By Tryphena Perumalla-Gagnon
Women’s Panel Contributor

Dear Daughter, Sister, Friend, Girlfriend, Wife and Mother,

I don’t know about you, but celebrating International Women’s Day has felt harder this year. It feels like everywhere I look there is another story of abuse coming out at the cost of women.  There are women leaving the marketplace in droves due to needs that arose during covid and the lack of support evidenced. There are women carrying babies and children fleeing war torn nations, all at the expense of individuals in power. Women being silenced, Women being questioned, Women being judged. How often have I or yourself walked into a room, to only have your credentials questioned, your thoughts and values invalidated, all because of our gender. 

Recently, I came across a prominent theologian who was teaching on how he felt women and men should interact. This theologian felt it imperative that women should never give direct instructions to a man, and when working with male subordinates at work, they should defer to the subordinates, in order to allow them to feel like “men”.

While the aforementioned ideology continues to break my heart and anger me, what scares me the most is how this theology permeates so much of our environment. It continues to perpetuate a thought process that somehow a woman should not be given space to lead and use her God given talents and abilities. This unfortunately becomes the heart behind why women are often referred to with language equating a female dog, when they use their voice and speak their mind. We have been consciously or unconsciously taught that our place is to be silent and subordinate. 

I would like to suggest today that none of this is Jesus. The Jesus I see alive and active on the pages of scripture, the Jesus who is a perfect representation of God, is one who empowers women. Who breathed His Life and Spirit into them. 

Jesus empowered Martha to sit at his feet and listen and learn. In a day and age when to sit at a Rabbi’s feet represented to everyone present that she was studying from a Rabbi to become a Rabbi. Jesus not only encouraged it, He declared that she had “chosen what was better” (Luke 10:42). 

Jesus made space for a woman who was bleeding for 12 years, deemed unclean, to share her story with all that were gathered. Jesus held space for women who were not given space to use their voice. 

Jesus, having raised from the dead, first revealed himself to women, (Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James,) asking them to go and share with the disciples what they had witnessed. Jesus empowered women to be the first preachers of the gospel.

Years ago, I found myself stuck in bed, on an IV, pregnant with our daughter. I had hyperemesis gravidarum, long story short, I was at the point where ending my life seemed like the best option. At that time a girlfriend signed me up for a support group for other women who had encountered HG. With that the hand written letters began to come in, one after another from mothers and daughters, all who had had or been witness to the ravages of the disease. They were letters of encouragement, that they understood my pain and were cheering me on. Those letters now have a special place in my house and are letters of hope I often reflect back on. While you may not currently be facing a suicidal pregnancy, the reality is there is power in knowing someone else gets it. 

My prayer for you is that you do have a woman or group of women in your life who get it. Who speak life and truth over who you are, loud enough to begin to drown out the barrage of lies the world throws at us. But in case you don’t, can I be that person for you for a moment?

Your story is powerful and is a beacon of Love and Life to those who are honoured to witness it.

You, my friend, are a woman of value. A woman created in the image of a powerful, emotional and loving God, whose breath is breathed into you. You are here to take up all of your space, to bloom and not worry about how big you are blooming. You are created to live each day to the fullest and freest.

And to the incredible women who have gone before us, who just get it. 

Thank you, thank you for the way you have confronted bias, time and time again. The conversations you have stayed in, be it in the workplace or the church. Thank you for the times you have laid down a boundary and left a toxic environment or relationship.

Thank you for teaching children that is enough is enough, and we can demand better,

Thank you for continuing to break down the bias. 

Thank you for taking up your space, and using your voice. 

You are all changing the world for those around you, and the daughters next to us.