In South Africa 9 August has become a very important day. Dare I say for the wrong reasons, i.e. gender-based violence, rather than celebrating and honouring women in our families and society. Much of the violence against women and girls too in fact does happen within families or with men and boys known to them. That is the serious aspect that, I believe, can and should be addressed from a family perspective, although the issue overall demands much attention from particular female and male perspectives too. It is frequently said that gbv should not get the attention only during this month, but every day. Equally so, positive views about gender relationships in marriage and in other types of relationships should get much more of a look in on a daily basis.
My focus today is a bit different; a look at and reflection on the many women in my own life, something other women and men too may choose to reflect on. Lying in bed this morning I started with my immediate and extended family, mother and her sister, my aunt as the first as I don’t remember grandmothers, although for many they may have been the first important ones. Being born during the 1940s I realise they were difficult years, as World War II in Europe led to severe poverty and fear for one’s life. My parents married and two babies were born during those hard times. A desire for a better life led to many families fleeing and emigrating from countries in Europe, much like Ukraine in our day. As my father fell ill and died my mother immigrated to South Africa as a widow with three young daughters to join my aunt, my godmother, who had become a strong support to our family and was already here. My mom lived in South Africa for nearly another 50 years and was able to make a good and interesting life for herself, remarrying and having other relationships too. My aunt, a nurse, became more of a social worker, in her new country of choice, possibly a role model for me.
Boarding school for my older sister and me exposed us to the influence and care of the Holy Cross sisters, some teachers, especially our music teacher becoming great mentors and friends. Music and singing, in church and other groups has been an enriching part of my adult life.
After leaving school in 1961, my young adult years did not include many women apart from family. There were a few friends of both sexes but it was mainly work and study until I met Chris in 1963. Of course then there was his family too. As we were the youngest ones, it seemed to me that mother-in-law and sisters-in-law rather looked down, or at least askance at me, especially as over time I chose to work, (a pro-feminist) challenge to Chris, and to study and become involved in church and social issues. However, we were fortunate and blessed to become involved in marriage and family ministry together. My own sisters remained close and some of the women I met and worked with in the family ministry area were often more relatable than my in-laws.
Over the years our and, after his death, my ministry focused more strongly on family life and families as units rather than on the many aspects affecting women directly. This has been quite a challenge in various ways as family as such is not a very popular cause for which it is also difficult to obtain funding. In all kinds of situations I find myself constantly jumping on the bandwagon of “Family Matters.” Many of the other women in church or social groups, even in my retirement village tend to shy away from my “familialist” attitudes and views. Women’s individual and personal empowerment seems to be a far more attractive cause, than family empowerment in which women and men and their children too have a role.
Sticking to the topic of women I must include my two daughters and also my 5 granddaughters as women playing a role in my life. While the daughters, having lived with me all their lives understand and to a certain extent accept my probable eccentricity, I think the young ones may find me fairly odd, especially as I have recently also adopted the broader ecological vision of THE WORLD AS A FAMILY OF FAMILIES as well. If I were to ask them what they think of their old granny what would they say? I haven’ asked them all but t least some of them will just be polite.
This is very personal aspect of some women in my life and each person male or female, straight or with different orientations will have their own experience. The August family theme of “Sexuality, a family gift,” is not restricted to sex and marriage and opens up many possible ways of exploring this topic, But for everyone let us take note how important it is to pay attention to the women in our lives, try to understand who they are, value them and let them know that you do appreciate the gift they are. FAMILY WEEKLY 10 AUGUST 2022