As Christians, we know God creates each person with equal worth, and He calls us to help the marginalized. Motivated by our Christian faith, World Vision works to help overcome discriminatory beliefs and end harmful practices like prenatal sex selection, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence. Together, we’re helping everyone see that all are made in the image of God — thanks for your prayers for women and girls.
God sees His daughters as beautiful, strong, and worthy of respect. But many millions of women and girls are not respected. Around the world, 90 countries have gender discrimination encoded in laws about employment.
Rural women experience a triple work burden in the productive, reproductive, and social spheres. And, unlike men, their work is mostly unpaid and unrecognized. This means that women and girls work longer hours and have less time to engage in income-generating activities or attend school.
In his book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” World Vision U.S. President Emeritus Rich Stearns writes, “In my opinion, the single most significant thing that can be done to cure extreme poverty is this: Protect, educate, and nurture girls and women and provide them with equal rights and opportunities — educationally, economically, and socially.”
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.—Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
In rural Zambia, young girls face many problems: pregnancies due to peer pressure, child prostitution due to widespread poverty, and child marriage. Mwila, age 19, lives in Zambia’s eastern province, where UNICEF reports the highest numbers of child marriages. Across the country, 29% of Zambian girls marry before they turn 18 and 5% before the age of 15.
Millions of girls around the world are in similar situations or worse. They’re trafficked, exploited, and affected by harmful cultural practices, missing out on education, economic opportunities, and life-giving relationships.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggles have increased for women and girls. Many vital programs designed to improve their lives have been interrupted, which puts girls at increased risk for child marriage, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and female genital mutilation.
Although we specifically pray for women on International Women’s Day (March 8) and pray for girls on International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), they deserve our prayers every day of the year. Join us as we pray for women and girls everywhere to live the abundant lives God intends for them.
Pray for the safety of unborn and infant girls.
Girls face dangers before they’re even born. In some cultures like Armenia’s, a preference for sons puts pressure on women to terminate their pregnancy if they’re expecting a girl. Girls who survive until birth may be neglected, abandoned, or even killed. Seen as less valuable than boys, girls are less likely to be sent to school and may be the last to receive food or medical care. Ask God to protect young girls from people who fail to see their true value.
Dear Lord, touch the lives of girls even before they’re born. Let them be born healthy and whole, and let their parents love and cherish them as much as You do.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous.—Psalm 139:13–14 (NLT)
Pray for educational opportunities for girls.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc all around the world, but the impact hasn’t been felt equally. While more than 90% of the global student population has been affected by coronavirus-related school closures, education hasn’t been continued for everyone everywhere.
About 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries haven’t taken any measures to support learners at risk of exclusion during the global health crisis. Those at-risk learners include children living in poverty, linguistic minorities, and learners with disabilities.
Poverty can lead children — especially girls — to make the decision to drop out of school. Mwila dropped out of school because her mother, Diane, struggled to provide for their family of seven through a sewing business, since her husband doesn’t have work.
Before World Vision began working in their community, Diane worried about Mwila dropping out of school. But then, through the local church, World Vision began a training workshop that equips young people with life skills and sets them on a path to find their God-given potential. They begin to understand their own dignity and worth. Then they share their hopes and dreams, along with a plan of action, to make their dreams a reality.
Through the program, Mwila decided to return to school.
Lord, may You fulfill many girls’ longing for wisdom and a better life. Bless them with a quality education, school supplies, and a family that supports their scholastic goals.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.—Proverbs 3:13–14 (NIV)
Pray for efforts to prevent child marriage.
Nearly 650 million girls and women alive today are married before their 18th birthday. That’s one every three seconds being married before the age of 18.
Now think about the impact of COVID-19 on that statistic. Due to disruptions in planned efforts to end child marriage and wide-reaching economic consequences, an estimated additional 13 million child marriages will take place between 2020 and 2030 that otherwise would not have occurred.
Part of World Vision’s dare to dream program in Zambia is to educate young people — especially girls — about the dangers of child marriage. Lack of economic opportunity often drives girls on their own, or with coercion from their families, to marry before the age of 18.
Mwila looked like she was going to become one more statistic. “I was planning of getting married because I did not see any future for me even if I went back to school to rewrite because I did not know where funds to pay for [college] would come from,” she says, “so I thought marrying would be easier.”
“In the past, we noticed that a lot of young people gave up on school and gave in to substance abuse and notorious behavior because they had nothing to look forward to,” says Morris Mushibwe, World Vision development facilitator. “The youths in this community now realize that they can be more. Others have ventured into businesses. Others are going back to school, and some are picking up livelihood skills following training.”
Jesus, show Your compassion to the multitudes of girls and women who endure the damaging physical and relational effects of child marriage. Holy Spirit, help their husbands love them. Reveal alternatives to parents and change the hearts of those who consider giving up their daughters for social status or financial gain.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.—Psalm 103:13 (NIV)
Pray for economic opportunities for women and girls living in poverty.
Girls everywhere are vulnerable to exploitation when their families are extremely poor. The World Bank estimates that the pandemic pushed up to 124 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, with the total rising to as many as 163 million by 2021.
World Vision’s helping millions of women in poor communities around the world learn to operate small businesses.
Mwila did a four-month apprenticeship in her mother’s sewing business. She uses her mother’s sewing machine when Diane isn’t around to make clothes to sell. The money helps support her family and also contributes to her back-to-school savings.
And thanks to understanding her God-given potential, Mwila dreams of being a nurse.
As women gain confidence in operating these businesses, they’re able to positively influence family decision-making on important issues such as food choice, children’s education, healthcare, and child marriage.
Heavenly Father, You are good. You delight in us when we honor You in our work. Bring opportunities for employment or business that fulfills parents’ desires to make life better for their children. Thank You for organizations that provide small-business loans to women. Bless these ventures so their families can live healthier, more secure lives.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.—Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Pray for girls and women affected by female genital mutilation.
At least 200 million girls and women in 31 countries have been subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Paka, a Kenyan woman in her 70s, was once a circumciser. She now vows to do everything she possibly can to eliminate the practice in her community.
“I used to cut girls because that was a cultural practice that the community valued. All along, I thought I was doing something good. But I later realized that I was harming them, and it brought me so much pain,” says Paka.
She lived a cycle that she likens to a dark hole. Parents of the girls she cut gave her money for her services. Then she and the other circumcisers participated in the post-ceremony parties where alcohol flowed freely. Paka got drunk frequently and sometimes her money would be stolen while she was under the influence.
Then, Paka met Pastor Solomon, who was trained by World Vision. He inspired her to make a drastic change.
He visited her frequently, reading the Bible and praying with Paka. He taught her the adverse effects of FGM and the suffering it causes. But he also assured her that despite the past pain she’d caused, God still loves and forgives her. Slowly her heart began to heal.
Paka abandoned the practice of FGM and became a children’s rights champion. She embraced alternative sources of income such as farming and raising livestock that enable her to take good care of her grandchildren.
But COVID-19 has had an impact on the work. Due to pandemic-related disruptions in prevention programs, 2 million female genital mutilation cases could occur over the next decade that would otherwise have been averted.
Still, World Vision partners like Pastor Solomon continue to educate and empower girls and their communities to end FGM.
Lord God, help communities that practice FGM see its damaging effects on girls and young women. Motivate families to turn away from damaging practices and protect their female children from all forms of harm, including FGM.
So God made mankind in his own image … male and female he created them. —Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
Pray for access to clean, safe drinking water.
Girls and women in many cultures are in charge of household chores. In developing nations, these duties often include collecting water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. They must often walk hours every day to get it, keeping girls from going to school, and robbing mothers of time with their children or making an income. When wells are drilled in rural villages, women and girls no longer have to spend hours each day accessing water.
Dear Lord, as millions of women and girls continue to walk every day to collect water, walk beside them and keep them from harm. We pray for You to bless the work of organizations like World Vision that provide clean water so more women and girls can leave this task behind to lead more productive and meaningful lives.
They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.—Isaiah 49:10 (NIV)
Pray for girls trapped in sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Worldwide, 120 million girls and women younger than 20 years have suffered some form of forced sexual contact. Unsuspecting children are often forced into child labor or the sex trade. The full extent of the problem is unknown, but governments and organizations, including World Vision, have made progress in recent years to prosecute traffickers and identify and rehabilitate survivors of the crime.
Jesus, we come to You humbled by the struggles many girls face every day. Guard and protect them from the sex trade and child labor. Restore them to trusting relationships and self-confidence. Inspire leaders to create policies that address the causes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.—Proverbs 31:8–9 (NLT)
Tigana Chileshe of World Vision’s Zambia staff, Dickson Kahindi of World Vision’s Kenya staff, and Chris Huber and Laura Reinhardt of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.