One of the first comments I received after embarking on my “Coming Out” as a …hmm… not-a-complementarian, was challenging me on my statement that women are still in bondage to men. Are women really in BONDAGE to men? If we take a step outside the western world, absolutely. Of course, we can argue conservative Christian women are taught a form of bondage through patriarchy or husband authority, but I don’t want to split hairs in this post.
I want to talk about without-a-doubt women’s rights issues. These issues become evident in poverty. I have been mulling my passion of women’s rights. What good is a passion, if it doesn’t make a difference? I know how to teach and influence those in my sphere, but since my sphere is middle class American, it doesn’t meet my standard for making a difference, since we don’t really have a huge way to go. So, I started looking for gender equality non-profits around the world. I found the girl effect.
The Girl Effect is a movement to empower girls and women to change their own life and spark reform. It is a network of organizations who seek to alleviate social ills by education and micro finance. These groups emphasize girls staying in school, learning about family planning, eliminating child marriage and funding women in business. The Girl Effect, though a non-profit itself, is more of a gateway advertisement for the feet-on-the-ground organizations such as BRAC.
BRAC stands for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, but since its birth in Bangladesh in the 70’s, it has grown to 10 countries in Asia, Africa and North America. For the last few months, I’ve been following BRAC’s blog. Wow. I’ve learned so much. Just by reading a few articles every day. An eye opener for me was the effort to change social stigmas. Society influences girls to marry young, to have lots of babies and to stay quiet about abuse. So, not only do girls have to overcome the disadvantages of early marriage, lots of dependent children, no education, violence and poverty; they are pressured to stay the course…to perpetuate the cycle that creates poverty and suppression. A large part of BRAC’s mission is to spark awareness to these damaging societal expectations.
We learned that like many women of her generation, she was married off at a very young age (13, she believes) to a much older man. As is still the practice for most Bangladeshi marriages of all socio-economic strata, she moved in with her new husband and in-laws. Though unsure of the reasons, she recalls being harassed and beaten by her new “family.” At some point she realized that she was the man’s second wife. When they realized that Lalbanu was unable to bear children, the abuse worsened. She remembers the entire village calling her names and continually disrespecting her. When things were at their worst, she found the courage to do the unthinkable and leave her in-laws home. Her husband chose to stand by her and come along. Though culturally discouraged, they moved elsewhere on their village and tried to make it on their own. This is when she found BRAC.
Yes, women are still in bondage. If not by the law, then by the influence of the way-we’ve-always-done-it-around-here mentality.
Learning about global initiatives to empower, encourage and equalize women is the first step. To do my own small part, I’ve decided to donate what I make from my tiny, bitty shop on Etsy. My husband’s employer matches our gifts as well. I don’t share this information to toot my own horn, but to inform you of the greater global needs and encourage you to jump in too.