Wheaton Network Initiative on Gender, Development and Christianity -
Advocating for Gender Justice
As those who are called to seek Shalom, we commit to live in right relationship with God, with one another, and all of creation. This is core to our identity and our engagement with the world. Yet women and girls continue to suffer disproportionately from acts of violence around the world, as well as a lack of protection of their basic rights and human dignities. For women marginalized by race/ethnicity, economic, religion, or sexuality, the cost of gendered oppression can be particularly costly. We seek to advocate to empower women and girls throughout the world. We commend the ongoing initiatives that increase opportunities for women, such as increased educational opportunities, enforcement of laws and legal rights, attention to gender inequalities, and investment in women-friendly anti-poverty initiatives. We hope to both walk alongside Christians as they engage in such initiatives, and to support further work to reform cultures and ideologies that justify the lower value and worth of women.
Supporting Women Leading in Christian Development
Within the field of nonprofits, we find that although women are actively serving, they are often not leading. Turnover rates for women are high, and the challenges they face in serving are many; women of color and single women face increased challenges. As research has shown, US Christian development organizations perform worse than their non-sectarian counterparts at affirming and using the gifts of women. As people of faith, we are committed to using the gifts and callings of all in the body of Christ to pursue God’s vision for the world. Our objective is to see women of faith equipped to serve God for the long haul. To this end, we aim to encourage women engaged in this journey through meeting together, partnerships and support networks.
Hosting Practitioners and Researchers
Within Christian development, there are encouraging efforts to connect researchers with practitioners, such as the Accord Research Alliance or the Joint Learning Initiatives. Yet dialogue among scholars, as well as among scholars and practitioners, is limited. At a 2016 Wheaton regional meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit, leaders recognized that faith-based academic institutions should play a critical role in assisting faith-based development related nonprofits through attention to much needed education and research. In doing so, we aim to foster collaboration among the church, academy, and practitioners. Simply providing a hub and neutral ground for dialogue is an important step in that process, a step motivating our past consortium.
While the broader development sector offers a host of resources to equip practitioners in pursuing gender equality, many of these resources neglect the importance of faith in development efforts, and lack theological foundation for such efforts. Further, such efforts often do not address the unique challenges and opportunities in development faced by Christian actors. With Wheaton’s expertise in issues of development and gender, we can help to curate resources for others, both those coming from outside sources and those internally-created. We want to walk alongside those organizations hoping to make changes internally and externally. This includes tools for organizational assessment and evaluations, research on evidence-based development practices, and theological resources around gender and development issues.
Facilitating Partnerships in Research
The academic study on issues of gender and development and religion is often neglected, and resources are few. Both gender and development studies are interdisciplinary fields, where it is essential that scholars across disciplines are engaged with one another. Wheaton is one of the only Christian colleges with interdisciplinary efforts in place that connects scholars around issues of gender. There is a need to both further the state of academic inquiry, and a need for research to support the work of the church around the world, especially when it comes to macro-level questions. Many Christian development organizations on the ground are often constrained in their research capacities by competing demands, the current micro-level focus of M&E practices, and limited funding.
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