original music, drumming and storytelling, the original, creative telling powerfully moved those gathered. Ruth, as Naomi’s caregiver in a world made for and by men in ancient Israel, was revealed as a powerful, fierce caretaker of Naomi in an unjust world. The storytelling emphasized the fact that Ruth and Naomi’s ONLY chance at survival was for a young, beautiful, loving, fierce, generous woman to sexually and illicitly sleep with a man who was old enough to have been her father. This year, the worship space displays an original participatory artwork commissioned by Ecumenical Women. The artist, Ms. Mary Button (www.marybutton.com) chose to imagine the moment when Ruth clung to Naomi, thereby saving her life. Ecumenical Women place extraordinary import on the representational nature of those who are delegates so each morning prayers for women around the world from the delegates are written on strips of paper which are made into beads and are then sewn onto Ruth’s dress. Because the situation facing Ruth and Naomi is still prevalent in our world and because women’s overwhelming burden of caregiving is so often overlooked in social, economic and political policy making, this story was extraordinarily relevant to the theme of the Commission.

Many thanks to the performing artists who contributed to the service: Dajhia Ingram, dancer; Cassondra Kellum, voice; DeWanda Wise,  actress; and Grace Pugh Hubbard, keyboard.

by Amber Leberman, first published in The Lutheran (2 /2009)

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman inspires Lutherans to challenge their cultures

Zau Rapa calls them “dynamite women.”

Rapa, acting head bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, was referring to the 1,500 women who gathered Sept. 13-19, 2008, at the Baitabag Lutheran girls’ school outside the northern village of Madang.

Rapa saw God’s power as “dynamite” within them, which they took back to their villages after six days of worship, Bible study, singing and drama under the theme “Jesus Liberates Women in Papua New Guinea from Male-dominated Cultures.”

Bonnie Arua and other women from the
Bonnie Arua and other women from the Papua District lead those attending a September conference of the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea in song and dance at the closing night’s worship service.

Yes, that’s “cultures.” Plural. A Papua New Guinea folk saying puts it this way: “For each village, a different culture.” In a country the size of California, more than 850 languages are spoken.

Many of its coastal and island villages are only accessible by boat, and many highlands villages only reachable by plane. Such a diversity of cultures has bred a long history of intertribal conflict and violence.

Some of the women traveled three days by cargo ship to join their Lutheran sisters. They ran out of food when the journey took longer than expected. Others traveled days by truck on overland roads full of potholes. They represented 16 church districts and hundreds of traditional cultural practices. They united as Lutherans to confront a common challenge: the status of women in Papua New Guinea.

Rapa believes they’ll be the dynamite to ignite change in their villages—their cultures—of which the U.S. State Department says “women generally are considered and treated as inferiors” and “gender violence is endemic.”

The justification for violence against women begins with the bride-price, said Rose Pisae, secretary of the Papua District women’s organization.

Across Papua New Guinea, a new bride’s family is compensated for the loss of her agricultural and household labor. Pisae said a bride-price in her district (which includes the capital, Port Moresby) can bring the woman’s family as much as $20,000.

After paying so much in a country where the average per capita income is $900, Pisae said the husband’s family feels like they own the bride and can place demands on her, such as how many children she should bear.

Ibarias Yabon of the Madang District
Ibarias Yabon of the Madang District consults her Bible for further insight into the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea spent two hours each day of its convention studying John 4:4-42 for parallels to their own lives.

Pisae has two daughters—16 and 5. She also has a 12-year-old son. She admits she’s strict with her daughters, expecting them to cook, clean and mind the house.

“Now that I’ve come here,” she said, “I’m thinking that I should have my son do a little work too.

“I tell my two girls: ‘I will not accept the bride-price and I’ll make sure your husbands are good to you.’ I think a lot of women are beginning to understand, to say ‘no’ to the bride-price and to report any violence to the police or the community counselor.”

On Friday, March 6, women worldwide will unite in prayer for Papua New Guinea as part of World Day of Prayer. Women of the ELCA is a denominational representative on the World Day of Prayer USA committee.

Other dynamite women include Jane Henry, director of a Lutheran vocational center in Mount Hagen that trains women in music, theology, church administration, agriculture, nutrition, counseling and computing. Part of the training includes a six-week practicum in which the women share the skills they’ve learned with other women.

“I think the ladies who are here will go back and teach other ladies to speak out,” Henry said. “We can pray to God that it will happen in God’s way.”

Michael Wan Rupulga, a recipient of
Michael Wan Rupulga, a recipient of an ELCA international scholarship and lecturer at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, Papua New Guinea, led a two-hour daily Bible study based on Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well (John 4:4-42).

Another is Seba Benag, a midwife in Biliau who is training men to be present at childbirth and participate in early child care, despite taboos to the contrary.

Such taboos are something familiar to Bible study leader Michael Wan Rupulga. “I struggled along with my mother my whole life,” he said. “I know how it feels.”

The son of the second wife of a village “big man,” Rupulga refused to follow traditional highlands practices regarding the separation of sons from mothers at age 6, when boys become susceptible to the perceived uncleanliness of their mothers.

He was mocked by other men in his village for refusing to avoid contact with menstruating women. They would ask him: “Do you have your period too?”

He’s gone against his culture, he said, but asks: “What’s more important? God’s word or the culture? If there is a barrier, God’s word will break it down. It is like dynamite.”

Rupulga’s mother died in 1997, but she was the inspiration for him to do his master’s thesis at Pacific Theological College in Suva, Fiji, on Jesus’ reaction to the Samaritan woman. Rupulga received an ELCA Global Mission international scholarship to pursue his degree.

“If there’s anything in a culture that suppresses women, that hurts women, that makes women suffer their whole lives, it doesn’t come from God,” Rupulga said. “It comes from the devil.”

At the end of the week, Rapa told the women he was proud of them. “Go home and talk to your husbands about what you deserve and expect in your relationships,” he said.

Will their husbands be receptive?

“If their husbands are involved in church activities, it will be easy to relate what they’ve learned about here,” Pisae said. 

Since our orientation to the Commission on the Status of Women on Saturday, many of our delegates have been thinking about the power of scripture, both in its perpetrating violence against women and in its calling for solidarity and compassion.  We thought we would share this clip, featured on UN Radio which features a Lutheran pastor in South Africa named Solomuzi Mabuza, who uses a dangerous scriptural story about rape to educate men about stopping domestic violence in a South African context:

The Bible story The Rape of Tamar is about a young man who violates his half-sister. South African pastor Solomuzi Mabuza uses this story to teach young people about violence against women. Rev. Mabuza is a passionate advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. He believes that since apartheid has been defeated, South Africa should also work to ensure equality of women and children. UN Radio’s Matthew Graham caught up with Rev. Mabuza during his recent visit to UN Headquarters.

Solomuzi Mabuza recently contributed to Ecumenical Women’s Advocacy Guide, Faith at the UN, Gender in the Church.

Click here to listen to the story – which also talks about  male nurses in South Africa.

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