Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Organisations, governments, charities and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.
“Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” is the 2012 theme of the internationalwomensday.com website and this has been widely used by hundreds of organisations including schools, universities, governments, women’s groups and the private sector. Each year the United Nations declares an overall International Women’s Day theme. Their 2012 theme is “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. Many organisations develop their own themes that are more relevant to their local contexts. For example, the European Parliament’s 2012 theme is “Equal pay for work of equal value”.
“Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”. With the popularity of social media, girls have probably never been more connected than they are today. Yet within each one of us there lurks a desire for a deeper connection, more meaningful social interaction, than Facebook or the like permits. We each yearn to know and to be known – not just in a virtual way, but in a real, authentic way. Facebook is covered with messages which state things like: ‘I love those people who stay with me after knowing how I really am’ and ‘Don’t judge me till you’ve walked in my shoes’. We want others to understand us, to know us, to like us, to love us.
I would contend that it is only within a relationship with our Creator that we can hope to have that yearning fulfilled. The One who made us is the only one who truly understands us, who knows how we are wired, who can fulfil that longing to be understood. Once we have that relationship with Him, we can begin to connect with others in a more meaningful, authentic way. If I need to come to the Cross and you need to come to the Cross, then before the Cross we are equal. There we can begin to let down our guards and be ourselves – broken women who need forgiveness and healing, godly women who want to follow Jesus, courageous women who are willing to make sacrifices for the cause of the kingdom, normal women who make mistakes but who get up and try again. As we learn to take off our masks and begin to know and understand one another, true connections can begin to take place. We can know and be known for who we are.
Then together we can walk into the future, inspiring one another to take up the baton and make a difference. I am inspired by the older women I have known who have had a profound influence on my life. I am also inspired by the younger women I know who are stepping out into their worlds, passionate to make a difference in their day.
Today I happened to be reading Proverbs 31. If you are a woman and know that chapter, you probably inwardly groan as you think it is an impossibly high standard of an unrealistically perfect woman. But I was encouraged to read this note in the ESV:
‘This lofty portrait of excellence sets such a high standard that it can be depressing to godly women today until its purpose is understood. First, the woman embodies in all areas of life the full character of wisdom commended throughout this book (of Proverbs). This shows that even though the concrete situations up to now have generally envisioned a cast of males, the teaching of the entire book is intended for all of God’s people. Second, as with other character types, this profile is an ideal; a particular example of full-scale virtue and wisdom toward which the faithful are willing to be moulded. It is not expected that any one woman will look exactly like this in every respect.’
Phew! But I like the thought that the chapter is ‘a particular example of full-scale virtue and wisdom toward which the faithful are willing to be moulded’. On this International Women’s Day, as I think about connecting with other women and inspiring futures, my prayer is that I would do that by being willing to be moulded into the kind of woman God wants me to be – learning my dependence on Him as well as my inter-dependence on others, willing to take my mask off and seek authentic connections.
My favourite verse in this chapter? ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’ (verse 30).