A small woman in her 50s, Atosi seems like she’s always been a firecracker. She has passionate opinions, a strong sense of determination, and warm, bright, expressive eyes. As I listen to her story, I imagine her as a little baby in a distant town of India, the youngest among four siblings, a daughter not planned. Her mother, one of the only working women in town, went back to her teaching job when Atosi was only 3 months old—a rare phenomenon. A helper, who was taking care of her during the day, kept stealing the milk set aside for little Atosi. The ache of unsatisfied appetite made her develop a habit of thumb sucking for years to come; a habit that brought her much shame and negative attention from her family and others around.
As a little girl, Atosi hated that her mother worked and often compared her with “normal” mothers who stayed at home to take care of their children. She was dead-set on getting married, becoming a housewife and mother, and never working outside the home. She dreamed of a quiet, simple life. But God, having a good sense of humor, made it so that Atosi’s older sisters were not married yet by the time she finished school. Since it would have been culturally inappropriate for her to get married before them, she had to get a job. Her plans for life were not working out as she had imagined.
Of all the different issues we could talk about as we focus on women this month, the one that keeps coming to my mind is the way we women think of ourselves and view other women. The abuse, oppression, objectification and devaluation of women is a priority topic here in India, and most of the time we think about how society in general or specifically men relate to women this way, which, of course, is extremely important. But as I was listening to stories upon stories from the Ending Gendercide team members, the idea that women work against each other kept jumping out at me.
Why is that? Why do we keep undermining each other? Why do we want others to suffer what we have suffered? Why do the different choices or success of other women make us feel threatened and less? Why do women tend to tear each other down instead of building each other up?
Violence against women, especially domestic violence, is a major problem in India. About one-third of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced domestic violence here. Sadly, the problem is also prevalent among believers within the church. Ending Gendercide (EG) is committed to address this issue and to educate people about the value of women and God’s perspective on marriage and family relationships.
EG staff regularly visit new churches and introduce their domestic violence training. Whoever is interested from the congregation is invited to come together once a month for three months to learn. In mid-September, EG held an award ceremony to celebrate those who had completed their latest training.
One of the participants, Mira, is a married woman with a teenage son. She says she has learned since childhood that it was normal for men to be controlling, overpowering and violent. She never felt it was right but it was simply the way things were everywhere. She comes from a Hindu family but by a twist of life married a culturally Christian man. He made her go to church but when she became an actual believer, her passion for Christ started concerning her husband. He wanted to keep her in check and became more violent as time passed. Women have no brain, he would say.
Living as a foreigner in India, it is not so obvious that I am in a land of genocide against girls. I’ve never found a newborn in a trash can, never witnessed an illegal sex-determining ultrasound, never heard from anyone that they despise their daughters. My kids have plenty of girls in their school, I see girls all around me in our neighborhood, on our streets, everywhere we go. Wouldn’t we notice if millions of girls were missing around us?
Of course, I see the way women are treated and looked at daily. I experience first-hand that it’s a man’s world, no doubt. I am often surprised by the way boys are spoiled and catered to. I’ve met many families who only have sons. I know about the dowry system that causes an often unbearable financial burden on girls’ parents. But the statistics are much more staggering than this! They tell me that terrible, blood-boiling injustice is happening right under my nose. And because this is my home for now, people’s worldviews and their subsequent actions become a lot less theoretic and a lot more personal. But October 11th should also matter to you, wherever you live.
In our Voices Around the World posts, members of the RW team share what God is teaching them and what they are pondering. This month Bindu from the Ending Gendercide program has blessed us with an essay on oneness.
God dwells in the community of oneness. To be in oneness, more than one ‘unit’ is required. One cannot be united with just oneself. Christians worship God who is one, but who revealed Himself in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Thus the oneness of God is reflected in pluralities of persons. Three persons of the Godhead are united as one being.
This blog was originally posted on March 9, 2015.
I vividly remember the first time I heard about gendercide. I sat in a church service in Cambridge, UK, and our pastor showed us a clip from ‘It’s A Girl’, an excellent and powerful documentary highlighting the issue of gendercide in India and China. The stories described broke my heart as I was hit by the horror that we could devalue our girls to such an extent; however, the thing that most surprised me was the fact that I had not heard of this issue before. How was it possible that 200 million missing girls could go unnoticed by us in the UK? That’s about 3 million a year, double the amount of people that died from AIDS in 2013 . How could news about something of this scale be entirely absent from our media? And, given that it is missing, what needs doing in order to raise the profile of this issue?
I have memories of Women’s Day ever since I was in elementary school. Growing up in Europe, March 8th was a good day to be a girl. Boys would give us flowers at school, husbands would surprise their wives with a bouquet, my dad would get chocolate for his girls. It was natural for me that women are beautiful, valuable, hard-working creatures who should be celebrated. I didn’t know there were parts of the world where being born a girl was undesirable or even dangerous.
India also observes International Women’s Day, honoring women’s accomplishments in different ways on this day, but acknowledging that women are equal to men is still not an everyday reality. There has been much progress in recognizing women’s value in the last 30 to 50 years, but traditions and mindsets are slow to change and some women suffer “from womb to tomb.”
October 11 is the third annual “International Day of the Girl Child.”
If, like me, you live in the United States, you might be asking yourself, “Is that really the best name the UN could come up with?” And then, your next question might be, “What is that day even for?”
Well, funky name notwithstanding, October 11 is really a big deal kind of day. We live in a world where:*
- Gender-based violence is the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls.
- Close to half of all girls aged 15 to 19 (about 126 million people) think that it is sometimes justified for a husband to beat his wife.
- 250 million girls and women alive today were married before the age of fifteen (1 in 3 of those women live in India).
- More than 200 million girls are “missing” from the world population due mostly to sex-selective abortion and infanticide.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to introduce you to some women who are making history right now within Reconciled World. Balini* works tirelessly on behalf of girls and women with our Ending Gendercide project in India. We asked her to share her story:
I was born & brought up in a Christian family. Though I was not discriminated against in matters of food, education or my upkeep, I grew up in a culture of son preference. I was taught the stereotyped roles of women and men in the family. Cooking, cleaning, caring for family members and all household chores were for girls to do, while boys could roam around and play as they liked. Many a times I was punished by my mother because I played and did things like my brother. I was taught that I have to go someone’s home after marriage. The land properties which were bought by my parents were bought in the name of my brother. The mindset behind it was, if it is bought in a daughter’s name the property will go off to another family with the daughter, but if it is in the son’s name it will remain in the family. However, I didn’t marry, and now have no parental property to stay or cultivate. If my brother or his sons wish, they can kick me out any time. So, I am a landless woman.
I vividly remember the first time I heard about Gendercide. I sat in a church service in Cambridge, UK, our pastor showed us a clip from ‘It’s A Girl’, an excellent and powerful documentary highlighting the issue of Gendercide in India and China. The stories described broke my heart as I was hit by the horror that we could de-value our girls to such an extent; however, the thing that most surprised me was the fact that I had not heard of this issue before. How was it possible that 200 million missing girls could go unnoticed by us in the UK? That’s about 3 million a year, double the amount of people that died from AIDS in 2013 . How could news about something of this scale be entirely absent from our media? And, given that it is missing, what needs doing in order to raise the profile of this issue?