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Shifting women’s roles in India

India (MNN) – Gender inequality in India has historically been a problem. Women have had low statuses and been persecuted. Yet, in recent years, women are being more empowered and even put in places of leadership.

The Foundation of Persecution Against Women

World Mission’s Greg Kelley says at the foundation of the persecution women have faced is the dowry system where a bride’s family must give the bridegroom’s family different gifts. These gifts may be cash, property, or animals.

Because of this requirement, the dowry system has put a financial burden on middle and lower class families, which makes up a majority of the population.

As a result, having a daughter is seen as more of a burden than a blessing in India.

“When you associate having a daughter as a financial burden, that just totally infiltrates society and culture to the point of where young women are persecuted, and emotionally abused, and even, there’s many cases of girls being killed,” Kelley says.

Families know they must pay once their daughter comes to a marriageable age, and they know this will create difficulties for them.

Because of this, girls are the most likely to be aborted in India, they have low literacy levels, they’re married off at earlier ages, and there are many crimes committed against them.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are some of the worst places for women.

Kelley says this may correlate with the fact that the population is less than one half percent Christian in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh areas.

However, as people hear the Gospel, Kelley says, their hearts will change.

The Impact of Christianity on Women’s Status

“When someone who’s been trapped in this mindset of viewing women in an inferior role, when their heart gets impacted with the Gospel, everything changes,” Kelley says.

“We just have to trust that as the Lord changes hearts, the whole tide of all of this will change.”

Kelley says as hearts are transformed and people see the impact of the Gospel, the lives of men, women, and children will improve because people will understand the equality of each person and gender and that they have something to offer.

Across India over the last several decades, women’s rights have grown and they’re starting to grow more in village areas as well.

“We’ve seen women in India hold positions of President, Prime Minister, Governor. So there’s really a turning of the tide in many ways in India, and as I said, you’ll see where the Gospel is present that women are really…stepping into positions of influence,” Kelley says.

(Photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook)

Women are becoming involved in ministry efforts as villages welcome them more and see the value and work they put in.

Men in leadership positions in the Church are also speaking up for women and encouraging them to do ministry together.

“We’ll see a lot of male pastors who are encouraging their wives to really step into that role of ministry.”

Women are becoming more respected as they give support to children, the poor, the sick, and others, and churches are helping to empower women by standing up for them and working to elevate the position of women both in ministry and throughout India.

World Mission’s Work

World Mission is encouraging men to embrace this change and support women as they begin working in ministry.

Kelley says when Jesus called His followers to the Great Commission, “he didn’t quantify from a standpoint of saying only the men do it, or only the women. So for us, it’s kind of gender neutral.”

World Mission is distributing their solar-powered audio Bibles, the Treasure, to women who have low literacy levels and low education. With these tools, women are acting as ministry leaders by forming listening groups in their villages so others can listen to the Word of God.

This is one of the major steps in how World Mission hopes to see India’s attitude continue changing towards women.

“We all need to get behind the movements and the Great Commission to get the Gospel into places. Social projects and humanitarian efforts only go so far. We need, as the Body of Christ, to get behind initiatives that get the Gospel into these places.”

Pray for the resilience and empowerment of women in India. Pray specifically for women in ministry to have the Lord’s protection. There are high pressures on both women and Christians in India.

Help equip women with World Mission’s discipleship tools by donating Treasures here.

Header photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook.

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