Women’s right to vote in the U.S. and lessons from Ethiopian queens

March 18, 2020

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

“Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.” —Psalms 68:31b

I recently visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on my way to participate in a faith workshop on the effects of conflict on Pan African women and girls.

Conflict is one of the greatest threats to ending hunger—affecting women and girls in particular, the hardest. Conflict and other issues related to the lack of empowerment of women and girls often do not have much visibility. Bread for the World’s 2015 Hunger Report: “When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger” included an interactive tool that showed the world is missing nearly 80 percent of data essential to charting women’s progress on empowerment.

Also, not well-known is the historic and contemporary stories of hope, resilience, and leadership of women and girls in conflict. But Ethiopia offers an important lesson. Ethiopia is not only a biblical and secular treasure; it is a dignified location for all peoples and especially African peoples.

Ethiopia is the only African country not colonized by a European power. Ethiopia’s self-governance and acceptance of Christianity was codified and practiced long before the disruption of colonialism and colonial missionizing to other African peoples. Leadership by Ethiopian women during the ancient period and today are examples of this lesson despite conflict in their country.

Three Ethiopian women come to mind: The Queen of Sheba, Queen Candace, and current Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde.  

The Queen of Sheba story can be found in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chron 9:1–12. Queen Candace of Ethiopia’s story can be found in Acts 8:26-40. Sahle-Work was unanimously elected president by Ethiopia’s parliament in 2018. She is the first woman to hold the post.

Sahle-Work, along with Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, are leading transformative changes in Ethiopia, expanding civil society space, voting, and voice. They have also received global recognition for reforms in the country’s agriculture sector.

This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the right to vote for women in the United States. We also lament that African American women were not beneficiaries of this victory 100 years ago due to inequitable laws and practices.

Today, many women still cannot vote—including many Pan African women. Still, these women have fought and are still fighting for their rights. So, I invite you to celebrate Women’s History Month and vote!

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

Tools
from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Election Resources

    One of the best times to raise the issues of hunger and poverty is during election campaigns. Engage candidates in your state/district on hunger and poverty using our elections resources.
  • Racially Equitable Responses to Hunger During COVID-19 and Beyond

    By Marlysa D. Gamblin and Kathleen King

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as when a person or household does not have regular, reliable access to the foods needed for good health. Black, Indigenous, and Other People of Color (BIPOC) have historically had higher...

  • Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Global Pandemic, Better Nutrition Protects Lives

    With the coronavirus now spreading in low-resource contexts and new waves of infection expected in the coming year, better nutrition for vulnerable people is more important than ever.

For Faith

  • Finding Hope, Ending Hunger on Both Sides of the Border: A Bilingual Latino Devotional

    Devotional writers challenge us to feel the Spirit of God within us and to hear God’s urgent call to demand justice so all can put food on the table.
  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith.” These words from Colossians 2:6 remind us of the faith that is active in love for our neighbors.

    The Bible on...

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

For Advocacy

Faith

African at Heart

November 22, 2019

Insight

From the Blog