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For Such a Time as This – Esther and Women’s History Month

YES Girl Project March 29, 2019 0 comments

Women’s History Month is coming to a close and we have found ourselves surrounded with powerful stories of powerful women who did powerful things under some really oppressive and horrible systems.  The women’s movement is currently very strong and making a lot of headway. As I read about each woman, I am inspired by their bravery and tenacity, encouraged by how far we’ve come, and overwhelmed with how far we’ve still left to go, particularly with women’s rights in developing nations. 

As women in the Western World fight to shatter glass ceilings in the corporate world and we fight to have our voices heard (and believed) in social discourse (read: sexual assault), there are women who are still fighting for their right to education and to be protected with the most basic of rights.  There are communities in this world where rape is considered a “normal” part of growing up. Where having your period doesn’t only mean missing a week of school (every single month), but that you are old enough to be married with a flag being raised to show eligible suitors you are “available”.  In our fight for equality, we cannot leave these women behind.  Their stories and their experiences must form part of our movement forward.

When I feel overwhelmed with the plight of these girls (and the strain I feel in my own life as a woman in business), I am encouraged by the story of Esther in the Bible.  Esther was born into a horribly oppressive society and then somehow finds herself in an Old Testament version of The Bachelor.  We tend to tell this story as a fairy tale: poor and lowly Esther finds herself in a palace and eventually becomes a Queen! It’s every girls dream!

Right?!?

Queen or not, if you really read her story, it tells of the horrifying and degrading place that women were subjected to live in (that gets even more horrifying when you realize that so many women are still living in this reality today.)

You should go read the story again… I’ll wait….

Esther- NIV – Bible Gateway

Esther was an orphan who was forced to sexually exploit herself to find favour with the King and marry him (while he slept around with other women) and then risked her life just to speak in his presence without permission. There is a plan hidden in all of this debauchery and it’s harrowing to even utter the words that Esther truly was born for “such a time as this”. Only by the grace of God does she not only manage to survive but also succeeds in saving an entire people group and culture. It’s incredible.

The world she lived in tried to tell her that she was only worth what her beauty and her body could give, but God saw so much more.  He saw a woman stronger than her time and culture were willing to acknowledge. He saw a woman brave enough to put her life on the line to save her people.  And she did.  It was such a big deal that they created a festival to celebrate this moment in herstory that is still celebrated today (Purim – which was actually just celebrated earlier this month!).

Esther could’ve just accepted things as they were. She could’ve just accepted her fate, “stayed in her place” and kept quiet like she was supposed to – you know, “seen and not heard”.  She had just been chosen by the King and was going to live out her days in luxury, and at this time in history, that was about as good as it got for a woman.  But she knew she was meant for more and that her life had more value than what the world around her was willing to acknowledge.  She stood up against the system and did something about the injustice she saw unfolding before her. She changed history. 

So before I continue, I want you to sit with the question:

What are you willing to take a stand for? What are you willing to risk everything for?

When I think about Esther, I think about the girls at the Imagine Hope Center in Zambia who are a part of our YES Girl Project.  They are taking charge of their futures, and transforming herstory. 

When empowered with education and given access to economic opportunity, the girl’s family is given another option that saves her from child marriage.  Through economic empowerment programs, she can show her village that she is worth more and can do more and achieve more than they previously gave her credit for.  She can reclaim her voice, her rights and her future, and then she can stand up and be an example to other girls in her community and start to shift mindsets about what is “normal” for little girls and what they can achieve.  She can start to shift mindsets about the value of women and their rightful place in her society. She can shatter glass ceilings and be a part of the transformation in her country and in her continent. 

Image Credit: Girls not Brideshttps://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/zambia/

Zambia is regarded as having one of the highest rates of child marriage, but they are actually on the forefront of this global conversation and are taking great steps to stop it from happening. The African Union formed a Campaign to End Child Marriage that African leaders have all endorsed and have committed to do by the year 2023.

Vice President of Zambia: Inonge Wina

The AU have appointed the President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, as the champion of this campaign/issue globally. The Vice President of Zambia, Inonge Wina, is a woman (the first woman in Zambia to hold so high an office), and is actually from the Western Province where our project is, so she fully understands the complexities of the issue. She recently met with some of the leadership of our partners in Zambia and showed great commitment to being a part of making sure these girls are looked after and given every opportunity to succeed.

While child marriage has been made illegal in Zambia with the set goal to stop child and forced marriages entirely by 2030, the battle now lies in the more rural areas (where our program is located) that are governed more by traditional law than this national agenda. 

Poverty, gender norms/beliefs and lack of education all make the liberation of the girl child incredibly complex and slow. Our program is designed to help support this cause and give the girls an avenue through which they can practically prove their economic and social worth and value on a grassroots level while the government tackles the issue on a systemic level.

So in the midst of all this, the girls in our YES Girl Project in Zambia are perfectly positioned to be a key part of this conversation and to make real change happen in their communities.  I truly believe each and every one of them were born for “such a time as this”.   

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