Social Action Office

International Women’s Day
8 March 2002

IWD Colours - Purple and Green
Purple signifies justice and dignity
Green signifies hope
The colours were chosen by the suffragettes of Britain


Herstory of IWD

In 1928 the first Australian IWD gathering took place at the Domain in Sydney. Today, we are celebrating the 74th anniversary of that event.

The first ever IWD was established at a meeting of the Socialist International in Copenhagen to promote and protect the equal rights of women. These were stirring days of social upheaval and revolution. Soon after this, the first world war would break out and the communist revolution in Russia would change the face of Europe, indeed the world. In 1975 the IWD was officially recognised by the United Nations. The UN has since been a lead agency in promoting the status of women around the world. We stand today, in 2002, in a proud tradition of women’s struggle for social, economic and political equality. We stand on the shoulders of our mothers and grandmothers who have gone before us.

Today is a day to stop and celebrate this struggle, mindful that it is not over and there are many miles to go before women achieve real equality.


She (Wisdom/Sophia) is the breath of God’s power
and a stream of pure glory of the Almighty.

(Wisdom 7.25)

The focus of our reflection today is Wisdom/Sophia - a female figuration in the Hebrew Bible who gives expression to God’s saving presence in the world. It is appropriate that we focus on this revealed dimension of the Divine on this day.

In recent times a great deal of biblical scholarship has focused on a new evaluation of the importance of the Wisdom/Sophia biblical tradition in the Old and New Testaments. Much of this work has made the connection between Sophia in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.

Sophia (the feminine Greek word for Wisdom) highlights feminine aspects of God which encompass God’s care for the Earth - the household of all living creatures. Sophia does not live on the holy mountain but, rather, Sophia lives in the household and raises her voice in public spaces bringing about peace, justice and right relationships. This Divine imaging captures for us something of the saving presence of God in the world - it is one aspect of God that informs a spirituality for social action.

…in short, biblical wisdom/Wisdom spirituality is a spirituality of roads and journeys, public places and open borders, nourishment and celebration. It seeks for sustenance in the struggles for justice and cultivates creation and life in fullness.

(Elizabeth Schlusser Fiorenza, Wisdom Ways, 2001, p.28)

Our use of the phrase “Sophia’s transformative dream for all creation” is a way of describing working to bring God’s kingdom into reality.

Let us now listen to the revealed Word and take time to allow this description of Wisdom/Sophia to permeate our hearts and minds (Wisdom 7: 22 - 8:1).

For Wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.
There is in her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, certain, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing,
and penetrating through all spirits, though they be intelligent, pure and altogether very subtle.
For Wisdom is more mobile than any motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is the breath of the power of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the God;
For she is the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the working of God, the image of God’s goodness.
Although she is but one, she can make all things and while remaining in herself she renews all things.
In every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them her friends and prophets.
For God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with Wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she is found to be superior for it is succeeded by the night
but against Wisdom, evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other and she orders all things well.

(Quiet reflection time - music background)

In this reading we learn that Wisdom/Sophia overcomes evil - that evil does not prevail against her. When we think of the evil of sexism and discrimination against women, we note that this takes shape in our world in many ways:

  • Sexual exploitation in the workplace - women’s work underpaid - slavery
  • The feminisation of poverty - more women than men carry the burden of poverty in our world
  • Under-representation in political and economic life - even total exclusion in some societies
  • Violence against women - rape in war - torture - domestic violence
  • Stereotyping of women - sexual objects in advertising - temptress - negative body images
  • Genital mutilation of girls
  • Murder of girl babies in some societies
  • Trafficking of women and children for sex
  • Harassment and hatred of lesbian women.

The way of Wisdom/Sophia does not tolerate such evil. She stands against evil and is not overcome. She is there accompanying women on the journey through the wilderness and darkness of struggle to justice (Wisdom 11:2-4).

They journeyed through an unpopulated wilderness
and pitched their tent in inaccessible places.
They stood firm against their enemies, fought off their foes.
On you (Wisdom/Sophia) they called when they were thirsty,
and from the rocky cliff water was given them,
from hard stone their thirst was quenched.

We also learn that from generation to generation she passes into holy souls and makes them her friends and prophets.

Some of those holy souls and prophets are represented here in this circle of reflection:

  • Mother Jones
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Mum Shirl
  • Rigoberta Merchu
  • The Un-named Woman - representing Spirit women who go unnoticed and unrecognised but for whom Sophia has passed into and made holy souls and prophets.

I would now invite you to call into this circle of reflection the wisdom spirit of any woman who comes to mind, at anytime in herstory, who you believe was a friend and prophet, infused with Wisdom/Sophia and who was committed to the struggle against the evils of sexism, discrimination and other forms of injustice.

You may like to take some time to think about someone and then to call her to be with us in the ongoing struggle to bring about the realisation of Wisdom/Sophia’s transformative dream for all creation.

I invite into this circle _______________________ who _________________________

and I pray _____________________________________________________________

Let us now draw our reflection to an end by praying together:

fashioner of all things -
Teach us your ways
and fill us with the spirit that is within you -
free from anxiety.

Give us the courage to make our voices
heard in the streets
calling for peace, justice and right relating.
Instil in us a passion for life
and an utter determination
to stand against
all that would destroy the fabric of life we have inherited.
Make us, like you, a breath of the power of God
a reflection of eternal light.
and an image of Divine Goodness
in this broken and vulnerable world.


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