At World Relief, we imagine a gender-equal world — a world where women are no longer disproportionately affected by global pandemics, and child marriage is no longer an answer to economic hardship; a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination; a world where girls have equal access to education and women’s leadership, experience and expertise are valued across all sectors of society.
That’s why today, on International Women’s Day, we commit to #BreakTheBias.
We affirm our belief in full equality and inclusion of women at all levels and are working to achieve our vision of a gender-equal world — in homes, schools, organizational and community leadership. Here are just seven of the ways we are #breakingthebias at World Relief!
1. In our International Programs, we’re addressing gender inequality at the root
When a community believes men are superior to women, women are not empowered to make decisions at the household or community level, putting them at a social and economic disadvantage. Women’s agency, dignity, opportunity and empowerment come not just from technical programs, but from a deep, communal understanding that men and women, boys and girls are created equal in the image of God.
At World Relief, this truth is the bedrock of all our international programs. That’s why, the first stage of so many of our programs starts with addressing harmful beliefs about women and laying a biblical foundation for women’s equality.
As the truth of biblical equality takes root in more people’s hearts and minds, more women are empowered to rise up within their communities and lead within our programs. And when women are able to take on leadership in areas like health and nutrition, savings, agriculture and church empowerment, holistic transformation begins.
2. Increasing access to education and employment for refugee women in Memphis
Through the Connect English Language Center, World Relief Memphis’ Gateway program is designed for refugee women who have suffered an interrupted or incomplete education due to violence or lack of opportunities. Many of these women may face barriers such as trauma or pre-literacy. Gateway welcomes these women to a warm and informal classroom setting where they develop confidence in the basics of the English language. Gateway helps women learn how to introduce themselves and share information confidently as they take steps towards integrating into their new American community.
3. Facilitating gender equality training among International Programs staff
At World Relief, we believe God’s word can’t be powerful through us until it is powerful within us. That’s why, in 2020, we rolled out a gender equality training called Women and Men Leading Together amongst our international staff. The curriculum lays a biblical foundation for gender equality, addresses patriarchal cultures and invites staff to reflect on how they want to act as change agents in their families, communities and churches.
As of 2021, a large percentage country staff have walked through gender Bible studies to learn more about God’s view of equality. Moving forward, each country office will reflect annually on their progress towards gender equality through a gender scorecard which assesses offices on achievement towards five priority areas: theological foundation; gender-sensitive program design; staffing and leadership; dedicated gender-mainstreaming strategic resources; and policies and procedures.
Two country offices have also undergone a gender equality and inclusion self-assessment (GEISA) aimed to support organizational transformation on gender equality and inclusion. And in 2021, World Relief rolled-out gender trainings to equip country office staff with necessary skills to mainstream gender in programming.
4. Building confidence in girls through mentorship
With the crucial support of local churches and community members, World Relief has formed girls clubs in communities around the world. These weekly gatherings for girls between ages 10-18 seek to enhance girls’ self-esteem, encourage education and empower personal decision-making.
During the clubs’ weekly meetings, girls explore their rights and learn new skills through stories, games, role-plays and songs. With guidance from mentors — women from within the community — clubs foster an atmosphere where girls can excel as they feel more empowered, more knowledgeable and more confident.
5. Fostering community for refugee women in Sacramento
World Relief Sacramento’s Refugee Integration Groups come alongside isolated, often pre-literate Afghan women to help them build the skills they need to achieve independence. Each week, women gather to practice their English and learn about topics such as navigating the healthcare system, coping with culture shock and how to use a car seat. World Relief Sacramento also partners with local professionals to present on topic relevant to women’s needs such as parenting, domestic violence and health. All presentations are translated into the women’s native languages and provide a springboard for group discussion.
6. Equipping youth to address gender-based violence in Malawi
Through SCOPE-HIV, World Relief is implementing IMPower — a curriculum that addresses the unique challenges boys and girls face in combating gender-based violence. Girls learn about boundary setting, diffusion tactics, verbal assertiveness, negotiation and physical self-defense skills.
Boys learn to treat women and girls respectfully, countering harmful masculine norms and helping to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. The curriculum stresses that boys possess the ability and desire to treat women respectfully, but often condone and commit acts of sexual violence in response to social and community pressures. Rather than seeking to instill a new sense of morality, the program reminds boys of existing morals and values and empowers them to build the confidence and skills to act on these morals every day.
This two-pronged approach ensures girls have the tools they need to defend themselves, while sowing the seeds of lasting change by addressing harmful societal norms at the root.
7. Elevating Women through Leadership Opportunities
Across much of our programming in Sub-Saharan Africa, where culture strongly dictates that leadership roles be reserved for men, we are working to ensure female leaders are raised up in their communities.
By electing women into Savings and Agricultural Group Presidential and Vice Presidential positions, and teaching joint decision-making around household finances, we are reshaping the ways women are viewed in their communities. What’s more, we are mirroring this practice in international leadership, where three new female Country Directors have been hired in the last 18 months.
Every day, we have the privilege of watching the radical concept of Imago Dei transform broken relationships and end violence and oppression in so many of the communities where we work. A generation of young girls is seeing a new way of existing, encountering role models and gaining a vision for what their lives could mean.
Gender equality is a matter of both justice and stewardship, and we will continue striving toward a gender-equal world in everything we do. While we recognize that we still have progress to make, we commit to this journey and commit to #breakthebias, not just on IWD but every day.