Celebrating women

A Christian Science perspective: International Women's Day celebrates the progress of women and alerts the world to areas where more progress is needed.

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March 8 is International Women’s Day. It’s a day when I like to “go global” in my thinking. How are women and girls faring in different nations throughout the world? Do their living conditions enable them to contribute fully to their countries?

It’s encouraging to see how much progress has been made. In India, almost as many girls as boys attend primary school now. In Saudi Arabia, 30 women were appointed last year to the Shura Council, the first official political positions for women in the nation’s history. In the United States, domestic violence fell dramatically between 1994 and 2010.

Yet there’s still lots of room for improvement. Poverty, forced marriages, and violence against women are some of the many issues in which change is urgently needed.

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Females make up half of the world’s population, so they also represent half of the world’s potential. And it has repeatedly been shown that improving women’s lot (for example, by providing them with education and loans) brings benefits for children and the whole community. What can be done to foster further advancement for the world’s women?

I find it helpful to think about how women and men are created, and who creates us. Since God is the source of all, it makes sense to me that this same infinitely intelligent God, or divine Mind, creates each of us with a purpose: to accomplish things, big or small, that contribute to well-being in our communities and beyond. That means every individual is valuable – and, in fact, essential – to the full expression of humanity’s potential.

Since God is our Mother-Father, our divine source, each woman and man is actually the expression of the full array of divine qualities, both gentle and strong. Each individual, in a distinct way, reflects qualities such as kindness, empathy, helpfulness, responsibility, intelligence, resourcefulness, and initiative. These qualities are complementary, not oppositional nor competitive. They interact to form a dynamic whole that promotes innovation, progress, and true satisfaction for everyone. Each of us is created with the ability to lead with our strengths and to learn from the strengths of others.

I’ve consistently found that when I hold in thought this ideal of true womanhood and manhood, I see wonderful evidence of people’s inherent spiritual goodness. If this is true on a small scale, it’s logical that it’s true on a larger scale, too.

Global progress depends on our ability to value and nurture each person’s unique, God-given capabilities and talents. The verb “to nurture” is inspiring. It means “to cherish and encourage the growth or development of someone or something.” I like to ask myself: Do I look for and nurture people’s qualities and talents, rather than thinking of them in limited terms? Do I support organizations that nurture people’s qualities and talents?

As we learn more about the power of omnipresent divine Love to touch hearts and impel progress, I believe humanity will increasingly see that the true nature of men is not to limit or harm women, but to appreciate their value to the community and to work with them side by side. It will become progressively evident that God’s plan for women is not for them to suffer or be restricted but to express their full contribution. Infinite divine Mind is always imparting constructive ideas to each individual as it unfolds a coordinated plan of good for all humankind.

Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy was an avid proponent of the view that God created women and men with equal rights and responsibilities. She carefully read the newspapers of her time to keep up on social issues, and penned many articles herself. In her book “Pulpit and Press,” which includes clippings of noteworthy articles from various North American publications, she includes an article about “the new woman,” which says: “Woman must not and will not be disheartened by a thousand denials or a million of broken pledges. With the assurance of faith she prays, with the certainty of inspiration she works, and with the patience of genius she waits.” The article concludes by expressing confidence that “side by side, equal partners in all that is worth living for, shall stand the new man with the new woman” (pp. 83-84).

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity for us all to challenge stereotypes and consider new views and possibilities. Progress for women is progress for everyone, because we’re all interconnected in a continuum of caring that stretches around the world and embraces all humanity.

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