Women around the world are subject to oppression, discrimination and violence. But arguably one of the worst places in the world to be a woman is the Middle East and North Africa, where deep-rooted inequality deprives millions of women of their basic rights and freedoms.
You don’t have to look far to find gender discrimination – even in your own community, church or family. From women getting paid less than men for doing the same job, to sexual harassment on the street, to women being expected to care for family members or perform household tasks in ways that men are not – inequality is closer to home than you might think.
But whilst strides towards equality are being made in many parts of the world, progress is advancing a lot more slowly in the MENA. Discrimination, child marriage, illiteracy and lack of access to education, rape, kidnapping and harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) blight women’s lives. In many Arab countries, a woman’s testimony is given half the weight of a man’s. Women are extremely vulnerable to violence and physical abuse – often at the hands of their own (male) relatives. Many women are confined to the domestic sphere; they live their lives behind closed doors and often have few or no choices when it comes to work or education.
SAT-7 longs to see Middle Eastern women restored to their God-given identity, and finding their hope and value in Christ. Through our TV programmes, we advocate justice for women, challenge long-held cultural mindsets, equip women with biblical knowledge and wisdom, and help them understand their worth and value as daughters of God.
This Friday, 8 March, marks International Women’s Day – a global day to celebrate the achievements of women, and call for greater gender equality worldwide. We invite you to join us on this day, and throughout the next week, in praying for Middle Eastern women – that in Christ, their hearts will be renewed and their societies transformed. ∎
FRI 8 MARCH
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17). Pray for all those fighting for women’s justice and equality around the world.
SAT 9 MARCH
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52). Pray that women across the region will be “lifted up” and discover their true value through SAT-7’s women’s programmes.
SUN 10 MARCH
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable” (Proverbs 31: 8). Thank God that SAT-7 women’s programmes are speaking up for voiceless women and making their plight known.
MON 11 MARCH
“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Pray that Middle Eastern women will realise that their true identity is not what the world tells them – but that they are daughters of God.
TUE 12 MARCH
“For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). Praise God for the lasting and powerful impact Maggie’s great-grandfather had on generations of her family, in refusing to subject his daughters to FGM.
WED 13 MARCH
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). In an image-focused world, pray that Needle and New Thread viewers will find their worth in God, rather than their appearance.
Thur 14 MARCH
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Pray that women across the Middle East will, through shows like Needle and New Thread, discover their voice, have the boldness to share their stories, and speak up for change.
Fri 15 MARCH
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). Pray, as Maggie hopes, that women in the Middle East will be filled with joy and laughter.
Hearing women's stories
Maggie is an award-winning filmmaker, and producer of SAT-7 women’s programme, Needle and New Thread. This is an excerpt from a longer blog post - read it in full here.
I always felt that discrimination against women was something that happened to other people, not to me. Belonging to an educated, middle-class Christian family in Egypt, I believed that other women were marginalised, but of course we were not. But all it took was a bit of curiosity to make me notice that the threads of discrimination were woven throughout our lives – and even very, very close to home.
My first eye-opener came at university. An Egyptian activist came to speak to my class about female genital mutilation (FGM). I hadn’t heard of this practice before. We assumed she was talking about practices that happen to other people, far away from us – illiterate people in villages. She assertively said, “I bet you someone in this room has been circumcised.” We shook our heads – but to my surprise, a few hands timidly came up!
I went home afterwards and asked my mother and grandmother: did this happen to you? “No,” my grandmother said. “Everyone did it to their daughters, but my father refused.” Somehow my great-grandfather was convinced that this was unnecessary and unacceptable. And because of him, my grandmother, her sister, and consequently my mother and I were spared this horrible and inhumane practice.
Through Needle and New Thread, I hope to see more men and women who can stand up and say, “This injustice stops here.” We pray that we will notice when other people are not smiling and that we will ask why. Every week, we create a platform for more stories to be told and more voices to be heard. Ultimately, we hope that more of these voices will be ones ringing with laughter. ∎