It was International Women’s Day, 2008. In a powerful and evocative moment, for the first time, South African and Swazi grandmothers came together and demonstrated in Manzini, Swaziland, for women’s rights and gender equality…. fighting against domestic violence, elder abuse, lobbying for pensions, pushing for safety and rights of grandmothers and their grandchildren. Grandmothers are a tremendous force for change in South Arica, as millions are orphaned because of AIDS and they are the ones raising the new generation. Strange that the biggest opposition came from men! They were the bystanders, men who yelled back at these women: “return to the kitchen and cooking”, “go home old women” (courtesy of The Toronto Star).
I am sure this news evoked a whole lot of questions such as:
- Were these men “church goers” who felt that was normal?
- When did this culture start? Where did the term “weaker sex” comes from?
- Was it from the incomplete interpretation of Scriptures like Adam was created first, Eve later as just a help mate? Eve was first beguiled by Satan? “Let women learn in silence”?
- Or is it simply the physical factor – “might is right”?
This scenario is not confined to South Africa. We may not like to admit it, but the West is not that far off. Some may recall the slang/joke few years ago on women: “keep them barefoot and pregnant” or “their place is in the home”!
There is a lot to write on this, but I will reduce to the following observations for now:
- ”Honour thy father and mother”, one of the ten Ten Commandments with a promise attached. Any that honour mothers will honour women.
- Jesus respected even a woman caught in adultery. Notice the venue, the holy temple, the holy men, quoting holy Scripture advocating stoning! When pressed further, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”, answered Jesus. The holy men quietly slipped away. Jesus rebuked the holy and restored the sinner. Jesus restored her self respect!
- Jesus said respectfully to a Gentile Cananite lady: ”Dear woman, Great is thy faith” (NLT)
- Jesus took seriously a son’s responsibility to his widowed mother, charging John to take care of his Mother. John obeyed, most probably at the church in Ephesus.
- Paul affectionately called Rufus’s mother “also a mother to me”. Timothy was influenced by grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. Paul considered Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, etc, as “co-workers” of Apostles. That is not a small honour!
- Many missions abroad were pioneered by single women missionaries.
I read about Irwin Cotler, MP, Canada. “He became one of the thorn in the flesh to the Soviet Union for his work on the release of Soviet Jew Anatoly Shransky. Russians called Cotler a spy and got him almost poisoned by the KGB. Cotler was also one of the few Westerners picked up by the police in South Africa when he boldly told the Apartheid Regime to release Nelson Mandela, particularly when other mighty democratic nations were silent. When asked where did he get the courage and guts to stand up for the rights of the oppressed? He answered, “My mother instilled a passion for social justice”.
Our world would be far worse off but for the women who rocked the cradles. It would also be a far better world if women were treated with respect as commanded in the decalogue and as demonstrated by Jesus. “Go grannies go”!
God bless, Danny Paul
PS: God willing, I will continue on this theme later on as Part 2. In the meanwhile, I would like to hear from you on this subject.