Friday, August 24, 2007

World Vision and Gender Equity

All churches who teach the unilateral submission of women to men are undermining the efforts of World Vision around the world. World Vision recommends the following,
  • Create programmes and raise awareness among men and women to acknowledge and alleviate the burdens of women’s triple role in their home, workplace, and community, and promote women’s equal participation in decision-making.
  • Enhance the social support system to enable women to work outside of the home by providing free/subsidised and good quality day-care centres for infants and elders.
  • Governmental and international agencies, NGOs, employers, and trade unions must ensure equal rights and equal pay for all women.
  • Women in leadership must be encouraged to build their capacity, confidence, assertiveness, and leadership skills while increasing the number of female staff who serve as role models. At the same time, men must be made aware of the shared benefits of gender equality, enabling them to relate to and work positively with empowered women.
  • Furthermore, World Vision suggests partnership with social institutions such as churches, council of elders, community leaders and other sources of influence to remove barriers that prevent women from full participation.
  • Educate men and women on shared gender roles that allow familial and social equity leading to households and societies where both genders have equal opportunities and access to resources and decision making.
You might read this paper and be glad that you don't live under the conditions described within. Yes, but considering the comparative prosperity of North America, women still suffer from a shocking amount of violence and discrimination. Since this is the same within the Christian community as outside it, it is time for the church as a whole to make a stand against the denial of equal decision-making power to women around the world.

My sense is that a patriarchal culture within some parts of the church is fighting against the goals of World Vision. Let's pull together on this and better the lives of women and children here and around the world.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I recently read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is famous for creating the short film Submission about the experience of women in Islam. Shortly after this film was screened in Holland the producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered.

Ali has lived in Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Holland. This autobiography is particularly enlightening in that it traces her life through many different types of Islam - traditional and cultural, religious and committed, secularized, both politically liberal and totalitarian. Ultimately Ali commits to the path of reason and rejects religious belief. Hers is a journey of experience, faith, dialogue, intense committment and struggle.

Ali describes the family love and cultural background which she grew up in with great affection. She also does not withhold any of the details of genital mutilation, beatings, forced marriage, unemployment, war and exile. Throughout she displays amazing and singlehearted committment to challenge and change. She aspires to follow in her father's footsteps and become a political leader. This book should tear apart many false stereotypes about women and Islam. The message is clear, that Islam oppresses women and the only route out is a modern state based on reason.

It is a controversial book from many perspectives but it contains a story that demands to be heard and responded to.

Here are a couple of reviews NY Times and Boston Globe.

Last year I read Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb, a novel with a similar cultural background.

PS. Submission was available on the internet at one time, but it has been taken down. Disturbing.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Know your left from your right

It's snowing and they are heading out for a long trip to drive to his parents' place for the weekend. The toddler is buckled into the backseat in his carseat but he is restless so the mother sits in the back beside him.

The father turns around and glances over his shoulder at the child to verify that he is buckled in but he can't see the whole picture from this angle.

"Is the seatbelt over his left shoulder?" he asks.

"No, it's over his right shoulder," his wife answers.

"It should be over the left."

"I don't see how it can go over the left."

"Just do it, will you."

"Okay, but it is rubbing on his chin."

"Look I'll have to do it. You are so incompetent," the husband gets out of the car and goes around to the back seat, opens the door and adjusts the seatbelt.

"Why can't you get it right the first time. Just do as you are told, why can't you."

"It was in that position, that is where I had it before but you told me to switch it."

"No, I told you to put it over the left side, for goodness sake. You can't even obey a simple order. Why not? "

"That's where it was."

"It wasn't - I saw it. What I asked was why you can't even obey a single order. Give me an answer right now."

"I tried to do as you said, I did what I heard you say."

"That isn't good enough. What I want to know is why you didn't obey me. You had better answer now."

"I'm sorry. I tried."

"No you thought you knew better. What will happen in an emergency, I wonder. If you can't give me complete and immediate obedience the children's lives will be a stake."

He cuffs her and her glasses go flying. She scrambles around in the snow to find them - they are broken. She goes into the house for tape to cobble them together.

Finally they leave, the child cries half the way and pukes up all over the back seat, the road is icy, they drive off the road at one point. Fortunately they don't hit anything and they get back on the road and continue unharmed.

Life is shit.

Denial of Decision-making power

I read the following on SoloFeminity. It does indeed say that the denial of decision-making power along with poverty and illiteracy causes women to become infected with HIV at a faster rate than men.

Did you know that girls in impoverished countries are less likely to receive adequate medical care or food, compared to boys? Here are some grim statistics I recently received from World Vision:
- Seven out of ten of the world's hungry are women.
- Nearly half of all girls born in the 50 least developed countries will never attend school, sentencing them to a life of poverty and disease.
- Due to poverty, illiteracy, and the denial of decision-making power, women are becoming infected with HIV faster than men in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
- Every six seconds a girl under five dies of preventable causes.
- Of the 800 million who lack basic work skills to rise out of poverty, two-thirds are female.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Another little girl has died. It's almost overwhelming to comprehend.

It seems to me that along with sending pharmaceutical drugs, North America should model an appropriate egalitarian stance on male-female relations. Christians should be ahead of the curve on this. Some are, and some aren't.

If we know to do good and don't do it, then we are contributing to the problem. We know that we should teach egalitarian values. If we don't do it, we are guilty - we become part of the problem.
    So then, if you know the good you ought to do and don't do it, you sin. James 4:7

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Birth Rate Trends

I am not sure what this is apropos of but ... birth rates are of great interest in watching international trends in the status of women, so read this post and the comments for some fascinating insights.

Jews in Baghdad

When I read the biography of Gertrude Bell last year, I was especially impressed with her accounts of the Jewish community in Baghdad in the 1920's. She remarked in particular on the fact that of all women in Baghdad - Muslim, Christian and Jewish, the Jewish women were the most literate and had schools available to them.

This site offers a history of the Jewish community in Baghdad, remarking about the period when Bell was there,

    With British entry to Baghdad on February 3, 1917 (fixed as yom nes 17th Adar) there began a period of freedom for the Jews of Baghdad and many of them were employed in the civil service. When the state became independent in 1929 there was an increase in anti-Semitism, especially after the appearance of the German ambassador A. Grobbe in Baghdad (1932).
About educational institutions and medical services one can read,
    Until operation "Ezra and Nehemiah" there were 28 Jewish educational institutions in Baghdad, 16 under the supervision of the community committee and the rest privately run. The number of pupils reached 12,000 and many others learned in foreign and government schools. About 400 students studied medicine, law, economics, pharmacy, and engineering. In 1951 the Jewish school for the blind was closed; it was the only school of its type in Baghdad. The Jews of Baghdad had two hospitals in which the poor received free treatment, and several philanthropic services. Out of 60 synagogues in 1950, there remained only 7 in 1960.
This site says that,
    During these centuries under Muslim rule, the Jewish Community had it's ups and downs. By World War I, they accounted for one third of Baghdad's population.
For some reason Christians often give the impression that they have an edge on matters of literacy and philanthropy, that the recognition of the sacrifice of Christ, the son of God, is a necessary condition for altruism. This is not consistent with the teaching of the Torah, or the rest of the Hebrew scriptures where I read about the ideal Jewish woman, Prov. 31.
    She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.

    She opens her mouth with wisdom; and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
Go here to read about the last Jews in Baghdad today. HT Evangelical Text Criticism
    Baghdad was once one of the great cradles of Jewish culture and wisdom, but now, according to the Christian priest who has been looking after them, there are only eight Jews left in the Iraqi capital, and their situation is "more than desperate.
Continue reading.

Snow by Pamuk

There are many excellent reviews of Pamuk's Snow, and after reading the book, I read the reviews in this order, Margaret Atwood, to see what a Canadian woman would see in Snow. She calls it the Male Labyrinth Novel, and yes, it is one of the many political novels that I have read recently by men that falls into a genre. I might call it the oppressive politics as a bitter sweet love song; but the twists and turns, the farcical thriller aspects all complicate this. Why read other books when you can read a real author?

Michael McGaha's review adds considerably information about Pamuk and the real political circumstances of his career. Definitely read this review to see how it all fits together. Then I browsed a few other reviews, also good.

It is not quite the intricate tapestry of My Name is Red, but Snow is a more immediate political novel, taking the reader across the lines of race and gender into another reality. Personally, I like Pamuk because of his absorption in books and literature and poetry and history, but in this novel the women come into their own. The plot centres around the suicide of the "head scarf girls". Only a novel with a parade of individual characters can do justice to a complex issue like this. I will keep on reading Pamuk.