By Kimba Langas
October is a big month for women. I always love seeing vibrant ribbons of pink everywhere from high rises to football players. But did you know that October 11th was the first United Nations’ “International Day of the Girl Child?” This month also marked the release of a PBS documentary based on a book called “Half The Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn, which powerfully illustrates the need for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. As someone who works to create better futures for women rescued out of sex trafficking, I have been enormously influenced and impacted by the book and film. The title is based on the Chinese proverb that “women hold up half the sky.”
Half The Sky punched me in the gut when I first read it. I was absolutely enraged to learn that women in many parts of the world are (still in 2012!) considered property, have no voice and no rights at all. Like they’re sub-human or something. My mother taught me from a very young age that women are equal to men. That God had created Eve to work alongside Adam, not underneath. I had an expectation that I should have every opportunity that the men in my generation had—and I never settled for less because of that.
When it comes to creating equality for women on a global scale, there are many amazing women I admire who are spearheading these efforts—and a few great men, too. But until all men learn to value, respect and protect the women around them, our progress and influence will be limited. And we will continue to hear horror stories like the one of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai—a girl shot in the head by the Taliban simply for attending school.
Recently at a women’s Bible study, we got into a conversation about the influence the men in our life had on us through the years—both good and bad. One of our ladies had brought along her sweet little newborn boy. And as I looked at him, and the amazing women gathered around me (most of whom also have sons), I suddenly burst into tears. Because it hit me: as mothers of sons we have an enormous responsibility—and opportunity—to help change the world for the better for women.
I’m the biggest influence in my son’s life right now, because I spend the most time with him. The messages I send to him are important and will have an effect for generations to come, on men and women alike. I’m realizing that being a boy doesn’t mean my husband has the sole responsibility to teach him about women. What is our relationship modeling for him? Are we showing him that women have as much value as men? Am I teaching him to honor and elevate women? Am I teaching him to stand up for women? To cherish them?
I can’t change entire cultures and their attitudes towards women. And I’m often overwhelmed at the impossibility of it all. But I trust that God equips us with what we need to partner with him in restoring the world—even if it’s only in our own little corner of the world.
And I know one thing I CAN do. I can raise MY son to be a real man who will appreciate women as equal and valued partners. That’s a start.
Because, after all, men hold up half the sky, too.
Kimba Langas is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Free the Girls, a nonprofit that solicits used bras and provides them as “seed capital” for victims of trafficking in Mozamibique to sell as a means of gaining financial independence. Read more at www.freethegirls.org and in the attached FullFill interview (FullFill.org FriendOMine issue).