Women and Girls

In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.


Jim Wallis 04-14-2016

The church simply cannot afford to erase its strong female leadership.

In a world mired in xenophobia, racism, and gender violence, female clergy are often plotting the way forward. Shepherding houses of God all over the world, these women prove that a relentless and repressive patriarchy will not have the final word in God’s coming kingdom.

Elaina Ramsey 04-04-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

It’s 2016, yet patriarchy is alive and well across faith traditions.

Welcome to this special conversation with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women on the unique challenges and opportunities of women’s religious leadership.

Shivonne C. McKay 03-23-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

Though God originally intended that humankind experience goodness and abundance, forces that seek to counter the divine will of God continue to struggle. The divine will of God is for God’s children to prosper, live in peace, unity, and attain equity of God’s resources. God in infinite wisdom established a plan for reconciliation to the disruption in social order before the foundation of the earth.

In this way, God took a stand for what mattered: against the evil that coopted the human experience by way of sin; for God children’s to all have equal access to the graces and life available that came through acceptance, profession of faith, and obedience.

It is no secret that in today’s culture, there is an outcry that resembles the prophetic witness of taking a stand for what matters.

Carrie Taneyhill 07-24-2015
Children of Gendrassa Camp

There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the situation in South Sudan. But as I saw on my trip, there are also reasons to be hopeful. Working for a faith-based organization provides many opportunities for me to not only reflect on my faith but also put it in to action in my day-to-day work. While I grew up outside of a specific congregation, my parents instilled in me from an early age the importance of helping those in need, no matter their race, religion, or any other difference because we are all equal in the eyes of God. It’s this idea, paired with my love of learning about cultures, which put me on this path of working for an organization like Lutheran World Relief. I feel blessed because I wake up every day excited to go to work. While there are many daunting challenges in the relief field, I chose to see the good when possible because if you look closely, hope is there in even in the darkest of places.

Here are a few inspiring highlights from what I witnessed in South Sudan.

Lani Prunés 07-10-2015
Jimmie Briggs Profile.jpg

Photo via Lynn Savarese

Bio: Jimmie Briggs is an award-winning journalist and author of Innocents Lost, a book giving voice to child soldiers. In 2009, he co-founded the Man Up Campaign, a global effort to engage youth to stop violence against women and girls, and currently serves as executive director of the U.S. branch of Leave Out Violence (LOVE).

1. Let’s talk about LOVE. What issues does your organization address? LOVE’s focus is to engage young people who have been affected by violence of all kinds. This includes not only gender-based violence, but also issues such as gun violence, witnesses of domestic violence, and trauma- processing in schools where violence is the reality. LOVE uses media arts coupled with a trauma-informed response. We have a social worker for one-on-one counseling, and our teaching artists use media arts to provide pathways for young people who have been affected by violence—survivors and witnesses, even perpetrators—to express their voice and ultimately to process their pain, their trauma, and sometimes their guilt from the violence.
At the same time, LOVE creates a stage for them to speak about their experiences and advocate among their peers about conflict resolution and violence prevention. The arts offer a way to heal and process the violence you’ve experienced, but also for you to reach your peers and mitigate violence from happening in your schools, your home, and in your communities.

Becca Stevens 06-18-2015
Photo is by Taro Yamasaki

Photo is by Taro Yamasaki

Their presence reminds communities globally that sexual violence is not just a women’s issue. It is a human rights issue, and we need our sons to stand with young women as the next generation works to heal the whole community. Our sons understand the struggles of growing up on social media and witnessing the privacy of others exploited with a single click. They grew up in schools that prepare for mass shootings. They understand things differently than we do, and we need them to help lead us now that they are in college and entering the workforce.

the Web Editors 06-09-2015
Image via Steve Allen/shutterstock.com

Image via Steve Allen/shutterstock.com

The number of abortions nationwide has declined by about 12 percent in the last 5 years, according to the Associated Press. States with the strongest restrictions to abortion access and states with the least show a similar decline in rates. 

"Explanations vary," the Associated Press reports, with one factor being a decline in the teen pregnancy rate. Depending on which side of the abortion debate you lie, you can find advocates who attribute the overall decline in abortions to either better sex education and access to contracepton — or advanced technology and a new generation of women for whom there is "an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born."

From the AP: 

"Abortion-rights advocates attribute it to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Some foes of abortion say there has been a shift in societal attitudes, with more women choosing to carry their pregnancies to term.

Several of the states that have been most aggressive in passing anti-abortion laws — including Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma — have seen their abortion numbers drop by more than 15 percent since 2010. But more liberal states such as New York, Washington and Oregon also had declines of that magnitude, even as they maintained unrestricted access to abortion."

Public Religion Research Institute, a public opinion research group in Washington, D.C., has created an interactive atlas of American values and hot-button social issues. See where your state lands on attitudes over the availability and legality of abortion here.

Not too long ago we lived in an era in Christian publishing where a woman like Katie Davis would have never had the opportunity to publish a book.
Lani Prunés 06-04-2015
Image via Africa Studio/shutterstock.com

Image via Africa Studio/shutterstock.com

Kranti is Hindi for "revolution." Indeed, this extraordinary organization is working to erase the heavy labels that come with being born, raised, and even trafficked in Kamathipura. Laal Batti Express ("Red Light Express") is a three-segment depiction of the girl’s delightful and dark stories, of which each performer was asked to add three.

"We call the girls revolutionaries," Robin said.

Kaeley McEvoy 06-04-2015
Image via Burlingham/shutterstock.com

Image via Burlingham/shutterstock.com

From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun. That is more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined.

Guns are used in fatal intimate partner violence more than any other weapon. Of all the women killed by intimate partners during 2001-2012, 55 percent were killed with guns.

Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock / RNS

An anti-abortion protester holds in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001. Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock / RNS

Despite Americans’ shifting opinions on a range of moral and ethical issues, abortion foes have been encouraged by numbers showing that opposition to abortion rights appeared to have resisted serious slippage, and was even gaining traction.

But a Gallup poll released May 29 shows that may be changing: 50 percent of all Americans now identify as “pro-choice,” the first statistically significant lead over the “pro-life” label, which came in at 44 percent, since 2008.

The data suggest this could signal an end to the seesaw battle that has characterized opinions on abortion over the past few years.

Doug Stanglin 05-28-2015
Photo via REUTERS / Brian Frank / RNS

Josh Duggar. Photo via REUTERS / Brian Frank / RNS

A former Arkansas state trooper claims the Duggar family concealed the extent of their son’s alleged fondling of underage girls when the patriarch of the family turned to him for help disciplining the teenager more than a decade ago, the tabloid In Touch reports.

The tabloid broke the original story that Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the Duggar family, from the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, had allegedly molested girls when he was a teenager. It published a 2006 police report on the incident.

Duggar has since apologized for “acting inexcusably” as a teenager and has resigned as executive director of the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm.

Cece Jones-Davis 05-28-2015
Image via DiversityStudio/shutterstock.com

Image via DiversityStudio/shutterstock.com

Menstruation is a natural biological function and essential to good reproductive health. But cultural and religious taboos mean it continues to be treated as shameful and dirty. In many parts of the world, poor women and girls try in agonizing silence to manage their periods, while lacking water, restrooms, and hygienic sanitary materials.

On May 28, 2015, activists around the world will join WASH United, a global humanitarian organization, in celebrating the second annual International Menstrual Hygiene Day. The mission of the day is to break the taboo around menstruation and raise awareness of the associated dilemmas many women and girls face.

Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari addresses the media on May 13, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / RNS

Nigeria’s newly elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, promised during his campaign that he would tackle the militant terrorist group Boko Haram.

On May 29, he will be sworn into office, just as the extremist group is ramping up its use of female suicide bombers.

Buhari, who is Muslim, replaces Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the country’s south. Both Christians and Muslims voted for Buhari in April, convinced he could stop the terrorist rampage.

Nigerians fear violence may escalate if female terrorists are deployed because they can hide explosives under their long Muslim abayas, or gowns.

Photo via Wes Granberg-Michaelson, from the Empowered21 conference.

Photo via Wes Granberg-Michaelson, from the Empowered21 conference.

Christine Caine gave a passionate and prophetic call for the church to be continually changing, even while at its core, it is “the same.” That constant change is driven by God’s continuing call to be sent as witnesses in the world. “We want power,” she told the spiritually hungry Pentecostals gathered before her. “But we don’t know what it’s for.” It’s not for ourselves, not for our own spiritual ecstasy. The power of God’s Spirit is given for us to be witnesses to God’s transforming love. And one can’t change the world without being in the world, instead of running from it. “We’re not here,” Christine Caine proclaimed, “to entertain ourselves.”

You could feel how her words stuck a deep chord within the crowd of those listening. I walked over to sit by a friend who is bishop of a large Pentecostal church. “This is the best word that’s been spoken,” he said to me. And that’s after we had heard eight world famous Pentecostal preachers.

Jenna Barnett 05-22-2015

A middle-aged Iranian man sat down next to me at Shirin Neshat’s new retrospective, "Facing History," in Washington, D.C. He looked at me, smiling and bewildered, and said, “All of this, this whole museum, just for her?”

He wasn’t the only one surprised. In Neshat’s opening comments to a packed house at a meet-the-artist presentation, she said, “It’s an honor as a woman and as a Middle Easterner to hold this much space.”

And she didn’t just take up space. She filled it — covered the entire second floor of the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art with Muslim women, Iranian history, Persian music, and creative commentary on the role of gender and politics on the life of a woman in exile.

Bet Olson 05-21-2015

Shirley, an employee at Dignity Coconuts. Photo courtesy of Dignity.

I love the story of Shirley. Her family was struggling to survive in the Philippines—a nation plagued with poverty and modern-day slavery. Her husband Ramir took whatever small jobs he could to help the family, but without land, his only options were to work helping on a rice farm or a fishing boat. The pay was irregular and unsustainable, so he made the tough choice to look for work in a bigger city and send money back to Shirley and their three kids. Shirley applied to work at Dignity. She was skeptical as she had never worked with a team and doubted her abilities. When Dignity hired her, it changed her life and her family. Shirley was able to make a consistent income from Dignity. The cycle of poverty and human trafficking was stopped in its tracks.

Rachel Held Evans 05-11-2015
Photo via Lucian Coman / Shutterstock.com / RNS

A mother holds her daughter in Mmankgodi village, Botswana. Photo via Lucian Coman / Shutterstock.com / RNS

There are more than 220 million women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant, but who lack access to family planning information and contraceptives. Every year, nearly 300,000 of them will die during pregnancy or from complications giving birth. Far too many mothers will bury their babies before they even get to know the sound of their laughter. More than 2.6 million babies will be stillborn, and another 2.9 million will die before they are a month old.

Giving women the opportunity to time their pregnancies and space out their children through effective, low-cost contraception is key to turning around these heartbreaking numbers.

Suzanne Ross 05-08-2015
By Unknown (Bain News Service, publisher) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Maria Montessori, By Unknown (Bain News Service, publisher) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Maria’s choice to give up her son for the sake of her career was a difficult one for her and her son, but somehow they found forgiveness and redemption. Perhaps this is the lesson of her life. All moms know that we will make mistakes, especially in difficult situations, but Maria’s choice reminds us that the story of a mother and child isn’t over until love writes the ending.