Are Child House-Helps Modern-Day Slaves?

Earlier this year, 8-year-old Sophia Shaidu was admitted to a hospital in Lagos after the flesh on her buttocks started rotting and producing puss. Sophia was beaten with a wire and a spatula by her guardian — a man she was sent to live with three years ago as a maid, (house-help) at the tender age of five.

Mr. Bashir Shuaibu reportedly inflicted the injuries on Sophia because she was a bed-wetter. The Chairman of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offenses said Sophia’s guardian was only trying to correct the child. Well, this correction has left Sophia in intensive care needing skin grafting for her injuries to heal.
MDG : Child's handprint on a windowThere are many child house-helps like Sophia in Nigeria and the rest of the world that are in desperate need of help themselves. More than two centuries after slavery was outlawed, 29.8 million people globally continue to be subjected to new and diverse forms of servitude, according to the Global Slavery Index.

Haiti, India, Nepal, Mauritania and Pakistan have the highest prevalence of modern-day slavery, while in absolute numbers, China, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Nigeria have the most people enslaved. In India, almost 14 million people are believed to be victims of modern slavery.

Are house-helps modern slaves? My gut, heart and brain tell me they are but lots of people I’ve spoken to about this don’t agree with me. I read a statement by Gulnara Shahinian, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences. Here’s an extract from the statement.

“We know that comprehensive figures on the number of individuals subjected to contemporary forms of slavery are difficult to obtain. This is because contemporary slavery takes many complex forms, and often occurs in hard to reach areas of the country or what is perceived as the ‘private realm’, such as in the case of domestic servitude. Slavery-like practices also disproportionally impact on groups of persons already suffering from marginalization, discrimination (including caste-based discrimination) or who are otherwise vulnerable, difficult to identify and reach, such as children, migrant or domestic workers, and other groups…”

The practice of employing domestic servants otherwise called a house boy or house girl dates back to the days of old and these days busy parents find domestic help more necessary than ever. According to the Child Welfare League of Nigeria, Nigeria may have the largest number of child domestic workers in the world. Many of these children end up being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.

I’ve listened to the stories of child house-helps that have been able to become educated and even well-to-do because of their poor parents making a hard decision to send their children to another home for a better life. I get it but I don’t like it. For every good family looking after and paying for child house-helps, there’s a bad family treating children in the same way Sophia Shaidu was treated.

The fact is, without a legal framework to protect these children forced into child labour, cases like Sophia Shaidu’s will keep making headlines. Many cases won’t even make it to press. But guess what, there is a legal framework here in Nigeria. The problem (like so many other laws here) is enforcing these laws.

In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State Assemblies also enact it. To date, only 16 of the country’s 36 States have passed the Act. Sophia was maltreated in Lagos, a state that has passed the act. I’m disgusted by the remaining 20 States that haven’t passed it. Can you think of a good reason to be against legislation that protects children? Well, when you have government officials that marry kids, you don’t have to be a genius to know why they wouldn’t want to pass the Act — it defines a child as anyone under 18. Some states see making marriage between an adult and a child illegal as out of tune with their culture.

Here is an excerpt from the Act:

Causing tattoos or marks, and female genital mutilation are made punishable offences under the Act; and so also is the exposure to pornographic materials, trafficking of children, their use of narcotic drugs, or the use of children in any criminal activities, abduction and unlawful removal or transfer from lawful custody, and employment of children as domestic helps outside their own home or family environment.

So the sorry excuse for a man who beat the poor defenseless girl should be imprisoned right? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that if I was you. I feel so sad saying that but unfortunately the truth is there are too many criminals like this animal that aren’t behind bars.

I’m not even keen on maids either but slavery is something I can never tolerate — irrespective of the name we disguise it with here in Nigeria. The promise I’ve made to myself is that I will never have a child house-help. I hope you all make that promise as well.

How to Make New Friends

A few days before I relocated to Nigeria, I wrote a blog post about the fears I had about moving to a new country. I focused more on my fear of demons, (blame Nollywood), but another fear I didn’t really discuss deeply was my disastrous ability of making new friends.

Yes, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this issue. Despite my choice of career, I am naturally shy and a terribly, annoying, complicated, introvert. First-days are always dreaded days as I picture having to introduce myself and maintain eye-contact, an acceptable level of laughter, witty comments…blah, blah, blah — nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like meeting new people, I just find it quite tasking trying to impress people with my being. That’s in essence what you’re doing when you meet new people — convincing them that you’re worth their time.

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Acting as my own personal sales person has made me go through life dreading every new school and job I move to. I’m sure most of you have as well but you probably don’t feel as nervous as I do during these moments. Some of you may even enjoy the idea of making new friends/associates. Unlike any other time in my life, moving first to New York and then to Nigeria, meant that I didn’t have my old friends as a safety-net if making new friends proved too challenging. Now that I have moved to Nigeria, got my dream-job and apartment, it seems I am here to stay. Its recently become incredibly clear to me that despite my amazing boyfriend and the time, shoulder, ears and arms he lends me with ease, I need friends.

There’s no shame in it. Making friends after university is a female dog. Making friends when you’ve moved to a new country….well, it’s not for the faint hearted.

I’ve had amazing conversations in the past few days that inspired me to put this post together. The conversations were all so insightful that I decided I should share them here.

Conversation 1 – I was told after complaining it was so hard to make friends in Nigeria, that I was in fact to blame for my lack of pals. Apparently, my tolerance level for new people is rather low and not compliant with the amount of tolerance needed when meeting new people. I got defensive about that critique but soon realised there was truth in what I was told. When I meet new people and we have misunderstandings or the person does something that really grinds my gears, I easily tell myself, “ergh — to the left, to the left.” I’m too quick to forget that the friends I have back at home in London didn’t become my friends overnight. We’ve spent years getting to know each other, annoy each other, forgive each other and most importantly, love each other. The new people I’m meeting and being so quick to write-off haven’t had the chance to really know who Eno is. I haven’t had the chance to know them either…

Conversation 2 – A bible was brought out folks. There’s no bigger killer while lloyd_christmastrying to defend yourself than a person armed with this holy book. The topic of discussion was forgiveness. Apparently, another cause of my friend deficit in Nigeria is the fact that I have harboured grudges against people I class as having the same mindset as Lloyd Christmas. It’s not that I’m easily offended, it’s just that I have pet-hates — rudeness and ignorance. Once I’ve marked you mentally as offenders of my pet-hates, it becomes apparent that the marker I used was permanent.

Having the reminder that unforgiveness is poisonous was definitely an unwelcome reminder. Here are the verses I was shown:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 KJV).

I know all of this though. I’ve heard it a million times but knowledge of something as opposed to putting it into practice is two very different things. Forgiveness takes humility and although I consider myself to be rather humble in most situations, having enough humility to forgive someone after they have offended me seems to be something I’m struggling with. When I meet someone and they annoy me, I find it easy to decide that the person and I are just two very different people that probably won’t be able to get along. This way of thinking will leave you without friends not only in a new country but wherever you find yourself. Patience is essential when meeting new people. You have to decide to forgive and forget if you’re really serious about adding to your friend bank. If however the person is just a douche-bag then it’s still possible to forgive the person but obviously avoid making friends with someone who will add no value to your life.

This is what I find most difficult — forgiving and still being able to say hello to the person in question when I see them. The person I had the second conversation with that I mentioned earlier has instructed me to greet a person I no longer relate with at all. I seriously shudder at the thought of saying hello to the person — I’m likely to choke with all the humble pie I’ll have to force down my throat to be able to do this. I will eventually say hello and I’m sure this will help me in my new quest to become a more forgiving person. For now, I’m just trying not to roll my eyes when I see the twit lady.

Conversation 3 – I was told by someone about a friend of his that is having a hard time making friends in her new office because in her opinion she is being misunderstood. People at work have begun murmuring about her attitude and have concluded she is a snob. She has decided that the best way to sort out this misconception about her character is to further seclude herself from people who are in her opinion too judgmental and too difficult to be friends with. I feel her pain because I’ve had the same things said and thought about me for much of my adult life.

A few months ago I went out to cover a story with a colleague. After an awesome day, she told me that she used to not like me. Surprised, since I had never really spoken much to her, I asked why and she told me that she thought I just kept to myself and wasn’t interested in getting to know people. It was good to hear because I’ve always resolved to do just what the lady I have talked about wants to do. I pull further away from people who misunderstand me instead of opening up my heart and allowing them to get to know who the real Eno is. The result of distancing yourself from people who misunderstand your character is the same people further misunderstanding you…duh!

So, my three conversations have made me conclude that in order for me to make new friends in Nigeria, I need to:

1. Increase my tolerance level
2. Be more forgiving
3. Stop secluding myself from new folk

I’ve been putting all three of these points into practice at work and I’ve been taken aback by the difference its made. My life feels less stressful – I say life because let’s face it, most of our lives are spent at work so if we’re not happy at work, it’s likely we’re generally not happy at all wherever we are. I’m opening up and enjoying the changes. Give it a go if you’re an annoying introvert like I am and I guarantee you’ll be a happier person.

Disclaimer

There is no guarantee these steps will work for you.

What You Learn in Your 20s

I think I’m having a semi mid-life crisis. I had one when I was 20, 24 and 25 as well. I felt excited to be 26 last year, (still can’t figure out why), but now I’ve got a feeling a crisis is brewing as September creeps closer. If I’m right, while my Facebook timeline has a surge of activity due to people too cool for school, wishing me a “hpy bday,” instead of a, “happy birthday,” I’m likely to be deep in thought. As the years pass, I worry that I haven’t achieved as much as I should have and wish I could go back in time to become an inventor, PHD graduate or the millionaire I clearly by now should be.

Yes, these are the thoughts that run through my mind, make me feel old and cause me to feel like I’m having a semi mid-life crisis. Thankfully, these depressing thoughts have a great way of motivating me to achieve more. I guess crisis isn’t the right word — reflection is. I’ve experienced semi mid-life moments of reflection.

crisis_communication1I usually have to type a whole blog post to better understand my feelings. I literally begin a post not knowing what my conclusion will be, which aside from being therapeutic, is rather fun. Today however, I have a good idea what my concluding thoughts in this post will be because I’ve spent time for the last couple of years thinking about it. The title probably gives that away.

A few days ago I read a great piece in the New York Time’s Opinion section called, What you learn in your 40s, and started considering what I had learnt so far in my 20s. I jotted points down and soon realised I was writing a short novel so knew I had to share some words of wisdom on my loved but often forgotten blog.

Here are some things I now know that I wish someone told me on the eve of my 20th birthday when I had my first semi mid-life crisis…ehem, semi mid-life moment of reflection:

1)    You are still young in your 20s. I know it feels like play-time is over but you’re still in your skates but there really is enough time to have fun while working hard.

2)    You can’t escape working hard. Seriously, one way or another, you’re going to dream about being on a beach on a regular basis because even if you love your job, you’ll realise it can be hell at times.

3)    Going on holiday is better than buying clothes.

4)    Most of your wise decisions as a teen were incredibly stupid. With this knowledge, you’ll make the same terrible decisions a few more times.

5)    Your terrible decisions will mostly be linked to the guy or female you date. The good news is you won’t spend as long as you did as a teen to work out when the person you are dating is a scum-bag.

6)    You’ll think you’ve fallen in love but realise later that you’re still crap at selecting who you should be in a relationship with.

7)    You’ll love being single but hate not having a girlfriend/boyfriend. You’ll never admit the latter.

8)    Staring up at your ceiling and reflecting with sadness the wrong decisions you have made while you lie on your back on your bed isn’t cliché — it’s necessary.

9)    You will fall in love and believe/hope you’ll get married and live happily ever after. You won’t be able to until you’ve got somewhere for you both to live and other things that may seem shallow but are incredibly necessary.

10) LOL, BFF, LMFAO, STFU etc are acronyms you need to stop using if you want to be taken serious by serious people.

11) You need a car. Not to show off with but for boring things like food shopping.

12) Your parents are awesome — you’ll regret the times you pushed them away. The good thing is, if you’re lucky enough to still have them around, it’s not too late to build a relationship with them.

13) You’ll put on weight. If you don’t do something about it, you’ll just get fatter. Talking about joining a gym for months surprising is no substitute for working out.

14)  You don’t have to go out every weekend. There’s no shame in putting on a onesie and watching Scandal with a glass of wine.

15) Vodka is disgusting.

16) You should have made more of an effort to learn how to play pro-evolution and FIFA because grown-ups still haven’t grown out of playing these boring games.

17) Eating-in is cheaper than eating out. Cooking demonstrations on YouTube are a God-sent.

18) 8 hours of sleep will make you feel sick/lazy. 6 hours feels reasonable but you’ll still fall asleep involuntarily during the day.

19) Questioning aspects of the religion/faith you were born into doesn’t make you a devil — it proves you are in fact human with a functioning brain.

20) Chase your dreams NOW. Save yourself from regretting in your 30s what you didn’t and could have achieved in your 20s.

I could type forever but I feel it’s fitting to stop at 20. What have I missed out on my list?

Am I Light-Skinned?

I understand the title of this post probably looks ridiculous but it’s a genuine question I’ve asked myself since moving to Nigeria. Here’s why:

I was born and bred in beautiful Barnet, North London. Unfortunately, some of the characters I came across were not as pleasant as my home-town. I vividly remember being called a Paki by loud-mouthed idiots that were not brave enough to leave the cars they hurled racist words from and say it to my face. My Pakistani friend at university didn’t believe me when I later told him about this because let’s face it, you would have to be more foolish than a fool to call a black person a Pakistani.

Being racist is stupid — no doubt about it. Some racists, like the ones I unfortunately encountered growing up, reserved that special type of foolishness that still amazes me. I read an interesting article today about the secret double life of Nicky Crane — a gay neo-Nazi that organised and participated in many unprovoked violent attacks in London against ethnic minorities. In a television interview in 1992 Crane said,

“Adolf Hitler was my God…He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

During Adolf Hitler’s regime, historians say 50,000 homosexuals were branded criminals and degenerates and as many as 15,000 died in concentration camps. Like I said, being racist is stupid.

20131205-173859.jpgYet, despite the confusion displayed by the people mistaking me for being from South Asia, I was very aware that I was black. I went to a secondary school with few black people and I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about the shade of my skin colour. Black was black. Even when I moved to a new secondary school with lots more black people, black people’s skin shade was hardly brought up in discussions.

I’m the darkest in my family so I didn’t for a second ever consider myself fair-skinned. I remember years ago meeting my little sister near school and my friend saw her and said,

“Man, your sister is so pretty! She’s so light! What the hell happened to you?!”

I kid you not.

So, you should by now understand why I’m confused about this recently new notion that I’m light-skinned.

Since moving back to Nigeria a few months ago, I’ve been hearing left, right and centre things along the line of:

Kai, you’re so fair!
Yellow pawpaw!
Afin (Yoruba for albino)

Me?

While waiting for my colleague to get money from the cash machine yesterday, a lady approached me and asked me to stand in the shade. My other colleague with me said that if she was in the sun without me, the lady wouldn’t tell her to move to the shade. She said the only reason the lady was concerned was because of my skin colour! I remember constantly being told in a previous job here in Nigeria to stop making calls under the sun and move to the shade before I turn dark…again, I kid you not.

I’m forever telling people that I don’t care what colour I am. I like when I get tanned because my skin looks fresher and more golden. I can not imagine what would possess me to ever think about damaging my skin just to make it lighter. I told another colleague (check out her blog here) the title of this post and asked if she thought I should include the fact that I don’t bleach my skin at all. She said the first thing everyone reading in Nigeria would say is that I probably do bleach! Argh!

I’m still surprised when I’m called light-skinned because I’ve never seen myself as anything but black. I’m obsessed with my skin being smooth, not the shade. So although I’ve asked you if I’m light-skinned in the title, the truth is, I don’t actually care. Do you?

Should The Nigerian Stock Exchange Change its Name?

I came across an article this morning that said Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State wants  to rename the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) after Lagos. My first reaction was why but after reading his reasons, it seemed perfectly reasonable:

“I think the time has come for us to begin to look at the legislation that was passed during the military administration, that is decrees and acts. I think that was when the Lagos Stock Exchange became the Nigerian Stock Exchange, in unification for the country,” Fashola said.

helloThe NSE was established in 1960 as the Lagos Stock Exchange but it was renamed in December 1977 as The Nigerian Stock Exchange. Put into context, this name change is understandable as it occurred seven years after Nigeria’s civil war (Biafra). This is why it’s likely Fashola was correct to say that the change in name occurred in an attempt to unify Nigeria.

Yet, when I looked at the comments for this story on Linda Ikeji’s blog, (I know, great source right…) I discovered most people didn’t seem to agree with Fashola and I:

“Story, Story. Why should we copy them.”

“Nigerian stock is better.. Sounds united.”

“Padi mi, calm down pls. Lagos is NOT everything.”

“Oga Fashola you are not the one to decide…leave dat one for our oga at d top Joe.”

Hmmm. These comments made me pause and take a moment to think about why people would oppose changing the NSE’s name to what is best global practice. After all, as the Governor rightly said,

“…we have the Johannesburg, Paris, New York and we don’t have the American Stock Exchange or German Stock Exchange while there is a Frankfurt Stock Exchange and so on.”

I asked a few colleagues what they thought about changing the NSE’s name to the Lagos Stock Exchange and the first thing they said was that it would spark controversy. Really?

I understand that many Nigerians feel there’s an ideological divide among those in the North and those in the South, so the timing of the name change isn’t great. Also, it is true that we are again in desperate need for policies to help unify our nation. BUT what’s in a name?

I mean this seriously.

What difference does it make if the NSE is called Naija Stock Tings (NST)? I’m being serious.

So, my questions to you (because I’m attempting to write shorter blog posts from now on), are:

  • Is it actually rational to oppose changing the NSE’s name for sentimental reasons?
  • Do we not have more important issue in Lagos to change like the terrible state of the water on the Island?
  • What if any will the impact on the country be if the NSE’s name is changed to the Lagos Stock Exchange?

What’s clear to me is that Nigeria isn’t united BUT I’m not convinced changing the name of the NSE will change anything (for better or worse) other than its current name…

Why I gave God my iPhone.

When I was 11-years-old, my Sunday school teacher told my class and I that she had a magical gift – she knew what would happen before it happened. As she spoke about her God-given gift, I sat thinking about how awesome it was to have a superhero as a teacher. Church didn’t seem so boring anymore.

Growing up in a pentecostal Christian home exposed me to many more people like her that claimed to have the same powers. It was in my early teenage years that I understood these people were not modern-day marvel characters but modern-day bible characters. These prophets were followers of Jesus Christ that believed they heard directly from God. It was God that generated their fortune-telling abilities.

Yet, no matter how many pastors told me what my husband would be like or what job I would have, I grew-up struggling to believe the validity of prophet’s revelations. That struggle ended when my former Sunday school teacher (who had become a pastor) spoke to me one evening after a mid-week church service. I was in my first year at university and living away from home for the first time. I had lost the luxury of food shelves magically being restocked without my help. Without my darling mother around, buying cereal became as important as buying textbooks. So, when the service ended, I tried to hurry out to buy my beloved breakfast choice.

Alas, my plans were foiled by my smiling pastor who evidently wanted to continue preaching. As she spoke to me about something I’m sure was God related, I thought about how annoying it would be if the supermarket closed before I bought some cereal.

“Wow, God’s telling me you really like cereal,” she said.

What the…

I’ve haven’t told this story to many people because the first time I shared it, it sounded silly. Why would God take time to tell someone I like cereal? I only think about what happened that day when I’m faced with someone who has a message from God, especially when it’s about me.

That wasn’t the first time someone shared information about me that they believed came from God. A pastor once told me that God said I would get a B in my GCSE Maths exam but I didn’t for a second believe I would. I used to sit next to one of my friends in my maths class who was as talkative and playful as I was. In fact, I’m not sure who distracted who the most out of the two of us. I’ll never forget the day when my teacher told both of us (and the class) that we would fail the paper, get a D and have to redo the exam in sixth-form. Although my maths result was the lowest GCSE grade I achieved, getting the B that I had been told I would get, made me the most proud.

I’ve since been told by a prophet that I would work for the BBC, which I did – twice. The terrible stomach pain I used to constantly endure was revealed to a pastor and eventually stopped – just as the pastor said it would. Yet, until the cereal occurrence, I remained a ‘doubting Thomas’ in regards to believing people who claimed to hear from God.

Perhaps being told I would get a grade B motivated me to work harder? Maybe hearing I would work for the BBC encouraged me to work through their painfully long applications? Could someone have told my pastor about my stomach aches?

It’s possible. But I still can’t explain how my pastor knew I was thinking about cereal that day in church. So, as “silly” as the cereal revelation sounds, I’m sharing it with you because I now realise that’s the day when I not only started to believe God speaks to people but also when I truly began to believe in God’s existence.

There isn’t a rational explanation for someone being able to read my mind. That is, unless believing something supernatural happened is included in the explanation. I’ve decided to pin what happened to the big being upstairs.

So, a few months ago when a prophet here in Nigeria revealed an extremely intimate detail about my family to me, I believed him. I wasn’t the only person that indirectly heard from God. Affairs, promotions, marriages and even deaths were revealed to my church congregation during his three-day visit. We were all amazed.

At the end of the service the prophet told us that God told him to tell 30 people to drop their phones on the altar as a sacrifice to God. I watched people rush forward to do so. I sat down, crossed my arms and whispered, “God forbid.”20130201-110352.jpg

The next day, the prophet preached, got everyone excited with prophesies and closed the service. Just as I was about to leave, the bishop (my uncle), told me the prophet wanted to speak to me.

I slowly walked up to him – terrified at what he might tell me and waited for him to speak. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that I didn’t want what he had told me the previous day to happen. He asked me what I would sacrifice to persuade God to answer my prayer. Money I thought – I’m accustomed with giving money to church. But to my horror, I heard myself say that I’d give God my iPhone!

God knows how much I loved my iPhone. It was my first one (always been a Blackberry babe) and I had only used it for two months. I was surprised when I told my deeply spiritual mum what I had done that instead of being commended, she told me,

“God doesn’t need an iPhone.”

I guess thinking about what God had revealed all those years back about me liking cereal had something to do with me accidentally giving my phone away. This was the second time in my life that I felt certain that God was speaking to me through someone else. Only this time, I lost more than food.

Now, I’m not sure where my ex-iPhone is. Perhaps it was sold and the money was used to further God’s work here on earth… That’s what I’d like to think but who knows, the prophet could be out there somewhere asking Siri where he can find another church congregation that gives precious items to prophets.

I’m not too fussed about what happened to my phone. In the bible, in most cases, an offering to God was a sacrifice only presented to God. In reality, the offering was used as provision for those involved in it – priests and prophets, etc.

So, I’m glad I symbolically gave my iPhone to God. Whatever it’s used for, I’m glad to know despite how difficult it was to give up, I have enough faith in God to believe I’ll be blessed for doing so. After all, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 126:5 KJV).

Should Women be Bishops?

The Church of England (CoE) decided on Tuesday that women should not be permitted to serve as bishops and I couldn’t be more displeased with their decision. The proposed legislation, which would have paved the way for female bishops needed to gain two-thirds majority support in each of the synod’s three houses – bishops, clergy and laity – but fell short by just six votes in the House of Laity.

When I first read an article about the vote I assumed that the I’s would have it. As a female Christian, I am eager to see the consecration of women as bishops approved. Since the line between the church and state is blurred, I am interested in the decisions that determine who holds authoritative positions within the church and you should be too.

Whether or not you’re female or a Christian, the General Synod‘s decisions are your business (in the UK) because 26 bishops are allocated seats in the country’s legislature; the House of Lords. The measures approved by the Church’s Synod are part of the law of the land and this powerful body sits on a portfolio of investments worth a staggering £8 billion. It’s a national institution whose supreme governor (ironically a woman), reigns sovereign over everyone in the country. In my opinion other churches that are not CoE and do not have political power, should have the right to decide if they want to be backwards thinking and not have female bishops. The CoE however has too much power and political privileges to be left to their own devices when they can make terrible decisions that impact the whole country.

It’s no surprise that Members of Parliament and campaigners are now undermining the case for bishops to have a say in making laws. Some have even called for bishops to be thrown out of the House of Lords altogether, while others want to see the powers of the CoE reduced. Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former vicar, tweeted,

“Would be nice to see men refuse to be consecrated bishops till women included. And pm refuse to nominate. And lords refuse bishops.”

The fact is, if priests and the head of the CoE can be women, it makes no sense that bishops can’t be. It appears a huge majority of the Church’s bishops and clergy agree with me as while 324 synod members voted for women bishops, Church voting rules meant that just 122 votes against were enough to block it.

The role of women in the Church had been a thorny issue for the CoE since the Church’s inception. There are countless rational reasons to believe women should be able to be bishops and just as many sexist reasons why they shouldn’t. I can not ignore the fact that the votes reveal there is a general consensus in the CoE, which began ordaining female priests in 1994, that the role of a bishop should also be open to women. I naturally believe women should be able to hold any office in the church. This is largely due to the fact that I was baptised in a church that is lead by a woman and also because I am an undercover feminist. So I appreciate I am perhaps biased in my thinking.

Radio 4’s Today programme posed the question a few days ago: “What would Jesus do?” In other words, would Jesus support of oppose female bishops. This question is brilliant because despite our personal beliefs, it’s wrong to completely ignore the theological arguments in this debate.

So what does the bible have to say?

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14). The apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men because of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world. Yet, the bible presents many women who held positions of leadership in both the Old and New Testament.

Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla and her husband Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately:

“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:24-26 KJV)

Paul himself writes that Priscilla and her husband Aquila had a church in their house. This means that contrary to his own instruction for a woman not to teach, a woman who in her church taught biblical principles to a man, “more perfectly,” was worthy of Paul’s praise. Was Paul confused on what the role of women in the church should be? Perhaps but I believe that Paul was in fact only restricting the women of Ephesus from teaching.

The book of Timothy was written by Paul to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. I was taught in church that the city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis so this could have triggered Paul’s conviction that women should not teach. Although Paul does not mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions I believe that context should never be ignored when interpreting the bible. If context is to be ignored, then why do most Christian churches bring context into explaining why Paul said women shouldn’t braid their hair, or wear pearls or gold in the same passage? “Then in like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (1 Timothy 2:9 KJV)

I know I’m not the only female Christian that dresses in costly array both inside and outside of church. I was taught that Paul said this because the women at Timothy’s church cared more about their appearance than the teaching from the bible. Context is key to understand biblical scripture in this day and age.

I’ve read and heard so many different views on whether a bishop should be a woman. When I read 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the description of a bishop helped me to better understand why people who apparently follow the same faith as me, believe it is wrong for a woman to be a bishop:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Hmmm, pretty clear here that Paul either assumed only men would want to be a bishop or he believed it to be a post to only be held by men. Yet, there are many examples in the bible that Christian males and females follow irrespective of the gender the speaker is addressing:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27, 28 KJV)

So I guess since I’m a woman, I’m free to lust after guys without the burden of committing sin? No? Jesus was led by the spirit of God, not by religion. He broke protocol and spoke to, touched and even dined with people He shouldn’t have; according to Jewish customs. But He did everything in love. He accepted the stones the builder rejected. I believe that if Jesus had voted on Tuesday, He would have voted in favour of female bishops.

I remain convinced that a woman should be able to be a bishop. Female priests have become indispensable, making up a third of the Church’s 11,000 clergy including in senior positions as archdeacons and deans of cathedrals. If the church wants to remain influential in the legislature, then it ought to look more like the people it’s meant to represent. We’re not just talking about religion here in this debate, we’re talking politics. The CoE isn’t a typical church so we shouldn’t be blasé about their business – it’s our business too.

On that note, I’ll end by saying that the CoE’s history in my opinion is nothing to be proud of. It’s a product of government interference, established by naughty King Henry VIII who appointed himself as head of the Church in order to divorce his wife. The CoE this week had a chance to really make history and prove that it’s legislative role is justifiable. I’m saddened to say that until the CoE decides women deserve to be bishops as much as men, I don’t think the Church deserves to have the political privileges it currently has.