Do you remember the woman at the well?

March 7, 2012

Do you remember the woman at the well?

Reflection and Action for International Women's Day from the ELCA Washington Advocacy Office & the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

March 8th is International Women's Day. It is a day when women and men around the world join in solidarity to remember generations of women who struggled for justice against inequality and oppression, and unite to fight the cycles of gender inequality, poverty, and violence that continue to oppress women's lives and dampen their spirits.

On this International Women's Day, we remember that un-named Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well outside her village. In defiance of social norms that restricted women's voices within religious communities, Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah to her. He relied on her to transcend the cultural norms that would divide them and see instead God's unifying love. He commissioned her to deliver the news of God's love and glory to her people. He entrusted her with this most precious, life-saving proclamation.

We must follow Jesus' lead by decrying the pervasive cycles of poverty, gender inequality, and gender-based violence which continue to restrict and silence women, and which preclude entire communities and societies from experiencing the wholeness of life and hope through Jesus Christ.

Today, one in three of the world's women and girls are victims of violence and/or sexual assault. In some countries, that number exceeds 50 percent. Women around the world suffer from honor killings, female genital cutting, systemic rape (used in conflicts as a weapon of war), sex trafficking, and many other acts of oppressive violence and exploitation.

Meanwhile, laws or practices around the world prevent women's parity in voting rights, education, medical services, income, inheritance, or property ownership with their male counterparts. Women are more vulnerable to poverty and less likely to be educated than men: Women constitute 60 percent of the world's poorest people and two-thirds of the world's 876 million illiterate adults. They produce half of the world's food but only own one percent of its farmland.

Cycles of gender-based violence and inequality are at the same time causes and effects of poverty. The United States must therefore maintain funding for its highly cost-effective poverty-focused development assistance programs, which help to dismantle systems of global poverty and to break down these pernicious cycles, all with less than one percent of the federal budget.

As we celebrate God's gift of life that we receive from women at wells, churches, legislatures, and corner-offices around the world, we must also act to implement changes that will help build a world where we may all be liberated from forces of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

Tell your senators and representative to support women and girls on International Women's Day by maintaining a strong, effective International Affairs Budget and re-introducing the International Violence Against Women Act.

Tagged in: Women Public Policy