On Thursday, we celebrated International Women's Day here in Mwandi and throughout Zambia. It is a day when the world comes together to celebrate the achievements of women.
The Socialist Party of America in 1909 –(yes, there is such a thing!) instituted the first Women's Day following protests against oppression, unfair pay, working hours and the right to vote. Over the years women and men have gathered around the world to stand in solidarity and campaign for the rights of women.
Women still do not receive equal pay. They are underrepresented in the global business and political spheres. Even within the Church women are not offered an equal platform. In many places women are still denied the opportunity to further their education. Violence against women is commonplace and far too often ignored. Though changes and developments have taken place over the past 100 years, more still needs to be done.
The theme this year is 'Empower women - End hunger and poverty.' Time was spent remembering the many women around the world who have made a difference and continue to do so, the mothers, daughters and wives whose works have challenged and changed the world.
Yesterday the Zambian Government announced that for the first time the Gender Department would become a full-scale Ministry with a Cabinet seat. This follows in the wake of a number of women being promoted as Heads in various areas of the Public Service. The Police Inspector General, some Provincial Police Chiefs and Director of the Anti-Corruption Commission are the most prominent recent appointees.
Mothering Sunday was celebrated last Sunday on 4 March 2012. The UCZ theme was The Transformed Woman Impacts Community based on Romans 12:2, Matthew 27:55-6 and Acts 16:14-16. Ida was asked to preach at Mwandi this year. She stressed that the need for female education goes hand in hand with spiritual transformation. For the transformed woman the community is an extension of her family and home. Jesus’ ministry was supported by transformed women, individuals in their own right.
The love and care for orphans is part of the role as is standing against child labour and trafficking. Defilement, early marriages abuse and violence are unacceptable to the transformed woman. She supports victims of gender-based violence (GBV) and their struggle for justice.
Lydia was a good example of a woman opening her house to help and support Mission Work. Aquila and Priscilla’s was a joint-ministry, important in a Christian marriage, working together to share the Gospel. The Transformed Woman impacts her community by allowing God to use her strengths and gifts to extend the Kingdom.
Finally on Friday afternoon last week the World Day of Prayer Service took place at Mwandi. This event grew out of the 400 women who attended the Edinburgh World Mission Conference in 1910. The Day of Prayer is now a worldwide and ecumenical movement celebrated in over 100 countries.
Participants are encouraged to:
Pray for the whole world and its interdependence
Be enriched by other Christians from different denominations and cultures
Take up others’ burdens and pray with and for them
Become aware of talents and use them in service to others
Prayer and action are inseparable and have an immeasurable influence in the world.
This year’s Order of Service was prepared by the Christian women of Malaysia with ‘Let Justice Prevail’ as their call for prayer. The Readings were from Habakuk 1:2-5, 3:2&17-19 who persistently questions God about injustice and receives an answer that God will act. The New Testament Readings were from Matthew 5:6 & Luke 18:1-8 tell us that God’s justice, righteousness and mercy are inseparable. The Prayer of Confession acknowleged the sin of our indifference to the injustice and unrighteousness we see around us.
Next followed a refection from a brave Malasian social worker who fought for the cause of justice amongst the poor and oppressed concentrating on modern slavery, euphemistically called “trafficking” There followed a challenge on our response to stand up together to help change this situation. (Locally, there are two boys from rural Shangombo at the moment living at Sesheke police station who were rescued as they were about to be trafficked to South Africa.)
2013’s service will be written by the Christian women of France using the text ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’.
We were asked to remember:
Christians in Malaysia who speak out for justice
Victims of human trafficking, oppression and injustice
Wisdom and courage for governments and leaders to act justly
Organisations working for a fairer world – Fair Trade
Migrant workers that they are treated fairly and with respect
The poor, the homeless, the hungry
People affected by HIV/AIDS