By Sarah Myers
Sarah Myers is our International Summer Fellow and will be working on gender justice issues. She is a graduate of Presbyterian College and is currently working on her Master’s degree in history at Georgetown University where she is focusing on the history of female combatants in Zimbabwe and Namibia. Sarah will be producing action alerts and other educational resources about international issues of gender for the office of Public Witness this summer.
In John 10:10, Jesus states that he “came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” As human beings, we are created in the image of God, and it is essential that every life is valued and that all people can pursue an abundant life. We are all entitled to human rights, including the right to live free from violence and discrimination, to be educated, to earn an equal wage, and many more. However, women and girls worldwide face discrimination based on sex and gender.
Numerous hurdles in countries around the globe impact the lives of women and girls, including gender-based violence, lack of access to education and economic empowerment, and inequality in leadership, to name a few. Gender-based violence permeates throughout societies affecting more than one in three women worldwide. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, approximately 130 million girls were not in school, even though adolescent girls who remain in school are more likely to live longer, marry later, and have healthier children. The United States Department of State stated in a recent report that the meaningful participation of women in political, economic, and public life is critical to building and sustaining representative societies. Yet, women face barriers to fulfilling leadership positions and increased economic empowerment worldwide. Women and girls face numerous challenges in their daily lives due to their sex and gender. However, they are not simply barriers that inhibit gender justice but also barriers to international development.
Reaching gender parity is integral for international development and ensuring human rights for all. In almost every sector of society, when women are involved in essential processes and decision-making, efforts towards these goals are more likely to succeed. For example, the Council on Foreign Relations states that when women’s organizations and other civil society groups are included in peace negotiations, agreements are 64 percent less likely to fail. Furthermore, for every 10 percent more girls who attend school, a country’s GDP can be expected to go up an average of 3 percent. International organizations such as the World Bank have made gender parity a priority in their development efforts, stating that “a growing body of evidence shows that placing women in the center of the development agenda can increase efficiency in managing institutions and resources. Also, female leaders can have beneficial impacts on social norms.” Gender parity is integral to furthering international development efforts and attaining human rights for all citizens worldwide.
Gender justice and international human rights are essential aspects of the ministry of the Church. Jesus taught us that true discipleship must include ministry to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, even “to the least of these.” (Matthew 25: 31-46) Today, Christians recognize that those considered the “least of these” are often people who have been denied human rights. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a well-established history of supporting efforts for human rights, believing them to be rooted in God’s promised reign of justice for all people. As supporters of international human rights and global development, it is integral that we extend our support to efforts toward gender justice.