Written with contributions from Marin Bryce
A contingent from Big Ocean Women attended a wonderful event on February 19. The event, organized by Utah Valley University’s Women and Leadership Project, featured Dr. Valerie Hudson, a political science professor, and Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and second counselor in the general Relief Society presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The event was called “The Status of Women Worldwide: Becoming Informed & Empowered as Global Citizens.” It was an incredible, empowering event and one that will remain in my memory for quite some time.
Dr. Hudson reported that she and her team found that the treatment of women that is normalized in the home becomes normalized in the country. If women are treated well in the home, that is reflected in the wider society. The inverse also holds true. This is incredibly important research because it gives power to the argument, previously largely unsupported by credible data, that the subjugation of women has a profound impact beyond the home.
This impact creates a laundry list of problems a nation can experience when their women are oppressed. These problems include sex ratio alteration (huge discrepancies in the number of men to women), surging bride price, sex trafficking, domestic violence, son preference, low age for brides, and deep inequality in family law and status. Years of their valuable research have been put into a book called “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide.” You can find it here.
The global ratio is now over 101.8 men to every 100 women, equating to hundreds of millions of women missing in our world today. After presenting this information, she asked the question, “Where are our women going?” According to her research, high maternal mortality rates, sex-selective abortion, and high suicide rates are the cause of this disparity. Dr. Hudson has been researching foreign policy for a huge portion of her academic life and has found the greatest threat to foreign and national security is how women are treated. If a nation’s women are treated with coercion, violence, and disrespect, then the outcome for their society is poverty, ill health, conflict, terror, economic decline, demographic problems, and environmental destruction. She pointed out this reveals a law of social science: “What you do to your women, you do to the state of your nation.”
Even though women may have access to education, contribute to the workforce, and even hold offices in government in their country, these rights are not quality indicators that they are thriving. Dr. Hudson shared a story with us that illustrates this idea. A while back she had the opportunity to host a group of women from Afghanistan. These women had recently been elected to parliament. They were taking part in the government and had a university education. She congratulated them on the bright future they were creating for the women of Afghanistan. One woman stopped her suddenly and told her that was not necessarily true. In their own homes, they have very little say in their lives. For instance, if her husband says he wants a divorce three times, it is done and she will lose her home and her children. The woman then asked Valerie, “How empowered am I really?”
Sister Eubank then spoke on the power of women using their agency and voices to effect change. She pointed out that according to the World Bank, voice and accountability of women is an important factor in being able to move a community out of poverty. As women use their power and voices to advocate for their own rights and those of their families, communities are lifted, and every aspect of life improves.
She pointed out the importance of women acting as global citizens. Global citizenship can be seen in different ways. Large multinational organizations can act when other, smaller organizations cannot. Grassroots organizations may not be able to act on the level of multinational organizations, but they make up for that lack in their ability to mobilize quickly and act nimbly. And finally, individuals acting within their own sphere are a powerful force for good.
Sister Eubank urged women to not wait for others to act or to start an organization, but instead to create their own projects and be unafraid to step forward and be the change we are seeking in the world. Both women emphasized the power of women in the home, in their communities, and in the world. Women make up half the world’s population and can act as catalysts of change when they recognize their own power.
Watch this clip of Sharon Eubank’s presentation: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/sister-eubank-encourages-women-global-citizens
Hilary Clinton said, “The subjugation of women is a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.” If we want a bright future for our nation, we as a global sisterhood need to make sure women are treated as interdependent partners and robust contributors to society. What Dr. Hudson left us with speaks volumes about why women need to step up and speak out. Our takeaway is this: “What you do to your women, you do to your family, community, nation, and future.”
Now we know that the global state of our women is threatened, what do we do? We keep spreading the message of Big Ocean Women a drop at a time. Our tenets and model make for a most powerful impact for women, and therefore our world.