(MDG3) Gender Equality

In my family geneaology, young David immigrated to America from Scotland in 1746. He married Amey and they raised five sons. Just before their sixth child was born, David included a provision in his will for the unborn child, bequeathing 100 acres of land if the child should be a boy, and personalty in the event of the birth of a girl. Baby Margaret never did become a landowner.

In the Bible, the five daughters of Zelophehad—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah—did not inherit their father’s land because of their gender (Numbers 27:1-13). When they objected to Moses of the unfairness of it all, Moses took their case to God, and God ruled in their favor.

God created male and female in God’s own image. I believe that when it comes to issues of gender equality, God trumps patriarchic traditions and cultures. God favors females no less than males and God’s salvation and shalom is freely extended to both.

Cultures and traditions lag far behind God. Consider a woman’s right to earn wages.1  In the U.S. the gender wage gap is .81, which means that a full-time year-round working woman is paid 81% of the salary of a man in the same position. Women pursuing top career positions hit glass ceiling barriers that block their advancements. South Korea has the most catching up to do among industrialized nations, with its female workers earning just 61% of what male counterparts earn. Statistics for developing nations are less hopeful and hard to find.

Consider the representation of women in parliamentary governments.2  The 100 senators in the U.S. Senate in 2013 will consist of 20 women (that’s 20 percent women, and includes the gain of 3 women elected this month). Women in Myanmar and Yeman comprise only 1.8% of their upper house/senates; Rwanda tops the reporting nations, with 38.5%. I believe the world loses when women’s perspectives and ideas are absent from problem solving and peace making arenas.

Consider women and the church–the small number of women that serve as senior pastors of churches; consider the underrepresentation of women that comprise denominations’ mission and governance boards. Surely this is a result of cultural bias, not the Creator’s.

Now, take five giant steps back so we can take in the magnitude of what gender equality means in our world. Gender equality should be a basic human right everywhere. Imagine the transformation of God’s world if girls in every country could have the right to go to school, if girl babies were welcomed into every family, if women could access training for employable skills, if loans were available to women to begin businesses. Imagine the world transformed, a world in which women in every place could inherit the family plot of land; a world that sets its will to eradicate fistulas, female genital cutting, AIDS, breast and uterine cancers; a world whose nations and tribes are governed by women and men alike; a world that respects and honors the blessings of all of God’s creation.

Gender equality is foundational to the empowerment of women and girls worldwide, a movement that is gaining in numbers and traction. American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a part of this work, and we invite you to come along with us on the journey. For additional information, visit www.abwmbreakthechains.org.

1       Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,  http://www.oecd.org/els/familiesandchildren/38752746.pdf

2       Inter-Partliamentary Union,  http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm

This blog post is part of our series on the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations as part of the End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign. Millennium Development Goal #3 is “Promote gender equality and empower women.” Please visit www.endpoverty2015.org for more information on the MDGs, including fact sheets and updates on advances on this goal.

Virginia Holmstrom

This blog post was contributed by Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

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