The Price & Privilege of Being a WomanEncounters with Global Women Who Search for Justice & Compassion
Also by Winnie Williams: Women I Can't Forget
Women Have Walked Too Long with Stones in Their Shoes
Winnie Williams has traveled to more than forty countries, observing and learning how these and many other such events control the everyday lives of women worldwide. Cultural traditions, religion, politics, social structures, and the patriarchal philosophy of male domination have all forced many women to accept their inferior status as the reality, as the norm.
These compelling firsthand experiences - about women in Australia, Alaska, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Russia - have motivated the author to become an advocate for women's justice worldwide, and to bring awareness to the often grim plight of women. Her great hope is that women will become educated, informed about their civil rights, and can look forward to a better way of life in their society.
"Through gripping stories Winnie Williams provides an insightful commentary on the plight of women in diverse settings struggling to achieve their rights in the midst of oppressive cultures. With compassion and honesty, the tales are told of women fighting for their dignity while living at the margins of life. While issues of justice and equality for women have taken a back seat in times of economic and political upheaval, Winnie Williams makes a compelling case that the time has come for persons of Christian commitment to dedicate themselves to the destruction of controlling and dominating traditions that have for too long demeaned women throughout the world." Dr. Tom Graves, President, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (Virginia)
"Williams' second book sheds a new light on the plight of women in developing countries. While her findings confirm our darkest fears about the state of women in the world, her clarity of vision and compassion inspire us, because she goes beyond the sad statistics and external, physical conditions of these women's lives: she captures their hearts and spirits. These courageous, enterprising women who battle despair, discrimination and abuse on every front have their best advocate in Williams, who calls for a global movement of love and liberation to help them. Her book is our wake-up call: it is time to come to the aid of our sisters in distress. Every woman counts - this is the message Williams' book drives home, and therefore each one of us can make a difference." Beatriz F. Fernandez, Book Reviewer, University Reference Librarian, Florida International University
"Winnie Williams gives a well-researched and accurate snapshot of the history, landscape and culture of seven countries while skillfully weaving through her writing an exposé of the sub-standard and, in many cases, sub-human treatment of women. The description of captivating scenery sharply contrasted by the underclass plight of women is startling. It highlights what Winnie Williams does so well - burn in the reader's mind the need for all people, especially Christians, to press for holistic care and concern for the oppression of women - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In The Price and Privilege of Being a Woman you can see deeply into the author's heart as she roots out the public and hidden disgraces of the treatment of women. When the time comes that women everywhere are treated with respect, Winnie Williams' passionate quest to tell the story of oppressed women will have played a part in helping lift them to a rightful place of equality." Beverly Greer, Missions Coordinator, South Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
"It was my honor to accompany Winnie Williams on her trip to Russia and watch her become involved in the lives of women. In reading this book you will become involved in their lives as well, as you listen in a poignant new way to the voices of women who courageously live in the midst of traumatic social change." Dr. Sanford Becket, Associate Director of Northstar Church Network: An Association of Baptist Congregations, Virginia
"The Price and Privilege of Being a Woman is well written. Tempered with Christian compassion, Mrs. Williams, through her words, reminds us that women, like men, are created by God and therefore are to be treated with equal dignity and respect. Let us pray that if but one woman among millions chooses to stand strong with determination, she will bring new hope to those who endure their injustices with quiet humility." Jo Ella White, author of three novels, West Union, South Carolina
"The Price and Privilege of Being a Woman, Winnie V. Williams' recent release, is a penetrating, personal exploration into the challenges women face in many countries. The writing is vivid, easy to read, and takes the reader into the very soul of women around the world. As in her first book, Women I Can't Forget, we see the effects, both historical and current, of patriarchy - the near-universal rule of men and disrespect for women and girls. She has lived with these women in their cramped, miserable quarters, and shared some of their suffering. She shows what Christianity has and has not done to bring more justice to the women of primitive and industrial cultures. Her discussions are never superficial, but are rich with the history and culture of each of the countries. In this book we go behind the scenes into the lives of women in Russia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Guatemala, Ecuador, Alaska, and the aborigines of Australia. This would be an excellent selection for book clubs, as well as for individual reading. A must-read for those who wish to enlarge a global awareness of the consequences of patriarchy." Mimi Haddad, President, Christians for Biblical Equality, www.cbeinternational.org
"The Price and Privilege of Being a Woman is a combination travelogue, personal journal, and call to social justice for the women of the world. Across the continents and through the stories of women facing frightening challenges especially because of their gender, it will call you to action on behalf of the oppressed women of the world." Dr. Mari Gonlag, Bible Professor and Executive Director of the Center for Women in Ministry, Southern Wesleyan University, Central, South Carolina
"Having traveled extensively in numerous countries of the world interviewing women of many cultures and customs, and being deeply interested in and concerned about women world-wide, Winnie Williams is an extraordinary woman who has a unique way of presenting the profiles of women in The Price and Privilege of Being a Woman. Without doubt, the eyes of the reader will be opened to a greater understanding of the international situation of women as they journey through the pages of this book. The reader, as I, will sense changes in perspective and attitude as together we are challenged by these women of courage, determination and dignity. As privileged, Christian women in the world today, Winnie urges us to recognize that 'Christianity will probably only come to these disenfranchised women when Christian women have the yearnings and longings to be God's messengers.'" Rev. Ida Mae Hays, retired IMB Missionary to Brazil; retired Pastor of Weldon Baptist Church, Weldon, North Carolina; staff of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: Women Have Walked Too Long with Stones in Their Shoes
1. RUSSIA AND ITS SILENT WOMEN
The Beaten Woman
The Bosom of Russia - Its Women
The Step-Mothers of Russia-Home Life
Borscht, Mushrooms, and Other Fine Foods
Health Care - The Great Imbalance
Education and the Cultural Experience
The Great Imbalance in the Workplace
Famous and Not-So-Famous Russian Women
The Dawn of Spiritual Consciousness
Conclusion: Can There Be Justice and Equality?
2. MACEDONIAN WOMEN STRUGGLE
Our Group's Two-Fold Mission
Who are the Macedonians?
Women's Role in Ethnic Relations
Home Life for the Macedonian Women
Marriage as an Expectation
Few Frills for Women
Greek Cuisine Popular
Inadequate Health Care
Barriers Women Face
The Devastating Clash of Religions
Aspirations for a Better Quality of Life
3. KOSOVO-SCENE OF CARNAGE
The Making of a War
The Life of Pre-War Kosovar Women
Butchery of a People
More Bloodshed of Village Women
Rape: A Lasting Scar
The Ending of the War
The Aftermath of War: Women Seeking New Roles
4. AUSTRALIA'S ABORIGINES
Meeting My First Aborigines
Australia - Land of Beauty and Magic
Aborigines in a Land of Conflict
Dreamtime - The Aborigines' Religion
The Struggles of Aboriginal Women
The Domestic Side of the Aborigines
Dingos and the "Two Dog Night"
The Aborigines' Spiritual Expression Through Art
Women Who Have Made a Difference
Hope or More Suppression
5. GUATEMALAN WOMEN - SLAVES TO TRADITION
A Land of Contrast
Early Mayan Civilization
The Civil War's Effect on Women
Women in the Home
Women in the Workplace
Criminal Acts Curse Women
Education - Entry to an Enhanced Life
The Significant Impact of Religion on People's Lives
Help Is on the Way
6. ECUADOR - A COUNTRY OF CONTRASTS
The Winged Mary
A Country on the Equator
The Spanish Conquerors
The Four Areas of Ecuador
Ecuador's Diverse People and Their Traditions
Maltreatment of Ecuadorian Women
Health Care in Short Supply
Education Could Solve Many of Women's Problems
The Church Dominated by Roman Catholics
The Galapagos Islands
The Struggle with No Visible End
7. ALASKA'S WOMEN - ROUGH AND TOUGH
Early Alaskan Women - Steady and Sturdy
Today's Native Alaskan Women
Abuse of Women and Children
Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church
Women at Work
Living and Learning
Other Champions Among Alaskan Women
Jenny, an Inupiat Woman
Can Native Alaskan Women Look Forward with Hope?
CONCLUSION: A Global Responsibility for Justice
Though it is difficult for us to confront the anomaly that religion has contributed significantly to the degrading of women, it has been and continues to be a major cultural enforcer of patriarchy. Religions, usually focusing on male deities, have been a foremost influence in the hierarchal positions, and tend to malign women to submissive roles. Christians, as well as other religious groups, value masculinity over femininity. In visiting churches in various countries I have found that women generally attend church in larger numbers than do men, yet it is the men who preach and control almost every aspect of the church or religious group. It seems that the more fundamental the theology of a church tends to be, the greater its disposition is to embrace subservient requirements for its women.
Fundamentalism appears to be more resistant to change and less tolerant of parity for women. A few countries, such as Russia's Methodist churches, are more open toward the utilization of women in church leadership positions, even as clergy, but progress dawdles in most instances. In most developing countries, however, my observation is that almost no women are in church leadership positions. I learned that women continue to be undervalued, even though they do the majority of the church's mission work in a country.
An example of this discrimination was evident as I visited Baptist churches in Russia. I learned that if a person was not ordained, then the individual could not appear on the stage or platform of a Baptist Church. Since Baptist women are not permitted to be ordained, they, of course, are not allowed to participate in leadership roles from the pulpit. Though I was asked to bring greetings to a large Baptist congregation, the pastor, at the last moment, refused to allow me to do so. Also while participating in a Bible study with a group of women in Moscow, the female leader said priorities for women are: God first, men second, and women third. The Bible study focused on verses from I Timothy, "Wives, submit to your husbands." This philosophy has been infused into these women's value system and is accepted without question, not only in the church but also in almost every aspect of their life. Men have learned to protect their hierarchial position by "putting women down" and using their religious belief system to justify their action. Sue Monk Kidd in her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, said, "He learned to stay up by keeping her down, that is, by insisting she be content with things as they are."
Is it not paradoxical that the church is the entity where women seek solace, yet it is the same church that imposes boundaries to stifle them? In almost every area of a woman's life some level of parity is extended to her-except in churches, especially churches with fundamentalist inclinations. A woman goes to church with a strong and exacting sense of herself only to find constraints that silence her. Organized religion, for the most part, is the last arena to affirm women. Only when Christians and other religions become concerned, become alert to the unsuitable dogma and cultural stigma regarding women, and search the scriptures with integrity to unveil God's inclusiveness, then and only then will women be able to enter the altar of justice.
At an autograph signing for my first book, Women I Can't Forget, regarding the struggles and courage of women in developing countries, I spoke with an elderly man who came to purchase a copy of my book. He asked, "Do you really think this one book is going to change the culture of the world regarding women?" I was taken aback for a moment but then responded, "This book may not significantly change the world's regard for women, especially in developing countries; but if it can make the difference in the life of one woman, it will have been worth the effort." The civil rights of women will happen, perhaps one woman at a time, one family at a time - for women have walked far too long with stones in their shoes.
Though there are fewer stones in women's shoes today than in past years, the remaining ones are still saw-toothed and painful. Occasionally a stone is removed as a consequence of a woman's becoming educated and informed of her civil rights and given hope of an improved way of life. She looks forward to a better way of life in her society. This book reveals my observations of many destitute women and some of the adventures I encountered as I sought to hear the lamenting of women and also their anticipation of a life with dignity. I have written about women in Australia, Alaska, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Russia.
My purpose in writing this book is to bring an awareness of the plight of women of the world, especially those in unindustrialized countries, as I have observed them through personal encounters. There has been immeasurable assistance from missionaries, humanitarian workers, guides, interpreters and families who have shared their homes with me. Though I have interviewed many women (and some men) and reviewed literature to give me an insight into the conditions and perils of these women, it is difficult to document, without question, all that I have written, heard or read, but I do believe, to the best of my knowledge, that the information which I have written is reliable. Names and professions have been changed to protect individuals and their work in strategic areas.
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2006
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