Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Nobel Peace Prize Calls Us to Social Justice for Females

Yesterday, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded--what a memorable day it was.  Three women who have fought valiantly for social justice in some of the toughest parts of the planet won the award.  Hurrah for them!

In this article from The Washington PostSudarsan Raghavan and Michael Birnbaum explain what the women have done:  "The winners were Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female president in post-colonial Africa, peace activist Leymah Gbowee, also from Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman, a leading figure in Yemen’s populist revolt this year who inspired thousands of women to rise up in a region where women are considered second-class citizens."

I would state it more harshly:  these women have accomplished their amazing feats in parts of the world where women hardly count as citizens at all.  Astonishing.  Only 12 women have ever won the award, and they've all done amazing things.  If you compare what President Sirleaf has done to what President Obama, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has done, there's simply no denying that her accomplishments are greater.

The accomplishments of these women call us to do more to secure the rights of females across the globe, which was the intent of the Nobel Committee:  "The Oslo-based committee described the award as an important siren call for women the world over. In its citation, read by its head, Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, the committee said that 'we cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society'" (from the previously cited article from The Washington Post).

Jesus issued a similar command during his ministry that focused on the poor and the outcast--and in his society, women occupied the bottom rungs of the social ladder.  Even women who married well and thus found themselves in a secure position were continually at risk, should their husbands die.

All sorts of traditions call us to secure the rights of the dispossessed.  Those of us who live in the U.S. are lucky in that we have some recourse, should our rights be trampled.  But I haven't talked to a woman yet who feels totally safe and secure.  We have work to do, no matter where we live.

Martin Luther King continually pointed out that injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.  In the words of that old Civil Rights song, no of us are free when one of us wears chains.  So today, let us refocus our attention on the lives of women.  There's benefit to all of us if we make the lives of women better.  Study after study has shown that as women's lives improve, so do the lives of everyone in the community.  Most of the time, women are simply better at redistributing the wealth to bring about their vision of how life could be better--everyone's lives, not just their own.

So, in these waning days of the year, let's think about what we can do to get resources to those who need it most.  Let's spend some time thinking about what a world that honors the lives of women and children would look like.  Let's get to work creating it.

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