WASHINGTON – A church leader is calling for a renewal of women activism on International Women's Day, highlighting the need to dismantle patriarchy and for women to engage in all struggles of injustice and not only their own situation.
"Women cannot be emancipated until patriarchy is dismantled and this aggression by powerful global forces ceases," said Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive secretary for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) Office for Church Renewal, Justice and Partnership, according to the Alliance.
The WARC represents 75 million reformed Christians from 216 churches which trace their roots back to the 16th century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox and others. Most of its member churches are from the southern hemisphere and many are religious minorities in their countries.
Sheerattan-Bisnauth further explained that violence against women cannot be separated from violence inflicted by global forces on other bodies. She urged women to engage in activism and seek justice and freedom for all.
"As we grapple with the tension within our specific context, we must have eyes for the larger picture," said Sheerattan-Bisnauth, "Addressing not only our specific needs but also the larger global struggles."
Examples of common daily violence against women include systematic rape and abduction, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and trafficking of women and girls for sexual and economic exploitation.
Many of these abuses, as the WARC officer noted, are tied to larger, overarching problems such as religious freedom, health education, and human trafficking.
"The brutal aggression in our world today is one of the signs of deep and pervasive systems of domination derived from patriarchal ideology," concluded Sheerattan-Bisnauth. "This ideology thrives upon and is sustained by systems of hierarchy, domination and control."
Some church groups meanwhile are reaching out to women in developing countries to help them with their main responsibility – their family.
In Washington, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, other religious leaders and some members of Congress will meet Thursday to discuss about the need to offer women worldwide expanded access to family planning programs.
Other groups such as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and its partners in Sudan have trained women with practical skills to help them become better mothers and wives. CRWRC taught over a hundred women recently to make fuel-saving stoves who in turn trained almost all of the women in their village on how to make the stoves. The group hopes that as the women become more effective at taking care of their family they will be more open to the Gospel.
International Women's Day is observed worldwide on Mar. 8 every year to raise awareness of the suffering of women due to prejudice and abuse as well as the advancements made by women.
The theme this year is "Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women."