This past Wednesday March 8, 2017 was our annual International Women’s Day. It is a global day recognised by the United Nations that celebrates the cultural, economic, political and social achievements of women. But the day is also very important to bring awareness that we still need to do better to bring about gender parity.
Tracing the history we go back to 1908 when 15,000 women having grown weary of the inequalities marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter hours. The following year the 1st National Women’s Day was observed in the United States. Over the next few decades other countries would give recognition to their women. It was not until 1975 that International Women’s Day was celebrated for the very 1st time.
Although not perfect by any means, women in the western world have made great strides for equity in the workplace. On the “homefront” it all depends on the household, and different sources vary, but on average women spend twice the hours on household chores which adds meaning to the quote “A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done”. Improvement is still needed in regards to domestic duties and who does what. BBC even has a web link called “Chore Wars” to find out who does more around the household, you or your partner.
Occasionally as a lay pastor I have heard words along the line that the Christian church is anti female. But when I look at the broad picture of countries like Canada that have had a lot of Christian influence and compare them with countries without Christian influence I am learning that nothing has influenced the statue and value of women in our world than Biblical Christianity.
“UNICEF”, which is an acronym for “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund” is an agency that continues to monitor and come to the aid of children and women worldwide. In some countries domestic violence is the norm, such as one country where 90% of women feel it is acceptable for their husbands to hit them.
From the Thompson Reuters Foundation using 6 different criteria 213 international gender experts ranked Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia as the 5 most dangerous countries for women in the world.
Jesus himself set the bar high when he himself gave status, dignity and respect with all the women he encountered and the teachings throughout the New Testament magnifies this even more. This just is not found in the common Greco-Roman culture of the time Jesus walked the earth. From the website Ancient Greece it mentions that “The social classes applied to men only as women all took their social and legal status from their husband or male partner. Women in ancient Greece were not permitted to take part in public life”.
And in ancient Rome from the article “Women in Roman Society” it mentions “Women in Roman society were not given much power. Women were in charge of raising children and keeping house. Since there was no birth control in Roman times, women were often pregnant. Men would leave the house in the morning for work until noon, and then spend the afternoon relaxing at the baths or public entertainment event. When a man returned home, he expected his house to be in order”.
It was in this type of social structure that Jesus lived to break down prejudices and inequalities. Jesus was BOLD FOR CHANGE. He ignored the prejudices and the prevailing view that women were inferior beings. In John 4 Jesus spoke to a Samaritan women in public. This may not be unusual in today’s Western cultures, but in the culture of the day this was a radical departure from the norm. He treated her with dignity and respect. Jesus was friends with Mary and Martha and many followers who were women. This is not unusual today, but extremely unusual in the day. And as we approach Easter, the 1st people who were at the empty tomb were women followers. And Jesus instructs the women to tell the disciples that he was alive, which was huge. In a culture where a women’s testimony was worth very little, Jesus elevated the value of women beyond anything the world has seen.
I am glad we celebrate International Women’s Day which recognises the cultural, economic, political and social achievements of women. And I am thankful for the country I live in and the freedoms and equalities we enjoy here. More rights and privileges than any other time in history. I am thankful for the Christian influence we enjoy here. A trip to an Arab or third world nation where there is no or little Christian influence will tell you how little freedom women in those countries enjoy. Let us do our part to bring awareness and let us BE BOLD FOR CHANGE.