267 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Hundreds of Yazidi women sold into slavery by ISIS. Thousands of war rapes in Congo. Millions trafficked globally. The global issues facing women are clear.
International Women’s Day, March 8, focuses on empowering women. In 2014. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Countries with more equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: Equality for women means progress for all.”
Three simple strategies can empower women: create space, model value and nurture gifts. These three methods to empower the women in your life are not new. Jesus practiced them.
Look at the story of Jesus visiting Lazarus, Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38-42). Jesus made room for Mary with the other learners, the disciples. Her sister, Martha, tried to correct the situation. There is much to learn in that simple story, but let’s say Martha’s remarks were about more than wanting help chopping the carrots for dinner. We often focus on Mary’s decision, but that decision was possible because Jesus created space for her. He modeled value for her as a disciple, which nurtured her gifts. I’m sure you can think of other examples where Jesus turned culture around to create space for women, model value and nurture their gifts.
I experienced this personally during an academic partnership between Vanguard University and a university in Iraq to empower women. Our team included renowned Federal Judge David Carter. Carter created space for me in a culture that did not traditionally allow this, valued me as a professional and nurtured my growing skills in the field. He instructed me to stay with him even if our hosts offered me a seat in a different room. When entering the chambers of the Chief Judge, Carter was ushered to a seat of honor. He thanked our hosts, walked me to that seat and said, “Dr. Morgan, here’s your place.” He included me in the dialogue; it was never spurious. Carter actively empowered me as a leader, because he saw me as such.
Women are vital to the mission of the Church. To see women empowered to lead and contribute, everyone must be strategic. Create space. Model value for your daughters and sisters. Nurture their gifts. The result will be progress that men and women will celebrate together.