I have been attached to the equality and inclusion agenda for some time by spreading best practice in organizations about how to make the workplace more inclusive. I am fascinated by the story of 5 women who were probably the first agents of change in achieving equality and diversity.
These women were called the Daughters of Zelophehad ‘the daughters’ of who?’, I hear you say –
‘the Daughters of Zelophehad’. (For ease of reference you may need to read Numbers 27 of the Holy Bible, or the Living Torah)
Ok let me explain the story a little. Now in my opinion I think its fair to say it was pretty much a male dominated society in ancient times under the leadership of Moses – and all due respect to our brothers! But during those times any inheritance of land from the father was usually passed down to the first born male, alternatively if the first born was a female, the inheritance would still end up with the male at whatever level of the pecking order. In addition to this, if there were no male children in the family and only female, then any inheritance would sort of go out to auction and be divided among other tribes, but not amongst the womenfolk.
Now ladies I know you are saying ‘that’s not fair’! Well that’s exactly what these 5 women thought. After the death of their father the daughters called a ‘family meeting’ to discuss how they would tackle this injustice and they wanted to bring this matter to the CEO’s attention – better known as Moses – (yes he was the little baby that was bungled into a basket and left on the Nile to escape the death penalty initiated by Pharaoh – you did read my blog last week, much respect!)
Now I don’t know about you, but I get a little disgusted when I experience injustice and sometimes my approach is not conducive with solving the issue but making it worse!
However, these 5 women were a little more gracious than I, and their approach was meticulously planned and thought through, respectful and in line with the culture of the day in which they knew that they had to submit to their elders.
Before they approached Moses and the other mighty men they no doubt researched ‘how to deal with conflict when the status quo is challenged.’ Then in the spirit of meekness, but with the resilience of a lion and as any good lawyers would do, they stated their case, highlighting the facts and backing up their argument. I can just imagine the court scene now – I paraphrase their opening statement:
‘Our father died without leaving any sons, but why should the name of our father disappear, just because he had no sons and we are unmarried women. We too deserve property along with the rest of our relatives.’
‘But you are women, you can’t have an inheritance’, Moses reminded them;
‘But why’ exclaimed the Daughters,
‘Well because the law doesn’t state that’ responded Moses
‘Well surely if we serve a God of justice, mercy and compassion, could you mighty men have interpreted the law erroneously? Are you not able to seek God on the matter? Please!’
I think Moses had learned especially growing up with his mother, sister and in the presence of Pharaoh’s daughter – don’t argue with a woman! – when they get something in their head, they are like a dog with a bone, so before he made any hasty decisions it was best to seek supernatural advice from the Almighty.
Well would you believe it, the God of justice agreed with the women – and He instructed Moses, that he should immediately take action and change any law that discriminates against women having an inheritance.
These transformational events were so significant that it paved the way for future generations not only to gain access to their inheritance but brought about amendments to the current legislation in giving greater access to relatives sharing in their clan’s inheritance.
Now what can we learn from this.
Firstly, resolving conflict means that there needs to be a demonstration of evidence and facts but also a right attitude and approach to gain a win-win situation;
Secondly, to bring about change, it takes a common and shared vision. However, there may be a period of time when you have to stand alone.
Let me challenge you – what cause have you stood up for lately? Have you been struggling with an injustice and have not had the boldness, strength or tenacity to address it?
Just imagine if our present day heroes did not stand up for what they knew was right. If Martin Luther King stayed in his zone of comfort rather than march to Washington for equality and justice. He would never know ‘He had a Dream’.
If Nelson Mandela grew bitter and twisted whilst in his cell on Robin Island, he would never have reminded us in his inauguration speech: ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate…but that we are powerful beyond measure…’
If Rosa Parks had given way to the taunts of her fellow white bus passengers, she would never have wrote: ‘Knowing what must be done does away with fear.’
If Jesus Christ decided that the road to the cross of Calvary was far too painful, we would never hear ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.