Jannatul, “The Garden of Heaven,” is the name of a girl who possesses the same transcendent glow in her life, pursuing her dreams despite social and sex limitations of her culture.
[ePrayer – Pray for those who are suffered and threatened by FGM]
Nengai, experienced FGM/C at 9 years of age, was told, ‘You need to be circumcised to be married, so that if you get pregnant you don’t bring shame to your family.’
Agnes, 14 years old, says, ‘They covered my face… grabbed my legs and arms, and then excised me. Blood was coming out.’
Kiouala, 51 years old, recalls, ‘When they finished cutting me and made me stand up, those who went before me were sitting on leaves. I saw blood everywhere. This fear, I still have it inside.’
Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
According to a recent UNICEF publication, at least 125 million girls and women have experienced FGM in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated. Given present trends, as many as 30 million girls under the age of 15 may still be at risk.
‘There are many traditional harmful practices which are detrimental to the women only. The most inhuman thing is that they have to go through female genital mutilation.’ CEDAR’s programme officer shared after visiting Ethiopia. FGM may cause severe pain and can result in prolonged bleeding, infection and even death. It violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life. ‘Statistics show that many girls or women die from FGM. Although this is already banned by the law, it is still commonly practiced in many villages.’
With the effort of fighting against this harmful traditional practice by UN agencies and NGOs, FGM is becoming less prevalent overall and the younger generation is less vulnerable to the practice. According to UNICEF estimates, on average, 36 % of girls aged 15-19 have been cut compared to an estimated 53 % of women aged 45-49. However, there are still 30 million girls at risk who need our prayers, protection and support. [UN, UNICEF, UN Women]
Meditate on Scripture:
‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’ Isaiah 58: 6-7
Oh Lord, we heard the voice, read the word and saw the video of the girls and women who have been suffered from FGM. They were created by God in Your image, just like us. However, their value and dignity of life is destroyed by the inhuman culture and traditional practice. Oh Lord, please let us know how we can stand by them to fight against FGM and gender discriminations in their culture and society.
Pray for those who are suffered and threatened by FGM:
- Pray that FGM will be ended very soon;
- Pray that God will protect and rescue those girls who are still threatened by FGM;
- Pray that God will change the culture and value of those FGM prevailing nations and communities, let them recognise the value and dignity of female placed by God;
- Pray for God’s mercy and healing to those women who are still suffered from the sequela of FGM.
[ePrayer – Pray for development rights of adolescent girls]
There are over 600 million girls in the world today, more than 500 million of them in developing countries. About 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year. Another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions. The vast majority — 90 per cent — of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice. Often it is a consequence of discrimination, rights violations (including child marriage), inadequate education or sexual coercion. Complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19. On World Population Day 2013, UN raises awareness of the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. [UN]
Pray for development rights of adolescent girls:
- Pray that the value and rights of girls will be truly recognised and legally protected.
- Pray that adolescent girls can have their say on marriage, life development and pregnancy.
[ePrayer – Pray for the FGM affected girls and women]
The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is observed on 6 February each year to raise awareness against this practice. All forms of FGM are harmful practices and violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. FGM has no known health benefits. On the contrary, it is associated with various short and long-term risks to both physical, mental and sexual health and well-being. FGM is affecting about 140 million girls and women, and more than 3 million girls are at risk every year. A special focus this year, is the worrying trend of some health-care providers are also the ones performing FGM, thus contributing to ‘legitimise’ and maintain the practice. [WHO, WNN]
Pray for the FGM affected girls and women:
- Pray for total elimination of FGM, girls and women can free from this human rights violation;
- Pray for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Real equality and justice can be achieved.
The continuous reported cases of savage rape in India were a shock to the international society recently. The violence, discrimination and inequality faced by women in India are also common in other South Asia nations, such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Being restrained by the traditional caste system, religious culture, poverty and gender inequality, South Asia women usually find it very difficult to recognise and live out one’s self value and dignity.
How can churches and Christians respond to the distress of women in South Asia? In light of the ministries and services of our local Christian partners among poor women and communities in India, we will try to explore how Christianity is related to Caring for the disadvantaged communities and how HK Christians can walk with them together.
Date> 28 March 2013 (Thursday)
Time> 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue> Room 501, Rightful Centre, 12 Tak Hing Street, Kowloon
Registration> Online registration. Free of charge. (Deadline: 21 March)
Enquiry> Please call Mr. Wu at 2381 9627, or send email to email@example.com
Remark> You are welcome to make an appointment with us to share this topic in your churches or cell groups.
[ “SHARE” Sept-Oct 2012 – An Eye-Opening Experience of Poverty ] FOCUS: An EXPOSURE TRIP
Author> POON Man Yan, Education and Promotion Officer
I took the exposure trip in April, seven years since my last one. To make the most of the trip, I decided to forget about the camera and use my eyes to study each scene and face, and use my ears to listen to every life transforming story.
Namaste! Greetings, Nepal!
It was already dark when we landed in Kathmandu so the view was not very clear. The streets reeked of petrol and filled with the hoots of car horns, like China’s rural roads of over a decade ago. Nepal ranks second-last amongst Asian countries on the human development index. Compared with neighbouring China and India, its development road ahead is still very long.
As the home of Mt. Everest, Nepal is indeed a mountainous nation with hills and highlands all over the country. The best route to the mountain villages during the dry season would be to drive across dried-up riverbeds. The twelve of us transformed into contestants of some adventure game show, flying across bumpy riverbeds in jeeps heading towards our destination in the mountains.
During our eight-day trip we went to the central districts of Lalitpur, Makawanpur and Dhading, and visited the Dalit (the oppressed) community and the indigenous groups of Chepang and Tamang. Amidst harsh condition of village life, the people there were cheery and appeared to be happier than those of us who were visiting.
Silent cries of the girls
The day after arrival we visited eight girls around 15 or 16 in Lalitpur. They are members of adolescent groups in the Women Empowerment Programme organized by CEDAR’s partner Share and Care Nepal.
When asked about their dreams for the future, the girls shyly told us that they would love to become teachers or social workers. Yet they knew that soon they would have to obey their parents be married off and then play the traditional female role in their husband’s household. Their own future is no longer theirs to hold and their dreams are thus unreachable. Two illiterate girls among them even remained silent. As I watched and listened, I felt cut to the hearts: do Nepalese girls have no right to pursue their dreams? After all, God sees everyone as unique and precious!
On hearing that two girls had stopped schooling, trippers already guessed the reason – it is either to give way to a son, the future head of the family, to go to school, or give the family an extra pair of hands for chores and farming. When a society fails to examine the rationale for customs and traditions, and regard belittlement or neglect of women as a natural practice, gender inequality thus becomes one of the causes of Nepal’s poverty, especially amongst women.
What is poverty? The Nepalese women made us see that poverty is not merely about a lack in material necessities but also the injustice behind a social system and traditional culture, turning the poor into those in society who are oppressed and ‘sinned against.’ Exploitation and discrimination not only hurt people, but abuse God’s righteous nature also.
The ‘untouchables’ are never cheap and lowly
Hinduism was once Nepal’s state religion and the country remains heavily influenced by the caste system. The low-castes are restricted in many ways, both in the workplace and daily life. However, the Dalit in Dhading are living with self-confidence, self-respect and self-love despite all kinds of discrimination and oppression.
During a visit to the project run by our partner Shanti Nepal in Dhading’s Gajuri district, we went to a small community hall where a dozen children were singing and playing. It is also where the office of the residents’ self-help group is located. The group’s treasurer related the changes the community had gone through in the past years.
In the past, a derogatory name was given to this place because local residents were mainly of the low-caste. Even the government paid little attention to the needs of these inhabitants. After the self-help group was set up, villagers slowly warmed to the importance of unity. They got together and successfully had the place name changed and the insulting words deleted; they began to encourage savings and pooled funds to give small loans to villagers in need. Further, group members actively help care for sick or elderly neighbours, including those who had hurled insults at them before.
What is development? Some suggest ‘growing towards urbanisation’, others ‘building of infrastructure’ or ‘developing the economy’. Yet, from the experience of the oppressed in Gajuri, we realise that what the exploited and discriminated Nepalese marginalised communities want most is to be free from discrimination, to be self-reliant, to build a society with equality where they may appreciate the value and dignity of one’s own life.
What we as visitors found most admirable was the way local Christian organisations facilitated the community’s empowerment and development. Frontline workers transcend the boundaries of the caste system and promote trust among different castes. They also encourage villagers to actively participate in expressing their needs and concerns. Self-help groups are set up to build a close-knit support network. All these stem from the conviction that all humans are born equal and the affirmation of the personal value of even the poorest.
A concrete interpretation of the Gospel
Some may ask how our efforts are linked to the Gospel if we only work on development programmes without evangelism.
One trip member spoke for all of us, ‘If the Gospel is only to redeem my soul, then I should have been taken to heaven immediately upon conversion. I am still here, so I believe there is still work to do.’ The Good News or Gospel is not only about getting people to believe in Jesus now for the hope of eternal life later. It also points to transformation of our life right now whilst we practise the Word of God in both private and public lives.
As vessels of the Gospel, Christians are themselves interpretation of the Gospel. One trip member, a minister who was once a frontline worker, said, ‘The ministry of local organisations is what Jesus talked about in Luke 4:18 – proclaim to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.’ I say ‘Amen’ to that as I think of the villagers we met, their positive attitude, courage and self-confidence.
Dhanyabaad! Thank you, Nepal!
After returning to Hong Kong, a young trip member told us, ‘One day, while enjoying the comfort of an air-conditioned room and eating my favourite salmon sushi, guilt of extravagance suddenly came upon me.’ Many others have experienced similar struggles which challenge our ingrained way of living. Her father who also went on the trip encouraged her to live conscientiously, not be restricted by an established lifestyle but bravely open our heart to explore and broaden our horizon.
Thank you, Nepal! You expanded our horizon to see the richness in God’s Word and works.
Are you ready for a breakthrough and to open your heart to see God’s manifold and wonderful works? Visit http://bit.ly/cedar_nepal2012 for more photos of the Nepal trip. We also invite you to join our exposure trip to Ethiopia scheduled for January 2013, where we expect to witness God’s boundless work among the poor.
FOCUS explores different topics, integrates theory with practice, and broadens our horizon and thinking.