I AM A WOMAN.
I am not here to make a statement that I presume encompasses all women ever born, but as a woman myself, I can certainly speak to my own experience. In fact, my experience of being a woman has made me severely aware that there are very different implications of that identity - woman - depending on your social sphere, class, nationality, religion, and so on. Being a woman can look vastly different for different women.
WHAT DOES YOUR LIFE PLAN LOOK LIKE?
If you're anything like me - a 22-year-old woman with a college degree - you might hope that the next twenty years of your life involves finding love, buying a house, getting a job you love, having a few kids, and making life-long friends. Maybe you're thinking back to when you were my age and saying to yourself, "Yep, that's kind of what I did." It's a typical plot-point American dream.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I feel like this picture is an accurate representation of what I am told it means to be a woman, at my age, in my country.
I am not here to belittle the Pinterest dreams we may have for our lives. But let's remember that, if you are anything like me, we are privileged.
We are women and that, in many parts of the world, is a word that comes not with stereotypical pink walls, high heels, and a Taylor Swift soundtrack to our heartbreaks, but with malnutrition, illiteracy, oppression, and survivalism. Let me clarify: I am not saying the fight for women's equality in the US is done. But certainly we have different (and possibly fewer) battles to fight than in places like India where child marriage is rampant or Kenya where HIV+ widows in Fadhili raise children alone and isolated. I am also not saying that being a woman in the US is some homogenous thing; just that a majority of our lives are filled with more privileges in choosing diet, education, fashion, specifics of identity, and so on than not.
We are not better than other women. We are not better than men. We are all equally valuable and precious to God. We are each unique (magnificently so!) and live different lives and have different dreams. In our sameness as much as in our uniqueness, we have a responsibility to uphold, uplift, encourage, and empower one another.
WOMEN ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY POOR.
SO, WOMEN ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY UNHEALTHY.
In our current world, which is far from just or right in many ways, health is a privilege. I do not believe this is how the world should be. But to grow beyond, we must know where we start. And we start here - with women around the world at a huge disadvantage in terms of poverty and, accordingly, in terms of health, simply because they are women.
The feminization of poverty has been a topic of conversation since the early 90s when we started realizing its ripple effect. Poverty is harmful to a woman’s health from the moment she is born until the moment she dies.
Female infanticide is common practice in countries where children are valued for their labor and girls are viewed as only bringing their family more financial burden when she marries. Women are rarely heirs in most of the world. Studies consistently find that girls are fed less than boys and that they outnumber boys in malnutrition treatment centers worldwide, some even at a ratio of 50:1.
In many places globally, when a girl becomes a woman she is sometimes only 14 or 15, married off to someone much older selected by her family. Her role is to bear male heirs and take care of home duties. She is at risk for pregnancy complications, HIV infection, and spousal abuse. Maternal mortality rates are exceedingly high around much of the world and WHO estimates up to 50% of those deaths are actually unreported, so the numbers could easily double if given accurate data.
To contrast the earlier illustration, sometimes being a woman in this world looks more like this:
How can our increased awareness of our privileges and the needs of women around the world make a real difference?
First, take a minute and think of or even write down a few privileges for which you are grateful. And say thanks to God for these! I'll share mine with you: My college education. My loving and supportive family. My library card. My job. My small group. My morning coffee. My car.
Next, give this guide a read. It's not as long as it looks, I promise, and it's chock full of helpful information.
Lastly, find a way to help your fellow woman!
ONE / in your community. For me, in Nashville, this will mean connecting with new young women moving to town and helping them get adjusted. It will mean seeking a place to serve regularly, perhaps as a small group leader for young girls or as a cook at a local shelter.
TWO / in the global community. We at Tirzah know of some pretty awesome women around the world working to make their communities better and empower local women. We've got a long list of needs if you're looking for a place to invest your time or your gifts!
Hey you! Thanks for hanging in there with me! Whether you're a woman or man, whether we're similar or different, I appreciate your time and that you would want to learn more about why we do what we do.
Emma + Team Tirzah