I am more likely to not be able to read and write because I am a girl.
Sixty-five million girls are missing from classrooms across the world – yes, 65 million. Internationally, one in five girls of lower secondary school age aren’t attending school. In fact, the number of girls who complete primary school falls below 50 per cent in the world’s poorest countries.
I am more likely to have tears of sorrow (not tears of joy) on my wedding day because I am a girl.
Ten million girls are coerced into marriage each year. Every three seconds, another girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t want to. In fact, one in three girls in the developing world are married before they are 18 years old.
I am more likely not to have a choice about where and when my first sexual experience happens because I am a girl.
One hundred and fifty million girls across the world have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence before they reach 18 years old. Girls are exposed to sexual violence as they walk to school, go to the toilet, socialise with friends and even in their own homes.
I am more likely to be missing from the face of the earth because I am a girl.
Around 113 to 200 million girls and women are simply missing. Girls and women are at greater risk of suffering gender-based violence such as honour killings and being trafficked. Many girls die unnecessarily because male relatives do not want to pay for health services even when they are giving birth. Foetuses are regularly aborted simply because they are not boys.
A world where anyone is silenced, coerced, murdered, limited or forgotten simply because of their gender is not OK.
And let’s not be complacent – gender injustice is not only a problem in the developing world.
Because I am a woman in the UK, I am less likely to be in a ‘powerful’ position – only 22.5 per cent of MPs are women and a handful head up FTSE 100 companies. Because I am a woman in the UK, I may even be valued less – in fact I might be paid up to 22.6 per cent less per hour than my male colleagues. Because I am a woman in the UK, I am more likely to be objectified and reduced to my body parts – there have been more than 25,000 entries describing ordinary women’s everyday experience of sexism and harassment on The Everyday Sexism Project website.
And for some, church communities are not a safe or liberating place for women. Due to patriarchal traditions and structures, they are just another place where women’s gifts are limited, their agency controlled and their potential suppressed.
This Saturday is International Women’s Day; a time to celebrate the value and potential of girls and women across the world and to continue to raise awareness of unjust discrimination.
To get us thinking, discussing and innovating, this week threads is featuring a number of articles exploring gender dynamics in marriage, in church and around the world. Despite the situations they face, girls and women are refusing to be victims and are shattering the chains that may hold them back (with the help of others).
International Women’s Day is a day for all of us to speak God’s truth and light into dark and unfair situations and “to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God” (Micah 6:8). It’s a time for men and women to speak up with and for the generation of silenced, oppressed, unloved, unseen, forgotten and under-valued girls and women across the world.
After all, that’s what Jesus did.
And it’s a day to celebrate women who are made in God’s image; an opportunity to be hopeful and get involved in shaping a more equitable future for girls and boys across the world.
(Statistics are from Plan International and Sex & Power: Who runs Britain? report).