By Marcela Ordaz
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It’s been a long road to arrive where you are. Do not minimize your journey and your story. We are in this together. The union and organization of women, such as raising our voices will always make a difference.
On March 8, 1857, women working in the textile industry in New York organized a strike to demand fair wages and more humane working conditions. Yet, when they raised their voice they were arrested by the police.
Two years later, they organized their first union to fight for their rights; Fifty-one years later, on March 8, 1908, 15,000 women took to the streets of New York to demand better wages, shorter working hours and the right to vote. All this laid the foundations for the movement we commemorate – International Women’s Day.
With the passage of time and in different countries and times, the meaning of March 8 was strengthened. Important advances were made on that day, such as the right to vote for women, university education for women, professional training, non-discrimination in the workplace, as well as gender equality.
International Women’s Day is commemorated around the world to raise awareness of the importance of empowering women in all settings, protecting their rights and ensuring that they can reach their full potential. The commemoration also gives space to expose the inequality and discrimination that women around the world still experience, as well as the urgency of making their rights valid.
Throughout history women have been defamed, abused, belittled, and judged under double standards. Even in the time of Jesus these situations occurred. The laws of that time held that both men and women caught in the act of adultery should die (Leviticus 20:12). However, John 8:1-11 presents how only the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, and not the man who was with her, was accused and threatened with death by stoning.
Currently there are a huge number of cases where women are still vulnerable, women near us or in distant places such as Doha, Qatar, (absolutist Arab emirate) which are awaiting to host the upcoming World Cup. The Mexican Paola Schietekat had the misfortune of experiencing an incident where she went from reporting a physical assault she suffered, to being found “guilty” of having an extramarital relationship, and consequently being sentenced to 100 lashes or to marry the aggressor according to the Islamic sharia law. Sadly, the Mexican embassy in that country was not qualified to resolve a situation of this type. Fortunately, through other legal means, she was able to return to Mexico without serving “her sentence” and now, 9 months after the event, she is finally receiving support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico.
All this leads me to reflect and conclude that, regardless of the time, the success of advancing is achieved by raising our voices, joining forces, and seeking by all means to progress. This includes equipping ourselves, seeking education, getting trained, joining others who know more than us, and belonging to circles of people that support one another. That is why I admire CLLI’s work so much, in creating a community of Latinas where we seek and provide all of this.
Going back to the biblical story of John 8:1-11, I am fascinated when the Lord Jesus intervenes at the moment that the woman who was caught in adultery was going to be stoned, and challenges the group of attackers by saying: “Whoever is free of sin cast the first stone.” Since no one could do it, the story concludes with this dialogue:
Jesus: Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?
She replied: None, Sir.
Jesus: Nor do I condemn you; Now leave and do not sin again.
I imagine the fear that the woman must have felt to be so close to death, and how the words of Jesus became a blessing of life, a new opportunity to embrace the abundant life that only he offers.
Likewise, God has given us many blessings that are manifested in talents, abilities, and virtues. What a great responsibility it is to be a leader, to be an example, and head of an ecosystem (family, church, work, group, cell, friends), with a testimony and reputation to uphold! And more so being women, because sometimes we are judged more harshly and criticized quicker, without considering the history behind our decisions.
Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties, challenges, and injustices we have experienced as women throughout centuries, I always remember Jesus and the hope that he brings us. He blesses us and helps us get ahead, like the woman in this biblical story.
As followers of Jesus it is our duty to help other women to find the abundant life that he offers. On one occasion, the famous Audrey Hepburn said: “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” I would like to paraphrase these words in the following way, in our relationship with God we discover that we have two hands: one to hold onto to God and the other to help others.
In this month where we celebrate the achievements and progress of women in many areas, let’s look around us because there is still much to do. Just as Jesus stopped to help this woman who was facing death, may we look for a woman or women we can help today.
While this help can be provided individually, if we unite, we can be more effective because together we are stronger. Let us remember the historical movements of International Women’s Day, the organization and the unity that have led us to great social changes.
Develop the creative ideas God has given you. Use the gifts and talents that He has placed within you. Be a blessing to yourself, your family, and your community, which God created you for.
So let us unite in a bond of solidarity, holding on to the hand of Jesus, and together weave a more just and fulfilling horizon of existence that leads us to experience a more convincing abundant life that only He can provide.
We are together and therefore we are stronger!
Marcela Ordaz, a professional in the area of Organizational Communication, has worked as an international leader as a Tradeshow Director for FABTECH Industrial Expo, Mexico and Latina America for the past 15 years. She is a CLLI Graduate and now serves on the CLLI board and is a member of the leadership team at CLLI Monterrey. Additionally, Marcela has led in ministry for the past 25 years in Monterrey, Mexico.