Celebrating or participating in International Women’s Day (IWD) seems to be growing stronger and stronger every year. This year it’s on Sunday, 8th March and although the organisers may not realise it – many of the aims they have for IWD are what Jesus would do – or in fact, does for women.
How and why international women’s day is celebrated (or not) differs across the world, changing and influenced by various cultural and political realities. For some women International Women’s Day has become a day of violence and persecution as governments clamp down on public marches and gatherings. In western democracies it’s both a celebration of womanhood with the focus often on workplace equality or domestic abuse. Perhaps surprisingly countries like Afghanistan, Cuba, Russia, Uganda, mark it with a public holiday. Traditionally it’s a day to honour women in a similar way to mother’s day.
What about for us in Australia? Where does IWD belong in our national psyche? This year many corporations, organisations and advertisers have taken the opportunity to jump on to the celebration of IWD. The T20 Women’s cricket final will be played on Sunday, deliberately timed to coincide with the day.
The theme this year is #EachforEqual – Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. What does this mean? Basically that in every sphere of life, whether it is coverage of sporting events, or the composition of a board, there must be equality of representation of women and men.
What I love about this theme is that it picks up a theme already given to us by God. God in his loving goodness has created men and women equal. Equal in dignity, value, worth (Genesis 1-2). In Jesus, salvation has come to us all, equally (Gal.3:28-29). Its one of the great messages we can give women. There is no place for abuse or mistreatment or oppression of women in God’s economy; no need for women to fight for acceptance, inclusion or recognition because women by their very humanity are wonderfully and equally found in the kingdom of God.
Of course what IWD seeks to do (without realising it or naming it) is to address the consequences of sin, which has distorted and disrupted our relationships. While it’s true that women have equal status and value from God, sin has provided ways for that status and value to be marginalised and diminished, Many of the messages coming from International women’s day, seeking to empower women, in reality find their answers in the gospel.
So how do I approach IWD? As a Christian woman of privilege and education what do I do with IWD? I like to think back to those women in the late 1800’s who were part of what we now call 1st wave feminism. These women, many of them Christian, used their status and privilege for the good of the other. They fought for the vote, advocated for temperance, sought changes in law, but not with the aim of women doing the same things as men. They sought use their influence so women in poverty and destitution could find new freedom and safety, at home and work.
So on this IWD I give thanks for those women who stood up for the sake of others. I pray I will do the same. I give thanks for the women in the church who serve and honour Christ. I give thanks for the men in our church who encourage, support, love and honour women and the ministries done by women. I pray for women who continue to experience abuse in our society & church, particularly domestic abuse. I pray for women and men to continue to work hard as they contend side by side for the gospel. I pray for women around the world, that they might hear the life giving, life-changing message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. That would be the greatest and most transformative outcome for them.