Church leaders harp on gender equality, women empowerment

Adeze Ojukwu

More Christian leaders and preachers have thrown their weight behind gender justice and women empowerment.

This shift in orientation and disposition, has been attributed to the invaluable successes of women across the world.

The list of accomplished top female icons, as presidents and chief executives of conglomerates, has grown exponentially.

Many of them have shown remarkable excellence in politics, business, academia, entrepreneurship, medicine and development spectrum.

It is no longer wise and easy to ignore women and the huge impact they are making to foster peace and progress across societies.

The new Tanzanian president, Samia Suluhu Hassan as well as the likes of Prof Okonjo-Iweala, Director General, World Trade Organization(WTO), Dr Amina Muhamad, United Nations (UN) Deputy Secretary General and award-winning author, Chimamanda Adichie, have clearly shown that women have the capacity to take on new roles in all spheres of public administration and corporate governance.

This point was accentuated at this year’s International Women’s Day(IWD) on March 8.

Some clerics took to the pulpits to highlight this message, because the church is intricately related to society and its demands.

‘Women should not be subjected to torture and harassment in workplaces as it deters them from aspiring to break the glass ceiling. Workplaces should not be unsympathetic to working mothers.’

The Archbishop, Province on the Niger, and Bishop of Awka Diocese, Anglican Communion, Archbishop Chibuzor Alexander Ibezim gave the warning during the Mothering Sunday activities.

According to him, injustices being meted out to women in the global society, should stop. He canvassed for strategies for societal balance and equity, in order to advance sustainable peace in the country.

He cited a recent United Nations(UN) data, which revealed that ‘the labour force participation rate for women aged 25—54 is 63 percent compared to 94 percent for men,’ which he described as a global mismatch. This indicates that women and girls continued to be segregated in work places and by extension suffering from extreme poverty.’

The archbishop denounced Gender-Based Violence(GBV) as well as Violence Against Women and Girls(VAWG), which he described as a ‘global pandemic’ that affects one in three women.’

‘Let me use this mothering Sunday to call on companies in Nigeria to be gender sensitive by building an inclusive workplace in order to entrench gender diversity in workplace.’

‘I am of the belief that in order to attract and retain talented women in companies gender diversity would be a deliberate act by the industry to give opportunity for more women to join the labour force.’

‘This, I believe will not only bring about inclusiveness and dynamism in the economy but will engineer competitiveness and growth in the companies.’

‘I passionately appeal to companies and organizations to discard gender inequality in workplace and promote gender diversity by integrating women for new scopes and opportunities needed for societal balance.’

He expressed optimism that a deliberate and collective rise against gender inequality would be a great step towards poverty reduction, sustainable development, good governance and a progressive society.’

Women empowerment, he stated, brings will usher in an inclusive, fair and balanced society. I advocate actions targeted at empowering women in all facets of life and career by shunning domination by a single gender in work places.’

According to him, women should be considered in leadership roles and not be stereotyped or discriminated. Individuals, be they women or men, people with right attributes should be given leadership roles.

‘I challenge women already in position to mentor others and as well assist other women to advance in their chosen careers. I encourage organizations to improve on their childcare support facilities as lack of childcare and inadequate childcare support from organizations reduce chances of female participation in some career belts.’

Similarly, the Vicar of Church of Ascension(COA), FESTAC, Lagos, Rev Mike Fagbemi, in his sermon during the Mothering Sunday, enjoined men and leaders to accord women and mothers the respect and dignity they deserve.

Speaking on the theme: ‘A transformed home,’ he said ‘society should celebrate the women, particularly mothers. Their duties are not quantifiable.’

‘A transformed home gives birth to a decent society. It requires the support of virtuous women as well as the presence of Jesus, to fully establish such homes.’

‘The society has failed today, because they do not give value to our women, as those Jesus addresses, too, fail to do for Elijah.’

The decadence in our midst today, is largely because women are pushed aside, all in the name of gender disparity, gender inequality even, in our politics,’ he emphasized.

The concept of gender equality, he noted is rooted in Genesis 2: 24-25. ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.’

According to Fagbemi, Mothering Sunday, which is marked the halfway in Lenten season is observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent, with feasting. Jesus never forgot his mother, even while on the cross. ‘Mother, behold your son, son, behold your mother. This is a proof that Jesus still cared for his mother, while hanging on the cross.’

‘Who tells you women are not important? Who tells you that women are not competent to lead in politics? Who tells you that women can’t serve as head of the nation,’ Fagbemi charged.

‘Beloved, where is the Esther of our time, today. Where is the Deborah of our generation. Where is the Ruth of our era? Where is the Mary of this generation?’

Most people believe that society is drifting, because of the discriminatory practices, that force women to silence and exclusion, he stressed.

‘Where are the likes of Mary Mitchell Slessor today? Where are the likes of Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti? Where are the likes of late Prof. Dora Akunyili? It is high time we allowed our women to handle notable roles in the nation. They can do it.’

He also advised wives to humble themselves before their husbands or at homes, as stated in the bible. ‘Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.’

He warned of the negative consequences of downgrading women, thinking they are not relevant. The negative effects of this ugly trend is the escalation of vices and youth restiveness in the country.

‘Let us all give the correct sense of living to our mothers and women generally ,’ the cleric added.

He enjoined the younger generation to cherish motherhood, by honouring women and all females as well parents. It is a divine injunction.’

Corroborating, Mrs Victoria Udegbunam, a commissioned lay reader in the Anglican Church, Lagos-West Diocese, commended mothers for their innumerable contributions to the peace and progress of their homes and societies.

Udegbunam, who spoke in another special service for women at COA, highlighted the ‘importance of godly woman, as part of a fundamental building block in a Christian home.’

Her words: ‘The bible is replete with several examples of humble and great women, some of whom served Jesus and his ministry.’

‘As daughters of Zion, emulate such biblical women, by epitomizing godliness, holiness and diligence both at home and public spheres.’

She urged ‘ladies should use their power of influence just as, Esther did to serve God rightly and keep building Christian homes and raising Godly children for the kingdom of God.’

‘Undoubtedly gender-based discriminations will be eradicated, with more enlightenment and mobilization across the country,’ she added.

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