Justice and empowerment for women is justice and empowerment for men
29 November 2016 9:29AM
The Revd Domnic Misolo, founder of the Kenyan NGO Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education, advocates for gender justice and equality from a biblical perspective.
Patriarchy is an enemy of all! It generates seeds of violence against women and girls across communities around the world. It makes innocent children suffer from what they don’t understand. Patriarchy is like a hidden cancer that continues to kill and destroy human family both from within and out.
Growing up in a rural village in Bondo, Kenya, and witnessing the reign and cruel hands of patriarchy both over us as children and our parents, I grew up hating God whom I perceived from my Sunday school lessons as the author of patriarchy. I could not understand why my father married three wives who competed for his love. I could not explain why there was frequent fighting and beating of my mother(s) almost every day. I could not explain why my mother had to drop out of school at the age of 15 and be married as a second wife or why, as children, we lacked basic needs yet my mother continued giving birth to 12 children in the midst of all the struggles and uncertainty.
Later in my life, God revealed to me that the arch-enemy of human family is patriarchy, and not males or females! Both my father and mother conformed to that cruel culture. Patriarchy hands all power to one sex, locking out healthy choices for many communities around the world for any healthy relationship or meaningful development.
Recently, I was invited by a fellow Anglican priest to speak to a group of young married women and men in his church about positive masculinity and biblical equality. My opening remark “Justice and empowerment for women are equally justice and empowerment for men” attracted smiles and cheers from the group.
During my presentation, a man said, “Last week when our Bible study coordinator said that our next class would be on gender equality I was hesitant and uneasy for I knew it would be all about how men are bad, bad and bad.” He said that he had been opposed to discussions on equality between women and men because they seemed to be about a war between women and men, a struggle for dominant power. My initial remarks that justice for women is justice for men too sounded like good news and a good start for this topic.
One of the great lessons I’ve learned is that in our pursuit of gender equality we need to speak and tell this truth in love. Patriarchy has done and is still doing lots of harm to all human beings with its roots deeply in our religious misunderstanding and in secular worldviews. Millions of women and girls around the world are suffering and enslaved just because they are female.
Based on my passion and struggles to engage men in the fight against patriarchy within church circles, I want to say that equality for women and men is not and should not be portrayed as war between men and women, or a contest for power. Gender equality is about all human beings understanding and upholding the essential dignity, worth, and gifting of each other as women and men, girls and boys made in God’s image.
A version of this reflection appears in A Resource for Prayer, Reflection and Action for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from the We Will Speak Out coalition. The 16 Days run each year from 25 November to 10 December.
- The International Anglican Women’s Network and the Anglican Alliance are holding a free online webinar for the 16 Days on churches tackling gender-based violence, at 2pm GMT on Thursday (1 December). Click here for more details and to register.