I recently had a conversation with two close friends, both confident, assertive Filipina young women, who feel a lack of women leadership in their spheres and have a hard time thinking of a woman they respect and look up to as a leader. This saddened me deeply, as I can easily name 10 women who fit that category for me and they have immeasurably shaped me. As a girl growing up in Canada, I never felt underprivileged or that my opportunities were limited because of being female. But these two strong Filipina women have often felt that, and it brings me to tears, even as I write this.
What saddens me the most is that it has often been the church that causes women to feel inferior. Only once, when Darnell and I were newly married and attending a mega church in our hometown, did I feel ostracized as a woman (long story!), and we left that church, ironically moving to a church with a female lead pastor, who I respect deeply. I’m thankful to be part of a denomination (Mennonite Church Canada) that welcomes, whole-heartedly, women as lead pastors and at every other level of leadership. I won’t go into the theology of women in leadership here, but I believe with all my heart that it is God’s intention for women to be treated equally, given equal opportunity and not, in any way, be inferior to men.
So this International Women’s Day I have many dreams for my daughter. Here are five of them:
1. I hope my daughter will have a deep sense of self worth and confidence and never feel inferior to men. I hope she will always be able to stand up for herself and her beliefs, even if it means confronting men in leadership.
2. I hope my daughter will not feel limited in finding a profession, but have every opportunity to be a CEO, a Principal, a Pastor, a Stay At Home Mother, or whatever else she might dream of.
3. I hope my daughter will never feel taken advantage of and will never rely on beauty or charm to get what she wants.
4. I hope my daughter will have female role models who she can look up to. I hope I can always be an example of a strong and sensitive woman to her.
5. I hope she will have healthy relationships with her brothers, her father, her possible future partner, and other men in her life, where she is treated equally. I hope she learns from her father and I, who are equal partners in our marriage.
As a mother of a daughter now, my womanhood has brought on new meaning. I am, and will be for quite a while, the single most important role model in my daughter’s life. I don’t take this role lightly and it involves, too, teaching my boys how to treat girls (some good tips here: http://www.scarymommy.com/raising-feminist-boys/).
My dreams for my daughter are vast, and I pray, with the support of her brothers, her father, her extended family, her friends, and myself that she will be a confident, determined, strong, sensitive and loving woman with endless choice and opportunity. I pray the same for every woman all over the world.