How does teaching people what the Bible says about mutual respect make a difference for women who are at risk of domestic violence?
In many of the countries we serve, what is labeled “Interpersonal violence against women” (IPVAW) is common and accepted, even if it is technically against the law.
According to the World Health Organization, “1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.”
While domestic violence happens in every corner of the globe, most Western cultures outlaw it, and even abusers try to hide it. In many sub-Saharan African countries, both the abusers and their victims believe that such violence is justified.
In fact, women are more likely to justify violence on the part of their spouses for infractions like burning dinner, neglecting the children, or refusing to have sex with their spouse.
The church in Africa may try to stand against violence, but when it is widely accepted in the broader culture, even by the women who are its victims, it can be difficult to make changes. While laws in Kenya have changed to protect women from violence, enforcement and acceptance of those laws can often be slow in coming.
Empower’s New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar confronts this violence and cultural with Biblical truth. We’ve seen, anecdotally, how the seminar changes attitudes and with them, relationships between husband and wives. As one of our participants said after completing the seminar, “My wife is now a companion. We eat together, we sit and talk, and life is so good in our family.”
One of our development goals is to create an assessment that measures attitudes about IPVAW both before the seminar and after completing it, so that we can quantify those results.
Kenya, where our team traveled in January to teach New Man, New Woman, New Life, has the highest rate of cultural acceptance of IPVAW, according to this report, and also, this one. Even if it is technically against the law, it is normal and even expected behavior. The violence, and the widespread acceptance of it, causes damage to women and to the society as a whole.
This helpful Open i report notes: “Violence against women, especially by intimate partners, is a serious public health problem that is associated with physical, reproductive and mental health consequences.”
According to the Open i report, two factors that decrease the chance of violence, as well as diminish its acceptability, are education and “joint decision making.” Those are two things that Empower’s teaching provides. The New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar educates participants about healthy relationships, and corrects misconceptions about the roles and rights of women and men. It emphasizes mutual respect and working together.
Many times, our seminar participants include pastors and other leaders, who then take the material and teach it to others in their church or community, multiplying our efforts
By educating couples and pastors about what the Bible truly teaches about mutuality, equality and loving relationships, we can begin to slowly change the culture. Your gifts to Empower can make a difference, can reduce IPVAW, and improve the health and safety of women and children in each country we visit. Please continue to pray for our ministry, and consider financially supporting us in our efforts.