I recently had the privilege of being asked to speak at Woman’s Day, I was given the topic “Made in the Image of God.” A few months earlier I had been asked to speak to some of University women on a similar topic of identity and I came to the day excited about sharing with the women about how, as women, they are made in the image of our creator and that means that they have innate value. I was excited to share about the ‘feminine’ character of God, how when they hear people talking about woman being created as ‘Helper’ it means something radically different to how they hear it. I was excited for them to know that they are valuable and important despite what the culture here may say.
And so I shared those things.
However, sharing with these women was not like sharing with the women from Gulu University. As I stood up in front of these ladies from the community and waited to begin, I was struck by the gulf between us. The message I had prepared, although true, was a world away from their experience of what being a woman meant. Many of these woman are illiterate and in abusive polygamous marriages. The language barrier didn’t help. As I spoke, there was disagreement over how I was being translated, a few of the woman spoke English and tried to agree on how best to translate what I was saying but there simply wasn’t the vocabulary in Acholi to do it. Acholi will often have one word that covers many concepts, for example the word “kica” is translated as grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and kindness.
I wanted the woman to know they have intrinsic value but the word value gets translated in a way that either denoted a monetary value or a figure, or someones ability. The opposite of how I wanted them to see their ‘value’. One old lady actually asked how much was she worth? How many shillings? No real surprise when your are given a bride price and are literally told how much you are worth. Or for many of these woman, not given a value at all, treated as a wife but not given any value at all.
I came away feeling frustrated and saddened by the experiences of Acholi woman here. The lies that are so ingrained in the culture that some of these woman can’t comprehend another way. I feel frustrated at a church culture that instead of setting woman free is too often part of their oppression. I felt frustrated with myself that I hadn’t managed to pitch the talk at the right level. But I feel so grateful that their is another way, the Way of Jesus which says these woman do have innate value, that they uniquely display the image of our creator, they are not second class and without their voice the church and the world is missing out, that there is freedom not oppression in Christ.
It was certainly a learning curve but I pray that some small seed was planted. Join with me in praying for these women, they hold up society here and can change society. Pray that they would know true freedom in Jesus and be empowered to live the life that He would have them lead.