In many African cultures, women are still deeply embedded in a patriarchal society that demands submission, compliance, and an inherent lack of sovereignty. Many women are uneducated and rely fully on their fathers or husbands to operate within the world. This has created a systemic issue where a woman’s value is tied indiscriminately to their husbands if they are assigned any value at all.
We talk a lot about the importance of making this world more like the Kingdom and a way in which our partners promote that is through creating an opportunity for dignity where it has otherwise been robbed from a particular subset of people. In this particular case, women.
In God’s Image, Not Man’s
Mission ONE partners in East Africa recognized a crucial need among women. They are painted as insignificant, often unable to make decisions within their own families, let alone be heard within the community. They have little to no education, are often married as teenagers, and become mothers shortly thereafter. Their husbands speak for them, control the money, and are deferred to for just about all decisions that impact the woman’s life.
It is a level of dependence that, while culturally accepted, doesn’t leave room for spiritual growth, personal confidence, and empowerment.
And for those without husbands, the options are even more limited and often brutally undesirable. They can often find themselves cornered into prostitution and absorbed into a life of substance and physical abuse.
When any person isn’t allowed their own identity it can impede their chance at getting to know God. When your worth is determined by man, ascension into your God-given glory is stifled.
Our international partners saw that there was a deep need for elevating women in this population. They have the chance to be powerful leaders, missionaries, and earners for their family if only given the chance to embody their divine strength. It became essential to our partners to help them realize they are made in God’s image, not man’s.
In an effort to help restore women’s dignity in their local area, Mission ONE partners are establishing a sewing center. As we’ve seen in other parts of the world, this skill-building space creates opportunities for women where otherwise, none existed before.
Building a marketable female public has proven to not only improve how women are perceived in a community, but how they feel about themselves.
With the ability to earn an income, comes the ability to:
- Elevate their household by contributing to finances
- Provide better for their children
- Set an example for future generations of women
- Open doors for education (both skilled and liberal arts)
- Engage with other women without the presence of men
- Establish respect within society that changes their ability to have a voice
- Avoid hazardous, last-resort occupations
- Build confidence to pursue even more spiritually uplifting endeavors
- Experience God’s glory through personal dignity
Making money isn’t just about what women can and cannot buy. It’s about having a seat at the table and finding value in a segment of people who have been discarded and overlooked.
Why Mission ONE Partners Focus on Dignity
A pillar of living by God’s teachings is to understand that any person being oppressed, pushed to the brink of starvation, abused, or treated inhumanely is apt to feel like they are unworthy of God’s love due to their poor treatment by man.
Women in parts of Africa are made to feel unwanted, unimportant, and undervalued and thus aren’t given tools like education, confidence, and independent time to explore their faith. Mission ONE partners know that finding God’s love isn’t about being told God loves them. It’s about being shown that they are worthy.
In order to experience a true connection to Him, these women have to arrive on their own terms. And the only way to do that is to create a space where they can be allowed to have their own terms.
A sewing center compared to a church may seem like the lesser of two options when it comes to enlightenment and ministry. But it’s important to remember that God is found by individuals and that without self-worth it is hard to discover that God made you in His image.
Time and time again we hear from our partners that people who are given the chance to liberate and care for themselves find God in that work. Our job isn’t always to give the Bible to as many people as possible. Our mission is to give as many people as possible the ability to access it.
As women in Africa are given a skill and able to provide within their social structure, they will also gain a voice. And it is with that voice we hope women can lead their communities and walk the next generation of daughters into a world where they only experience life through the glory they are born with.
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3 Ways to Honor God on Your Next Mission Trip
We're sharing three things you should consider before you organize or participate in an international mission trip, seek to do work in the multicultural neighborhood in your own city, or embark on any cross-cultural partnership.