“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens” – Michelle Obama.
Today is International Women’s Day. It’s not just a day to treat the women in your world to cake and flowers (although that is a treat!). It’s a day that has been recognised globally since the early 20th century in order to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a day to pause and reflect. A day to educate ourselves on the injustice and gender inequality that still happens across the earth today. It’s a day to consider the choices we make in our own lives which have an impact on the women around us.
Gender inequality comes in all shapes and forms, but is particularly damaging in parts of our world where the standard of living is already dangerously low. According to TearFund, global poverty often has a woman’s face. 70% of those living in poverty are women and more than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year. Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war (WHO – World report on violence and health, 2000). Closer to home, the gender pay gap in the UK currently stands at 13.9% (The Fawcett Society), and 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14).
International Women’s Day is a chance for everyone, regardless of gender, to think about how we can make a difference both at home and around the world. It is only when women’s rights are considered human rights and fought for by everyone, men and women alike, that big changes will happen and turn the tide against inequality.
International Women’s Day is about all of us, ‘because equality for women is about equality for all people – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic status. We all have an obligation to fight for the rights and dignity of others’ says Brianna J. Gehring, Contingency Operations Program Manager, IJM)
As the women of Christchurch London, we gather this Friday evening to, amongst other things, remember the ancient words of Isaiah:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)
In this passage, Isaiah is speaking of God’s promises to His church. The present and future promise of Light. Hundreds of years later Jesus Christ came and lit up the world with His teaching, His life, His death and His resurrection. It is His Light of peace and hope, justice, freedom and compassion that illuminates life and speaks value to all humanity. And so, as we celebrate this Light together as women on Friday, may all of us, whether we will be there or not, be mindful of darkness that seeks to diminish, disempower, and disengage us from one another. We are all invited to rise up, live in the Light and shine with rays borrowed from it.
What can we do?
- Pray for the women in your life and around the world.
- Celebrate the achievements of women both locally and globally.
- Commit to supporting and championing gender parity in business, education, politics, arts, leadership, and society as a whole.
‘Rise Up’ is taking place this Friday 10th March at 7.30pm at St. Edmund the King Church. All women are welcome. You can sign up here.