Sep18SunSeptember 18, 2016
One of the values of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to see the advancement of girls and women who have often been, and are still often disempowered. In developing countries women make up better than half of the agricultural workforce. This varies from country to country and regionally as well but it is a common reality that women are undervalued for their contribution. The advancement of women is certainly a worthy goal, because the advancement of all people is worthy.
One of the premises of our civilization is rooted in the theological understanding that all people are created equal and that each human life is sacred. But not all civilizations share this worldview foundation. In some cases there is an underlying idea that some people have been created lower than others, and that the lower classes are to serve the higher classes. The biblical idea that both women and men are created in the image of God has taken root deeply in Western civilization, and has been a cornerstone of our understanding of justice despite some social trends and ideas that undermine this understanding.
In Kenya we saw real examples where the empowerment of women was accomplished hand-in-hand with development opportunities for men. Meet Elijah Wangeci and his wife Lydia. Elijah was a self-confessed wastrel and drunk. He had no hope and spent his days drinking and neglecting and abusing his family. He heard about training in Conservation Agriculture, enrolled and put what he was learning into practice. He worked hard alongside his wife and the results were dramatic.
Wearing a big grin, he was so pleased to tell us how the training changed his life and his relationship to his wife and children. He now had a reason to get up in the morning. He had learned about low tillage, ground cover and crop diversity. He joyfully shared papaya with us from his bounty, the fruit of his crop diversification. The empowerment he received changed him from a liability to a blessing to his wife and family and community.
There is a tremendous need and opportunity to prioritize the advancement of women and girls, and to do so in a way that recognizes that men who are willing to change become part of the solution. Men without hope who have disengaged from their family and social responsibilities become a drain and even a danger to their families, and they certainly do not contribute to the life of the community.
Building on our ideological foundations in which each life is valued and sacred before God, both women and men, we can make a difference by giving equal opportunity for training and development. Sometimes assuring that women receive training and experience the dividends is a wake up call to the deadbeat men.
In Ethiopia we saw the power imbalance addressed in a project of our Ethiopian partner, the Kaleh Hewet Church, where women were given a goat. Before the goat was given, the husband had to agree that the goat and the proceeds of the goat’s milk or offspring belonged to the woman. The prolific goats multiplied and the sale of the milk and of the kids brought a profit. One of the kids (baby goats), was to be given to another woman so that the process could happen all over again. This brought about change in the family dynamic: now the wife was held in higher esteem, having achieved some economic power.
The advancement of girls and women is a natural outcome of investment in small-scale farming. This is one of the reasons that we, as a member house of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), feel it’s important to encourage our Canadian government to return its international agricultural aid to former levels.
CFGB staff writes: You can also contribute to this [effort] by communicating with your Member of Parliament about this issue and how it is important to you. Write a letter or email, call your MP’s office or talk to your MP in person and pass on this important message. Learn more about the issue, and pray for this work, and for those working to improve their own food security. If you have any questions, or need some support, call us at 1-800-665-0377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
EMCC is one of the fifteen members of CFGB and is thankful for the effectiveness of CFGB in the commendable goal of ending global hunger.
By Phil Delsaut
President, Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada