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Posted by Onleilove Alston and authored by Yuan Tang

God doesn’t need an army of men to change the world.  Rather He needs servants with humble hearts who are willing to do His work.  As Christians, we need hearts of persistence, faith, and love that endures through the discouragements and hopelessness that can come with human rights work.  It is through relationships and communities that change happens.

I met Im Sopheak while I spent my summer abroad in Pnomh Penh doing legal work.  He is a Christian who started an organization called the Lazarus Project in 2005 where he goes into a slum every Sunday to teach the children Bible stories.  I offered to go with him since I taught Children’s Bible Study at my church.  I had no idea of the impact that those two hours would have on me.

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Missionaries in Tanganyika, late 1890s

Missionaries in Tanganyika, late 1890s

by Simon Khayala, B.D. student at St. Paul’s University, Kenya, and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

To understand the changing role of women in Africa, the history of mission is a very interesting subject to study. Mission was generally equated with maleness; invisibility of women in Christian history was the order of the day. Officially, early period mission agencies were not keen with women contributions, but in fact women missionaries were important for the development of the African church. 

Most mission societies however perceived women as ignorant and backward. They were viewed as more resistant to civilization than men, but that means they were also viewed as victims of traditional rites and practices such as naming, initiation, marriage, funeral rites, and eating rites.   

Therefore Mission agencies became champions of women liberation. They challenged the traditional customs that were oppressive to women; they developed Christian mothers and Christian homes through various terms of education; they helped women to establish women’s organizations to support the church. Women who received this help from missionaries became the pillars of the African church, i.e. Women’s Guild, United Society of Friends Women, Mothers Union, Methodist Women, among others.

Mission work however provided only half liberation. Because the missionaries sent to Africa by European or US-American mission agencies came from a patriarchal background, they were unable or unwilling to  fundamentally challenge another patriarchal system. The nature of education given to women failed to liberate them from the patriarchal structures, because they were only taught how to be good Christian mothers in terms of nutrition, child care, different feeding methods and hygiene.

In the 1960 and 1970’s a new wave for liberation of women came to challenge the existing patriarchal structures in order to allow full participation of women in churches. It was in 1965 when the Women’s Guild in Kenya questioned why only men were church elders and leaders; also the Mothers Union in Kenya advocated more openly for women the rights of women in the church.

Full participation of women or liberation of women is an ongoing struggle. Today we see great improvements, i.e.  most of the churches have embraced women ordination. But that’s not enough, the struggle continues until it achieves its objective of breaking all forms of women oppression.

Confidence, culture, childcare and cash: four factors which Anne-Marie Goetz of UNIFEM identifies as keeping women out of high level decision making bodies in both public and private spheres.

Confidence: women need to learn that their voices are essential for the best decision making to happen. This will only sink in when men as well as women welcome the full participation of women at every level of political and public debate. It will also only happen when women support women and don’t feel that their own individual inclusion in the elite is change enough.

Culture: we need to work for a radical attitudinal change in cultures where women are still purposely excluded from public life. And we need to ensure that women’s participation is more than token in cultures which only superficially include women.

Childcare: women need to know that their children are not losing out through their mother’s choice to participate in the world outside the home. We need to create societies where child-caring is a shared responsibility between women and men and where there is funding to allow families to pay for help when needed. Which leads us to the fourth and final factor:

Cash: women are the poorest of the poor – 70% of the world’s poor are women. Equity of pay, and social assistance proportionate to need, are essential prerequisites to allow women to offer themselves for public office.

And one final churchy question: exactly how well is your denomination doing in including women at every level of decision making? We should be leading the way, not lagging behind!

In a very exciting turn of events, Ecumenical Women was requested by the CSW to deliver not one, but two oral statements on behalf of our coalition.  The first statement, on the topic of women and the financial crisis, was read aloud on March 5, 2009 by EW member Verónica Biech, a young woman of Argentina, stating:

For Ecumenical Women, genuine development is one that fosters just, equitable and caring relationships. Equality between women and men of all races and classes is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice; it is a fundamental prerequisite for development and peace. Due in large part to the efforts of pioneering UN conferences on women, there is now growing acknowledgement that development cannot be attained without gender equality.

We affirm that women are also part of the solution to the global financial crisis. It is critical, therefore, that women are intentionally, strategically and systematically involved in the discussions and decision-making processes around the global financial crisis

Ecumenical Women’s second oral statement was read today at the United Nations by Facia Boyenoh Harris of Liberia, another young woman representing Ecumenical Women.  The topic of the statement was the priority theme of CSW53: “The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV and AIDS,” of which Ecumenical Women reiterated our core stance on the issue:

In conclusion, as women and men of faith, we are committed to the creation of a more equitable society between women and men that is also free from AIDS. Grounded in our faith and commitment to global justice, we believe that the church – at its best – can be a transformative center which models gender equality, resists systems of oppression, supports and promotes women’s rights. We reaffirm our belief that both women and men are created in God’s image. We recognize that the face of AIDS is becoming younger, poorer and more female, and we all must partner to meet the needs of these women where it exists.

by Jacqueline Mukamusana

On Wednesday 04 March, 2009 at CSW meeting in the UN Auditorium, UNIFEM organized a Panel where speakers from various organizations, grassroots, government and UN agencies to discuss on the issue of caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS.

Around the word, gender norms assign women the primary role in caring for people, especially those who ill and dying from HIV and AIDS.
Poverty and inadequate health systems have fostered reliance on home-based, unpaid care. While many family members provide support out of love and compassion, those who are already poor are frequently pushed into destitution by additional financial and emotional burdens. The tendency to rely on women for care greatly reduces their access to opportunities for education and decent work. Political participation and other avenues to women’s empowerment suffer as well.

According to the discussions, the following areas needs more action:

  • Value and visibility of care work: care work must be recognized and valued by individuals, communities, civil society and government and its gender implications acknowledged.
  • Resources: Governments, donors and private sector should provide resources to meet diverse needs of care givers, including for infrastructures and social support
  • Policies: Health and social policies need to ensure care can be provided without placing excessive burdens on households.
  • Education: both parents should work together to educate their children in care work both boys and girls

UNIFEM is doing much to respond:

  • Investing in research for better understanding
  • Promoting community initiatives to address the gender equality dimensions of HIV and AIDS
  • Convening care givers and partiers to develop advocacy strategies
  • Integrating gender dimensions of HI and AIDS in national plans and programs
  • Supporting participation and leadership of women affected by HIV in national responses.

Will the recession encourage (recently laid-off) American men to help out with the housework? Bloggingheads.tv Rebecca Traister (Salon.com) and Emily Bazelon (Slate.com) discuss.

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more about “Bloggingheads.tv – diavlogs“, posted with vodpod

preached by Emily Davila, EW Chair, on the anniversary of World AIDS Day
Advent Lutheran Church, New York City

Like the shepherds so long ago, I must share with you what I saw.

Like the shepherds so long ago, I must share with you what I saw.

I woke up this morning on World AIDS Day with many emails in my inbox from around the world.   World AIDS Day (WAD) is a time of social networks, and we celebrate it in many ways – we post liturgy on websites, email, worship, remember, give money, wear ribbons.  Today is the day that we do these things all at once, all over the world.  By sitting here in these pews we are part of a chain of reflection and action.

AIDS is with us in the US, but from my work at the Lutheran Office for World Community, an office representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) at the United Nations, I have seen the immense and tragic effects of AIDS’s in countries that are poorer than ours.  Having traveled to far off places, like the shepherds sent on a mission that winter night, I feel I must tell you what I have seen, that among suffering I have felt awe.  This witness is what I am going to talk about today. Read the rest of this entry »

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    The work of a gynaecologist who treats rape victims who have been subjected to sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the focus of a film which has just been released. "The Man Who Mends Women", tells the story of Dr Denis Mukwege.
    UN Radio
  • Report lays out "baseline" for progress in gender equality
    Although women are outpacing men in achieving higher levels of education, they are still more likely to pursue the humanities as opposed to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That's according to the World's Women 2015, a UN report which looks at how women worldwide are faring in eight critical areas such as health, education, work, p […]
    UN Radio

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