International Women’s Day: LWF reaffirms commitment to gender justice

Women gather during LWF’s Asia Pre-Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, in August 2016. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson
Women gather during LWF’s Asia Pre-Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, in August 2016. Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Occasion to highlight women’s leadership in the church and society, challenges and successes 

(LWI) - In a world where the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse decades of progress in women’s education, employment and socio-economic status, International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March, marks a moment to “step back and celebrate women’s achievements.” It is also an opportunity for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to “reflect on how far we have come in our quest for gender justice and inclusivity” and “the obstacles that we have yet to overcome,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge. 

The global theme for the 2021 IWD is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.’ 

Junge reaffirmed the global communion’s commitment to women’s equal participation in the ordained ministry and leadership and to gender justice in the church and workplace, but noted the need to forge more transformed mindsets and inclusive behaviors. “We should continue to challenge inequality, gender stereotypes and everyday misrepresentations of women in leadership, now more than ever,” he said. While women “are now visible in leadership in both church and society,” he added, “many of them continue to face obstacles, resistance and backlash.” 

Milestones on road to equality 

Recalling some of the milestones on the road to inclusion and equality, LWF’s Advocacy Officer for Gender Justice Ms Sikhonzile Ndlovu highlights the importance of the LWF’s Gender Justice Policy that was adopted in 2013 and is available in at least 23 languages. She points out that there is still much work to do to ensure full implementation of that policy throughout all member churches and World Service country programs.  

As a global communion we stand together in hope, committed to achieving an equal future for all.
LWF Advocacy Officer for Gender Justice, Ms Sikhonzile Ndlovu

“I’m delighted to see member churches, LWF women’s networks globally, as well as a number of LWF country programs, producing their own material and holding events to mark this day,” Ndlovu says. “We are still facing many challenges, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic which has set back progress in some contexts,” she says, “but as a global communion we stand together in hope, committed to achieving an equal future for all.”  

Achieving an equal future 

LWF is marking the day with a worship service giving thanks and praying for all women in leadership. The order of service, prepared by LWF in collaboration with ACT Alliance and the World Council of Churches, is being shared with member churches for use throughout the week. It offers reflections on the wisdom of God, the need for intergenerational collaboration and the ongoing work for justice and reconciliation in the world. 

During a webinar on 8 March, five women leaders from the LWF’s past, present and future will highlight challenges and successes, while exploring some of the concrete ways that the communion of churches can support the next generation of women in leadership. 

Throughout the month of March, the LWF’s social media channels will feature past women leaders who have contributed to breaking barriers and empowering women in the churches and societies of their day. From the pioneers who took part in the early Assemblies of the LWF, to current leaders who continue to challenge discrimination in the workplace, the series aims to inspire all those working today to ensure “the proper place, the God-intended place of women in the fellowship of the Christian church.” (Sister Anna Ebert, one of four women present at the first Assembly in Lund in 1947) 

UN Commission on the Status of Women 

This year’s International Women’s Day also serves as precursor to the 65th session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women which will take place online from 15-26 March. This year’s event, which brings together governments and civil society organizations, including many faith-based groups, will focus on women’s full and effective participation and decision making in public life. 

LWF will be participating in the two-week event with a delegation of over seventy members giving a vital voice to women in member churches and World Service country programs in different parts of the globe. Coordinated by the Lutheran Office for World Community in New York, participants will advocate with government delegations and take part in many public events in collaboration with ecumenical and interfaith partners. 

Among the highlights will be two parallel events, one on ‘Women of Power: leading together for a better future’, organized by the LWF and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and another on ‘Faith Forward: women brokering peace in conflict and crisis’, organized by the LWF in partnership with the World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace. 

 

Order of Worship for International Women's Day

LWF/P. Hitchen