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Natalie Lederhouse
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« Jesus-Style Service | Main | Now Welcoming New Recruits to “The Women’s Crusade” Part II »

September 1, 2009

Now Welcoming New Recruits to ‘The Women’s Crusade’–Part I

Last week I came across a 10-page spread in The New York Times entitled “The Women’s Crusade” written by two long-time journalists, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They write about how their experiences and travels have enlightened them not only to the deplorable state of gender inequality in the developing world, but to the huge potential that helping women can have to engender change in those countries. From the economy to overpopulation to terrorism, they argue, focusing on women and girls is the solution.

Because I know our readers are busy and already stretched pretty thin, there’s not much more I want to add to this spread other than to summarize it for those who weren’t planning on reading all 10 pages of it. My hope is that even a taste of the facts will spur more women on to active engagement in the movement to end poverty by investing in the world’s poorest women, especially through committed prayer, small entrepreneurial loans (microfinancing), and rights to education.

Friends, while the state of public school or the healthcare debate or your busyness as a mom are worthwhile discussions, let’s take some time to become uncomfortable on behalf of the poorest of the poor who live outside our borders. Today we’re not talking about those below the poverty line in the US, however crucial that issue may be as well. The World Bank states that more than two billion people live on less than $2 per day–and yes, that is adjusted for purchasing power across currencies. If you’re reading this, you’re not one of them, and that means you can help. Let’s think about the state of women’s lives around the world as Kristof and WuDunn help us answer the question of why it is that women are so disproportionately stuck in poverty and inequality. Generally speaking:

• Women often do not have legal rights to property, children, or wages. If a husband dies, male relatives inherit businesses and land, leaving the woman alone and broke in a patriarchal world. (How different might this be if we considered Moses’ counter-cultural wisdom in Number 27:1-8?) According to this article, 1 percent of the world’s landowners are women.

• When money in a poor family is tight, any available resources are allotted to the male children because they will become laborers and don’t require a dowry. This includes access to food, education, and vaccinations. The World Bank reports that “worldwide, two-thirds of the kids who don’t go to school are girls” and thus illiteracy disproportionately affects women. (How are those women going to vote to change discriminatory laws?) In fact, many women don’t even have a chance at life: an estimated 60-100 million women are simply missing from the planet because of their gender.

• Women are drastically more likely to be victimized by physical and sexual abuse. In many cultures, men are expected to beat a “disobedient” or irksome woman, and in marriage it isn’t a crime. Women who fail to produce a male child can be simply disposed of. Disturbingly, the NYT article also reports that “21 percent of young women surveyed in Ghana reported that their sexual initiation was by rape.” Try to imagine the psychological scars afflicting one in five Ghanaian women–far more if you consider those who have been sexually abused ever. They also state that “the U.N. estimates 5,000 honor killings per year, mostly in the Muslim world” and a bride burning in India every two hours. Around the world, an estimated 130 million women have been subjected to genital cutting, also known by the term female genital mutilation (FGM). This doesn’t even include millions of sexual slaves and trafficked women and girls around the globe.

The psychological, financial, and social implications here cannot be overstated. These are all women God knows and calls by name. They’re all women for whom Jesus died. They’re all women God has great purpose and plans for. They are beloved of God.

While we’ll talk next week about the hopeful solutions women can provide and the ways we can help, what do you think about these facts? What surprises you the most? How do you talk to your kids or your church about global poverty and the status of women around the world? Is it fair to say that poverty and inequality are more important than many domestic issues we face?

Related Tags: empowering, Social action; Women


i think the cause of all these is poverty, if jobs and means of livelihood can be provided it will reduce the level of this trafficking in women and the bad treatment aimed at women

Poverty and lack of opportunities for all are a large part of these sorts of women's rights issues, but an even larger part of the problem is a worldview which does not see women and children, especially female children, as equally and fully human as adult males. Ignorance, wrong thinking, and, frankly, evil philosophies and religions lead to the categorical dehumanization of women the world over.

We need to meet the immediate material needs of those living in these situations, and we need to educate and enlighten those who would treat women and children as things, as objects, property, to be used and misused without consequence, by all means available from direct confrontation to example.

I think the fact that American Christian women are being educated on this topic is a good step forward in coming up with solutions to change.

I recently read an article about a program that is focusing directly on women in the poverty stricken country of Bangladesh. This program trains mostly women in the areas of health and hygiene, income generation, micro-credit, literacy and skills development. I for one will financially support projects like these as I love to see the women equipped with these skills. One example given: the women in a village planted a tree, I think almond tree, for future income resource. They were also raising money to dig a well in their town. Very interesting work! I love to see God at work like this!!

I'm excited that we as evangelical christians are beginning to take these social issues seriously. However, I'm also concerned that we keep in mind that only helping the poor, educating people, helping marriages, teaching men and women to respect each other...these things are great, important and worthy causes but, they aren't enough: people still need Jesus.
The other thing that concerns me a little is that we christians have always found something to be legalistic about...a way of measuring spirituality and righteousness. I'm hoping our new found conscience and concern is really about helping the people we want to help and not about creating some kind of image. People don't want to be "projects".

Check out www.plantwithpurpose.org. They are a Christian non-profit who focus on finding solutions to poverty and sustainable agriculture needs in rural villages in seven countries around the globe. They are based in San Diego but they partner with local staff and communities. Women's needs in these rural villages are addressed through training, discipleship, and micro-credit loans. They have been around for 25 years and are a great organization to support!!

i think culture and religion are the cause of women segregation. being an African woman, i know how it feels like to be in a second or sometimes fourth position. culture in Africa, precisely tradition is the one killing the value God gave women from the beginning. women from the beginning were supposed to be a helper to men. i pray i will be one day able to help my fellow women in the third world countries.

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