Today is International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Www.internationalwomensday.com
Leaders across the world are pledging to take action as champions of gender parity
My male colleagues often comment ‘Why do we still need a day for women?’ We will still need a day for women until it is no longer the case that:
- men earn 20% more on average than women,
- only 7 of the FTSE 100 companies have women as chief executives
- fewer than 1 in 50 of England’s largest churches are led by women
- those entering training for ordination are roughly 50;50 yet women only account for only 23% of full time clergy and on 11% of senior clergy.
So there is still the need to pledge for parity. #PledgeForParity
Although I have faced discrimination and hostility because of my gender I know that I have been fortunate.So when I was asked by the Church of England to nominate a woman who had inspired me I chose Sister Eugenie Shumba. In 2011 I visited Central Zimbabwe with a group from the Diocese of Southwark. About an hour north of Gweru and half an hour down a dirt tract there is St Patrick’s Mission Clinic.
Here I meet Sister Eugenie Shumba. Since then she has been an inspiration to me. Her faith inspired her to offer not just generous and compassionate love but she offered healing and wholeness in a place of limited resources.
Sister Eugenie along with her nursing staff ran a clinic which served a wide rural community as well as the many children and workers on site. With no doctor and limited resources they found imaginative ways to provide extra ordinary care.
One example of how she was supporting some of the most excluded people was the care she gave to mothers who were HIV positive.
At the time HIV was the biggest killer but there was also extreme social stigma. A positive diagnosis led to exclusion from work and family so many did not get tested.
Sister Eugenie encouraged pregnant women to be tested which gave access to treatment through unicef and if they tested positive she offer them land around the clinic. The women together developed a small holding. This gave them support from fellow women, good nutrition for them and their family, income from selling the extra vegetables and because they were coming to St Patrick’s everyday they were more likely to take their medications. They also found a place to worship. She ensured that those excluded where included and given dignity and respect.
I have also been inspired by Najwa. I met Najwa when I visited the Holy Land in January this year. Najwa spoke about how her faith in Jesus Christ is her motivation for the compassion she shows for some 70 boys who are cared for at Jeel Al Amal (http://www.jeelalamal.org/).
Set up by her parents Najwa now runs this boys home and school in Bethany for some of the most disadvantaged children in the surrounding area. It provides a secure and loving home and good education which enables many of the boys to go on to be successful. Najwa would say that this is her calling.
Both women remind me that faith by itself if not accompanied by action is dead.
And finally I am inspired by my daughter – bold, creative and bright! She is a women of the future. Today let us celebrate women but also pledge ourselves to parity.