We are now in one of the most contested seasons of the calendar I use in my organization of this blog – Easter. Perhaps it is fitting that we will, as a theme this year, discuss another contested subject – gender equality and the contributions of women as innovators.
A terrorist attack was thwarted today in Nigeria when watchful villagers noticed three young girls acting suspiciously. One of the young girls escaped, to what no one knows. The other two, however, were captured and found to be wearing suicide bomb vests. One of the two captured was under the influence of very strong drugs and taken to a medical facility. The other girl claimed to be part of two hundred and fifty girls kidnapped from a school in the Nigerian town of Chibok two years ago. Only fifty of the original two hundred and fifty were able to escape and many have feared that the remaining two hundred had fallen victims to horrendous sexual abuse or forced to convert to Islam.
The very name of the group claiming to be behind the school girls’ kidnapping is “Boko Haram” means “Western education is a sin.” The group protests women doing anything other than raising children and taking care of their husbands. In other words, to this group and others like it, women have only the function in life to be slaves.
More than one billion people live in poverty today and most of them are female. The issue of poverty is a highly complex one and its origins are not rooted solely in Western education but can be found in local, national, and international realms. Part of the problem is the lack of gender equality worldwide.
One of the best resources remarking on this topic can be found at the website of the Peace Corps. “Gender equality is a human right, but our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men. Globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality, but also for meeting a wide range of international development goals. Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries, creating a ripple effect that benefits everyone.”
Women make up more than 50% of the world’s population and yet they only own 1% of the world’s wealth. Again I quote from the Peace Corps website: “Throughout the world, women and girls perform long hours of unpaid domestic work. In some places, women still lack rights to own land or to inherit property, obtain access to credit, earn income, or to move up in their workplace, free from job discrimination. At all levels, including at home and in the public arena, women are widely underrepresented as decision-makers. In legislatures around the world, women are outnumbered 4 to 1, yet women’s political participation is crucial for achieving gender equality and genuine democracy.”
For centuries it was believed that women could not keep up with men in the science and mathematics fields. Today the number of women in STEM – science, technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – fields is not proportional to their numbers in the population.
During this season of Easter, we will discuss invention of women. Easter is both a religious and pagan holiday with some overlapping between the two. It is not one specific date, even among Christians. One of the lasting images of the religious holiday, though, is of the mother of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth at the foot of the cross where her son is being crucified and then her holding his lifeless body.
Michelangelo and many other artists have portrayed this image of the grieving mother in works of art called pietas. The word comes from the Latin “pietatem” which meant mercy or compassion. One of my favorite pietas is that of Kathrin Burleson but there are many and all are lovely. While most of these depictions of the pieta are also called lamentations and feature Mary and her son Jesus, they could be representative of all women who have been subjected to gender bias and the resulting victimization of such.
Women comprise more than fifty percent of the population and no one is ever born without a woman being involved. With the future of mankind literally their dominion, women should be respected, not reviled and enslaved. #WithStrongGirls is just one of many organizations trying to bridge the gender gap. Hopefully, with our discussions about these inventions over the next fifty-plus days, we all will realize that women have much to offer in addition to the ability to birth children. They can also give birth to some great ideas and inventions that benefit all of mankind. Please join me as we learn and celebrate women. What helps women benefits us all.