International Women’s Day was celebrated recently, and I was reminded of the purpose, power and value of women. God made man for a purpose and woman for a purpose. Where purpose is known there is fulfillment. Where purpose is not known abuse is inevitable. Historically, perhaps, because men have been considered the head and leader of the home, or perhaps because of man’s physical abilities, he has traditionally dominated women. This has resulted in women having limitations of what they could achieve and what opportunities they could pursue. For many years, women have been considered by men as inferior and lesser than men resulting in historic inequalities. Over time, changes have taken place but the road to equality is still partially unpaved.
As we continue the journey, I will take time today to reflect on the important women in my life and celebrate them while reminding myself of what still needs to be done to bring about true equality. Women have come a long way from the days of official measurements of what size stick a man could use to beat his wife, and from women being denied jobs and opportunities or paid less simply because they were female. In my life I remember my mother, who was a contented housewife for years, suddenly thrust into the role of having to provide for her children by becoming a teacher and using everything she had to help me through college when my father had moved on. She was incredibly strong and resilient, constantly praying for her children and in many ways praying us out of certain prison sentences and tragedy.
I remember my sister Leona who in the 60s and 70s, when it was not popular, was a vice president of the local branch of the international corporation Citibank, breaking barriers in that industry and out-competing men on her way up the ladder. My first cousin, Elaine Pinder, who built a business empire and today serves as an inspiration to women in The Bahamas as to what is possible if you believe. There are so many others I can recognize, but closest to home are my “wifey for lifey”, Angela, and my daughter, Davrielle.
Davrielle has blazed her own trail as a multitalented and multifaceted woman of substance, excelling in music, theater, movie production, public relations, and as an entrepreneur having launched several businesses including the Wedding Bee, Pretty Girls and Pretty Fancy. She formed a mentorship group for inner city girls at the age of 14 continuing over the years even to today as a mentor and one of the founders of P31 girls’ mentorship group.
Then there is my “wifey for lifey”, Angela, who is a beacon of hope to women everywhere. She has blazed a trail and helped to set an example emulated globally. After returning home from college, I was the only one working even as we began our family and she stayed at home to lead in raising our son at the time. She supported me in whatever I did and served alongside me in ministry taking care of the children and dragging them along no matter what the event or service we were involved in. Eventually, she found work in the insurance industry and quickly rose to the point where she was the primary bread winner in our home; her salary far exceeding mine and having perks like major Christmas bonuses and company cars. Her attitude did not change, and her love, respect and support never wavered, she was boss at work but “wifey” and mother at home. She volunteered and mentored even with the busy schedule.
At the height of her career she realized that her time with the children was compromised and made a most courageous decision. She quit her lucrative career to take a much lesser role in our burgeoning family business so that she could have more time with our children, because my schedule was demanding, and we mutually decided that our children were a priority, and we would only have one chance to be in their lives the way we needed to be during their formative years. This took courage and humility, but it paid off in ways that money could never buy.
Fortunately, she also caused the family business to grow phenomenally as she juggled school pickups, church events, mentoring and traveling with me globally as both supporter and contributor at conferences and events. She managed attending soccer games, attending plays, going on field trips and taking them to the doctor. It all worked out beautifully because I was blessed with an intelligent, capable “superwoman” who was like the woman referred to in Proverbs 31. When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of her and what she has accomplished and the example that she has set for women everywhere, young and old.
Women have come a long way from being treated as chattel and not being able to vote, to having “glass ceilings” to being a part of many professions and public offices. Women are equal as they were designed to be but also very different from men. The danger we sometimes face is equating equality with sameness. We are equal but different by design. Women can do whatever they are born to do and maximize whatever talents they have been given.
What women can never do is be men or do what men were designed to do. A woman cannot be a father. A woman cannot be a husband. A woman cannot be a man. We should celebrate who women are and their talents and gifts, but it should be organic and not contrived or forced.
I believe what truly frees a woman is when she operates in her design and purpose and not outside of it. I played basketball in college with women who were really good, some of them were better than men and played with us in pickup games. They functioned best by playing on the women’s team because they were women. At times it seems in order to compensate for past wrongs there are some who are trying to force women or women who are trying to force themselves into roles they were not designed for. I fully support women in any profession they are qualified for and can function in, but do not support the notion of women becoming involved in activities simply to check off a box and say women can do this or that, when it is not an organic, natural pursuit. We can celebrate natural progression, but I cannot celebrate forced or contrived progression.
So, here is to the beautiful, strong, intelligent, caring, professional, spiritual and brilliant women out there. You have come a long way – and as a man I stand beside you to cheer you on to new heights and achievements. Proverbs 30-31 says it best, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to email@example.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.