“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” — Ruth Bader Ginsberg
The Girl Child and Her Long Walk to Freedom book opened my eyes to the oppression of the Girl Child. I was raised in a family that valued my sister and myself just as much as my brother. I was encouraged in my education. I never saw myself less than any boy. I had a small exposure to some of these horrors, but I saw these as isolated incidents not the result of a whole culture that had gone back to the dawn of civilization, and I had never associated them with Christianity.
After I started reading and processing this book, I started seeing. Many people started to starve because of the economic shutdown here in South Africa, so my friends and I stepped in to help. Every single woman I got to know had a story of physical, financial, emotional abuse; rape; or even being trafficked. Suddenly, the Girl Child had a face. One of those faces was my best friend.
As I have read these chapters I have wept for these girls and women. I have felt helpless to do anything about it. I have been outraged at the systems that oppress women. I have begun to see how the iniquitous scheme has affected my life. Lastly, I have been moved by each faith-inspired change agent. They are normal people just like me who saw the injustice and did something about it. Their love for God and others changed the world around them.
I started leading a discussion group which was the best thing for me for this reading. I was able to hear different perspectives and process the material better. Emily and Domnic encouraged us to find a picture of faith. We all had different “seeds” yet were able to connect them and express them further together. We had a picture of a beautiful butterfly flying, which led us to think of the butterfly effect of one little action that can make big changes somewhere else. We also had the picture of a candle. It is a small light. It still lights up a room in the dark, but it isn’t a big spotlight. The candle is small like us. We can’t change the world, but we can bring light to one little part of it and light other candles that are not lit yet. Then we can become a group of candles that glow brightly.
We discussed that often these problems seem too big, too overwhelming to even start dealing with. You must start with one step. Just do the next right thing. Keep your antennas up for opportunity and God will show you the next step. We also spoke about how it is important to take the time for awareness and reflection. I am not a person drawn to reflection. I have a hard time being quiet and allowing inner stillness. It is something I would like to cultivate but struggle greatly at practicing. My brain knows it is important to consider my steps and the why to what I am doing but I would rather act. Maybe that is why I have trouble with praying too. It seems like inactive, wasted time but, action is impossible without awareness. The more I reflect and pray, the more God leads me to make better choices on how to act. I’m not saying I have to have everything figured out before I act, but reflection and action should be done together like walking with two feet. Reflection steps then action, then reflection again.
In my reflection of my own church, I saw that there are some lines of division. Our leadership is all men. Women lead women’s groups and teach Sunday school. When our Bible study leader moved, the leadership of the group was passed to a reluctant man who didn’t have the time or desire to lead, but he seemed the right one for the job. No woman was even asked if they wanted to lead. I brought this up with the leader and through group discussion, it was decided that leadership could be shared throughout the group. Each week we have a different facilitator for the discussion. We women were encouraged to be the facilitators if we so choose.
I can’t change the world. It’s too big for me. However, I have a few next right steps. I have two children and one on the way in June or July. We will raise them to see their and others’ worth as children of God regardless of gender, race, economic status, or any other line of division, being humble to learn and grow along with them in this area. God has led my husband and me to adopt a child as God has adopted us as children. We can’t save every unwanted child, but we can love one child and give him/her the same opportunities our birth children have. I will continue the relationships I have gained through the pandemic, helping not only with food but with helping others to see their worth as God sees it. I will show that women can be good spiritual leaders and bring awareness to others of these mindsets that have chained us all down. I want to help walk other people home one step at a time.
Elyse Seal is a freelance copyeditor and stay-at-home mom of three children. She joined the Girl Child Project as editor of The Girl Child and Her Long Walk to Freedom reading journey e-book. Elyse is passionate about nurturing women and children. She has a nursing degree, has worked in children’s crisis care, and has served with her church to feed and give community to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.