I saw a friend become a Christian and pray her first prayer in that blazer-packed cloakroom; it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve been involved in women’s ministry – in one form or another – ever since.
This year has been marked by tragedy for women. In May we heard the haunting story of the 275 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. More than 150 days on, what has become of them?
In July a UN official reported that ISIS had ordered all women in Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM); a fatwa with the potential to impact 4 million. The escalating war in Iraq continues to have devastating effects for women, but as Joy Tibbs’ feature highlights, sadly they represent just a handful of the many being cruelly used as a medium for warfare worldwide.
Global gender inequality statistics are also shocking, with women accounting for two-thirds of the adults who cannot read and write, according to unesco.org.
Closer to home, the UK gender pay gap widened at the end of 2013, and in Dove’s latest survey, 41% of British women reported being unhappy with their appearance and body shape. Read our interview with a Christian determined to defy our culture’s pressure to define ourselves by our looks: Lizzie Velasquez.
We have seen significant steps forward in the quest for women’s rights this year, however. The UK held its first anti-FGM conference, Girl Summit, at which David Cameron announced that parents who fail to prevent their daughters being cut will be prosecuted, and that all victims of FGM will be given lifelong anonymity.
The Labour party appointed Seema Malhotra as the first-ever shadow minister to tackle violence against women and girls, and the Archbishop of Canterbury vocalised his backing for Christian charity Restored, which is equipping the Church to tackle gender-based violence.
My prophetic sense is that, as God releases and empowers women to reach their potential in a democratic society such as our own, he wants us to pray more fervently for and reach out more creatively to the many women worldwide who still face terrible inequality and oppression.
Jesus modelled equal respect and dignity for women and men. He was able to celebrate every individual; getting gender in its right place within his understanding of personhood.
I believe that today, more than ever, we need to explore what it means to live in Christ-saturated fullness as a woman (or man). My hope is that you are prompted to pray and act for the cause of persecuted women across the world – whether you are male or female. In the words of actress Emma Watson in her recent speech to the UN: ‘Men – gender equality is your issue too.’
Click here to receive your free copy of Premier Christianity magazine.