Dear friends, we are almost done with the first leg of our journey following in the footsteps of the Girl Child, our guide on this trek from International Day of the Girl in October to International Women’s Day in March.
I (Emily) began writing this on Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and wanted to pause to say how grateful I am for you, wherever you are on the journey, for joining in on this conversation which spans many geographies, cultures, faith identities, and centuries. As author/organizational behavior expert Margaret Wheatley, once said “All social change begins with a conversation.”
Real conversation is deeply spiritual and taps into our human capacity to wonder about Life, to be curious and connect with something we share with the others with whom we are in conversation. To be in real conversation involves honesty and getting beneath the mythology which keeps us from telling the truth about our past. Like the American colonial mythology of Thanksgiving, getting beneath the spell of gender norms and traditions requires humility, curiosity, and conversation to see what needs to be seen. As my (Domnic’s) friend, Sarah Ann Hardman, shared, “[Real] Thanksgiving is not always happy but it is always honest. Let our thanks pave the way for hearts seeking justice, mercy, peace, compassion and love.”
Indeed, we designed this journey to feel interactive and dynamic, and invite you into an honest, truth-telling, gratitude-enlarging conversation with others: faith-inspired change agents (the first 12 which you have met so far are featured here), fellow travelers on the reading journey, us the co-authors, people in your community who are asking these same questions, God, and the natural world. But the most important conversation is with your own soul around what it means to be a part of a human family made up of much diversity, which is profoundly beautiful and essential to life, and continually trips us up as human beings. Yet, when we are in conversation with one another, we glimpse that within all these differences we are indeed on a shared human journey with very similar struggles, contradictions, needs, aspirations, and shared problems. This is our work to do, to better the human family.
Your own particular corner of the human tapestry is the main material you bring to this conversation so please do not worry if you are not totally on schedule! There are extra gaps between the readings for the holidays so ample time to catch up. The heart and soul of this reading journey is the braid of stories—which you do not want to miss!—which weave through the larger story of the Girl Child’s quest to be fully mainstreamed within the larger human exodus from all forms of enslavement. This, indeed is our long walk to freedom: to live together on this planet in shared dignity and in just and peaceful interdependence that reflects our highest, best, and true nature as human beings. We know this is a deep dive and requires an investment of time. It is doable if you read in comfortable chunks and try to get into a good cadence. If you need help with anything, please do not hesitate to reach out—we are here to help support you in making this a meaningful and life-giving learning journey.
As you read, keep yourself in an open, conversational posture which we believe is a deeply spiritual orientation. In many ways, faith itself can be seen as an ongoing conversation—an I-Thou dialogue, as 20th C. theologian Martin Buber so aptly described, unfolding each moment. Let your life interact with what you are reading and be open to deepen and expand how you see faith and the shared gender struggles of our world.
And as you do, be aware of how all of these conversations are held within a larger conversation happening all around us, infusing every word written and exchanged. Indeed, our lives are infused with divinity every step of the way. In the spirit of our Native American ancestors, here is a beautiful prayer that invites us to pause and be grateful for our “Talking God” whose words are speaking all things into existence:
Now, Talking God,
With your feet I walk
I walk with your limbs
I carry forth your body
For me your mind thinks
Your voice speaks for me
Beauty is before me
And beauty is behind me
Above and below hovers the beautiful
I am surrounded by it
I am immersed in it
In my youth I am aware of it
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.
~ Native American Prayer
As a reminder, we are in chapter 3 of our journey in Part 1: Her Ground Zero—Daughters of Eve, Our World’s “Least of These.” This is the longest section in the ebook and seeks to help orient you to the mountain we are seeking to move together by putting faith to work through love. The reading journey builds on itself but, as you will notice, it’s a winding path designed to circle back and reinforce perennial, universal themes. These themes both trip up the human family again and again (to fall back into the slavery of “Egypt”) and also—through awareness, struggle, and conversation—help us find our shared exodus path of redemption and liberation.
As Colleen Samuel, our second featured faith-inspired change agent who appears in the preface, describes in “Equal Opportunities for the Girl Child” in World Vision’s 1998 report The Girl Child: Enhancing Life, Sustaining Hope, we are focusing our conversation on the Girl Child’s still unfinished long walk to freedom because her oppression hides within layers of ancient tradition and mythology which make it hard to see and free ourselves from and because we still have a very basic lesson to learn:
“There are reasons we must talk about equal opportunities for the girl child. We live in a world where female fetuses are aborted, girl babies are killed, girls are subjected to genital mutilation, forced into child marriages, sold into prostitution, bonded into forced labor, subjected to sexual violence and rape and used for pornography. We live in a world where girl children experience many forms of discrimination, including denial of nutrition, health care, education and opportunity for self-development. We see them thrust with adult responsibilities of child care, home management, income generation—far beyond what their tender age can bear. In short, we see a world that is denying the girl child not merely opportunity for equality, but her very childhood and basic human rights.
It looks as though, even after [10,000] years of so-called civilization, we have not yet learned to treat human beings humanely. We have not learned to treat differences as mere differences. We must see whether we can learn the important lesson of looking at difference without judging them as superior-inferior, high-low or good-bad. We must learn the lesson that there is beauty and synergy in diversity.”
Yes, we still need to learn this lesson which requires a deeper dialogue with our past to unweave ourselves from this most ancient of caste-based oppressions which have harmed so many aspects of our human weave, including cherished faith traditions. By the end of the journey, we hope you find yourself more informed and more motivated to ask what is yours to do to activate your awareness and put faith to work through love, in big or small ways, to reweave our torn human fabric where you have a sphere of influence.
Take a quick peek now at the road map of the journey we are on and decide if and how you want to continue the journey. It is not easy terrain but, we promise, there is much light on the path to keep you going. You can do this, really you can!
Grateful to be on this journey and in this conversation with you. Thank you for caring. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything. Don’t be shy, we encourage you to be relational as you read and look for opportunities to connect in some small way as you read and reflect. Who knows how what you have to say might touch someone else and expand how they see the world.