Huh?? This is a thing?? I guess all over the world people (men?? kids? other women?) take March 8 to honor women. I googled and saw that the “holiday’ grew from the labor movement at the turn of the century. (That makes me think of Fantine from Les Miserables when she worked in that horrible factory - but I digress.) Of course we should honor women – frankly, we should honor all people, the unborn, the infirm, the elderly, the handicapped, the differently abled, the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated, the soccer moms, the scholars and the illiterate, the black, the brown, the white, the teachers, the soldiers, the movie stars and the sports stars, and everyone in-between. The Bible tells us ( Gen 1:27) we are all made in the image of God (WOW) – that gives us infinite value completely separate from our looks, our brains, our successes, our pedigree. That addict who struggles with heroin – image of God. That girl trapped in the sex industry – image of God. That little boy missing limbs or blind or orphaned – image of God. We need to see people as image-bearers of the one true God. But back to women – why do we celebrate women?
Yes, women carry children. Without women, this blog would go unread because civilization would have died out long ago. Sadly, women raise a whole lot of children alone because the “fathers” disappear. This is one reason having children in committed married relationships is a really good idea – it’s not fool-proof, but these daddies seem to stay around to help parent their children. The “family unit” that God created – a man and a woman, married in a holy covenant before God & man, having children as God provides and raising them to know the Lord – is still a “thing” today, no matter how old-fashioned it sounds. Women raising children alone have to work to support their children – I can’t imagine a more tired person than a single parent. Women & children around the world are the poorest, the bottom of the social network, the most likely to be abused, betrayed, abandoned, trafficked. In the US, we have plenty of women who live hard lives, many at the hand of an abusive partner, or a terrible job, or overwhelming poverty. BUT. BUT. I have to say, ever since March 8 when I saw the celebrations of women beginning, I have been silently boiling at the plight of women in the majority of the world. I have spent the last 15 years travelling from India to Africa to Central America and more and seeing with my very own eyes the lives of women around the world. I have spent that same 15 years here in Central Ohio seeing local poverty, human trafficking, homeless women and children, refugees, addicts, as well as plenty of middle class plain old American folks and trust me, life outside our comfortable Central Ohio bubble is FAR different from life outside our bubble.
In many parts of the world, a man just needs to say “I divorce you!” and BOOM – the wife’s been dumped. She’s often forced to leave her children behind, to leave the family home – and now she’s disgraced on top of everything else! If a man dies and leaves a widow, her children or her family or even random neighbors take over her home and kick her out in the streets – WHAT?? Some women are beaten or raped or murdered … if THEY are raped or molested??? Many are “married off” at 8 years old to MUCH older men. Female genital mutilation is common around the world, often when girls are 8-12 years old. In a tent. With a razor blade. In many nations (still TODAY) girls are expensive (dowry) , don’t provide a home for their parents when they age, and don’t carry on the family line so more baby girls are aborted or abandoned than baby boys – aborted solely based on gender. Girls & women are sold into bonded labor or the sex trade, domestically and internationally. Women are abused and debased in the porn industry and the adult entertainment industry.
Let’s say, best case scenario, a woman has a family and a home, however meager than might be. Here is reality for them: jobs are scarce and they never know where their next meal will come from. If they can’t pay their rent, they can be kicked out, and there are no homeless shelters or food stamps. If no one helps you, you can literally DIE and watch your children DIE from malnutrition or VERY preventable diseases. You cook over an open fire, which means you have to find/buy firewood each day. There is no “fast food” – you cook all day, every day. You literally pick the food from your garden or raise chickens/pigs/goats/farm animals to “eat” which is a lot more complicated than going to Kroger. ( If I had to “prepare” my own chicken, we would be vegetarians for sure!) If you are growing your own food and there is no rain, or a crop disease or varmints – you.have.no.food. You have no refrigeration which means you go to the market every day and buy what you need for the day. You have no oven, so everything you cook needs to be over an open flame. Families in much of the world eat one meal a day as a rule – and they are darn thankful to get it!
You have no running water so you have to go to the nearest source – the city spigot, a river, a dirty puddle of old rain water – whatever you can find. And you have to carry enough to cook, bathe, and wash your clothes! There are no washing machines – you wash your clothes in a basin and hang them up to dry or spread them on the bushes. That’s really easy in the rainy season…(eyeroll) You have no insurance, no medical care – if someone gets sick you pray its nothing serious. If someone gets malaria they might go to the hospital if they have the money – otherwise they suffer or they die. Life is very fragile around the world – modern health care, as controversial as it may be, does not exist in much of the world. Just recently, we heard two stories from friends in Latin America. One had an appointment for a cancer check-up – they gave her an appointment a YEAR away. Then… that day happened to be a holiday and the office was closed – so they gave her a new appointment …the next year. Another young girl was having cysts and fibroids in her ovaries- so they put her on a large dose of medicine for DIABETES and almost killed her!! (This, by the way, is what national healthcare can look like… no bueno.)
Your children “can” go to a “free” school but they need school fees, uniforms, dress shoes, and very specific school supplies. If a woman has 5,6 children, her husband/wage earner has left- or he’s an alcoholic, how on earth could she pay school fees for her children? Praise the Lord for the generous families at New Life Church who support over 300 children in a small village in Uganda – we are changing this community one child at a time! If a child doesn’t go to school they work to help feed their family or pay their rent – with AIDS still active in Uganda, many children are forced to parent their siblings. Whole households run by a 15 year old with NO resources! Often little bitty kids are working at adult tasks for pennies a day. As they grow, without an education, what hope is there for them? The girls will be pregnant as young teens and the boys will be involved in drugs or alcohol or gambling – and will raise a family in poverty like the generations before them. This is generational poverty. Something has to change to see change in their lives!
I don’t want to get all “feminist-y” and yell for WOMEN’S RIGHTS, but I will say it’s pretty laughable for women in the US to march for more when they already have more than most women in the world. I will say that while women are at the bottom of every list (finances, violence, justice issues…) women of color in the US and around the world are at the bottom bottom BOTTOM of that list. Talk about privilege – white American women really do have more opportunities than most women in the world and life IS harder statistically for women of color around the world. If I am going to MARCH for WOMEN or CHEER for WOMEN on International Women’s Day, I will be marching for the women with NO RIGHTS - the women who would LOVE to make 77 cents on the dollar that men make, the women who work night & day to feed their children, the women in war zones who literally watch chemicals rain down from the sky and kill their children before their eyes, the women who walk for water every single day, the women who are trafficked or sold or enslaved or held against their will for profit, the women trapped in addiction or the sex trade, the women denied an education BECAUSE they are women, the women whose home or land is taken from them because their husband has died, the women who are left behind when the husband wants a new young wife, the women who are shunned or beaten or abused by their communities for daring to speak up or go to school or admit abuse, the women who work long hours in sweat shops or migrant fields or factories and aren’t paid enough to survive.
Yes, Women are AWESOME – celebrate them – but pray for them! Help as you can. Donate to programs that provide education, skills training, financial planning. We are debuting a new MicroEnterprise ministry here at New Life where we hope to bring financial stability to many people in our partner communities. Already we have helped purchase a sewing machine & provided training for a woman in Anonos so that she can grow her sewing business. We have built a bakery in Mukono to employ some of the single moms in the village. We hope to help another women open a hair salon in Mukono and help young adults in Anonos finish their high school educations. These small steps, person by person, can lead to BIG changes! We are excited to see how God will use these plans to bring self-sustainability and break the chains of poverty in our partner communities! Here at home – how can you help? There are TONS of opportunities to work with trafficked women, homeless women & children, abused women, little girls who need mentors in local schools, high school girls who need mentors through organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Youth for Christ or Lower Lights Ministry in Franklinton. You can work with local refugees, serve as an English partner for students at IFI. You can get to know a single mom, here at New Life, in your neighborhood or at work – send home dinner now and again, watch her kids, invite her to groups & family events, share a movie night. Sponsor a child in Uganda and change a life $40 at a time. Go on a mission trip and UNDERSTAND what life is like for girls & women in other places. Next year when International Women’s Day rolls around, let’s look for improvements – opportunities for the Gospel to shine into the lives of women around the world and bring Light into the Darkness!