In 2013 Helen Austin and I collated the number of women and men contributing to the UK Christian platform. What emerged was not surprising. Only a quarter of those speaking at national events like New Wine, Spring Harvest or Soul Survivor were women. The statistics we produced led to many conversations about women’s representation at events; if and how things should change and whether quotas were the way forward. Some of these conversations have led to the formation of a project to continue producing data of events annually alongside encouraging and equipping events and organisations to take seriously the need to create a platform that is representative of the UK church.
Project 3:28 is a collective of people passionate about seeing change. As activists, academics, bloggers and those who have been involved in Christian events for decades we want to see change. Proving there is a problem is the first step. Before these statistics existed, it was easy for people to talk of “exaggeration” and to suggest “it’s not that bad really…” whereas now, we can show the disparity clearly and crucially, measure the change that takes place.
We are focussed on changing representation at events, not because speaking at events is of any greater value than the many other callings and gifting God has given people, but rather because within UK Christian culture, the representation at events gives us a snapshot into the wider reality of gender injustice. Across the UK women are disadvantaged in many ways and globally the experience of women and girls is horrendous and all pervasive.
Marie Wilson from the White House Project famously said, “You can't be what you can't see”. If we want to see both women and men living to their full potential in Christ, then we need to ensure that both women and men are represented across all areas of society. We need men to take greater responsibility for childcare and household tasks, for women to be given positions of influence. We need to appreciate the gift of mutuality and hold onto the truth that the fullness of humanity is found in women and men together, not separated, boxed or reduced to stereotypes.
Going forward we hope that Project 3:28 will continue to provide evidence on whether Christian events are pro-actively working towards a more balanced space. We recently released data for 2014, and positively, events are 9% more balanced than in 2013. We are also in the early stages of creating a female speakers database which will resource event organisers and prevent them stating that there simply aren’t any women available. There will be costs in developing such a resource and so we may begin crowdfunding quite soon, watch this space. As we progress, hopefully we will find new and creative ways to support events and organisations in taking gender justice seriously, while championing the work of the many individuals and organisations who are working to see change, including Sophia Network, Christians for Biblical Equality and WATCH.
To find out more about Project 3:28 visit www.project328.info and connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.
Natalie Collins set up Spark and is an independent consultant working to prevent and respond to violence against women and enable others to do the same. She is also the creator of DAY, an innovative youth domestic abuse education programme. Natalie speaks and trains on understanding and ending domestic abuse and gender injustice nationally and internationally.