Yesterday, I attended a “Gender in International Development” workshop where I heard stories of how, in times of crisis such as the tsunami that rocked the world, women are often doubly vulnerable. Not only do they lose their homes, families, and often their sources of income, but they fall victim to sexual predators, slave traders, etc. On top of that, they have to deal with aid organizations that are often paternalistic and exclusionary.

A few days before, I read the article about how, in the sports world, wife abuse is tolerated more than animal abuse.

A few weeks before that, I read Infidel, the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali who grew up in a paternalistic, abusive, violent culture where abuse of women is not only tolerated, it’s expected. She is now speaking out against the discrimination of women in the Muslim world, and consequently she can no longer go anywhere without armed protection.

Around the same time, I heard of a local Christian church that has decided to take a step backwards and move away from allowing women to lead. I also heard stories of how frighteningly prevalent wife abuse is among Christian pastors. Some of the perpetrators feel their faith justifies their actions.

A month before that, I heard Ato G’s story about some of the young girls we met in Ethiopia who have since died from female genital mutilation.

Today, I feel a deep sadness for all the women who lack freedom, security, hope, and peace – simply because they are women. I feel especially sad that far too frequently religion plays a role in propagating and/or justifying the abuse.

We still have a long way to go.

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