Spring is the promise of celebrating something new, to begin again, new life, growth and hope. We have just completed Women’s Month which is meant to celebrate women and focus on their achievements. However it has been overshadowed by the scourge of the ever increasing rate of violence that women and girls face by perpetrators who are mostly men. There are multiple factors contributing to subtle and overt forms of gender-based violence (GBV) but it is deeply rooted in gender inequality and patriarchy.
This month alone brought horrendous stories of violations against
girls and women leaving us shattered and broken. We continue to listen
and lament to the unbearable stories. It is essential for justice, to
shift the way we think and act and to foster healing.
Amidst the shame, grief and anguish how do we then enter into a new season with renewed hope?
As the church, one crucial aspect is dismantling the destructive ways our sacred texts are misused to excuse or condone the unequal treatment and abusive behaviour towards women. For example, when we retell the creation story, in Genesis 2:18 we quote that God created a “helper” for the Adamah – the earth creature. We use “helper” to describe women which is often seen as subservient, yet the Hebrew word Ezer means, rescuer, mighty, strong, a life saver. It is a word also used for God our Helper Our Ezer (Psalms 115:9-11) and we certainly don’t consider God less than!
If there’s a renewal that Spring brings it should be in redeeming and renewing our understanding that women are image bearers of God, created equal, reflecting the divine in wonderous ways. May this truth give new life to transforming our demeaning beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. We can turn the tide of GBV and commit to ending gender inequality where the appreciation and celebration of women is not delegated for just one month or a season, but it is a genuine value practiced every day.
We have also collected some helpful resources for how to talk about and help address GBV in church contexts:
10 things faith leaders and members of faith communities can do now to advance gender equality (from a collaboration of faith-based organisations with support from UN Women):
A Bible study on Gender and restoring relationships (from Tearfund):
A guideline for domestic violence safety planning (from the National Shelter Movement of South Africa):
A list of helplines and shelters:
Merrishia Singh-Naicker is a relationship and family therapist and pastor.