Talk given by Hailey Bennett: We are women of God and are women of faith. From the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations on March 14, 2017
Hailey Bennett is a business owner, singer, actor, student council member, and high school junior. She is a founding member of her school’s Hope Squad (suicide prevention). Her favorite parts onstage include Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Ursula in “The Little Mermaid,” and Mayzie in “The Boyfriend.” Her days are full of homework for her honors and AP classes, sibling duties to her two brothers and two sisters, and managing the thriving live princess and costume business she began running at age 15.
Ada Ignoh, a nurse in Nigeria, illustrates how religious beliefs and practices can have a positive effect during times of crisis. She was one of the 8/12 who got ebola directly from a Nigerian man she was caring for in a hospital. Ada thrives even during her challenges with ebola by daily acts of faith such as reading Psalms 91 which says, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence … Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night … nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness … A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at they right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.” Religion brings resilience and healing in times of strife.
Faith has traditionally been one of women’s greatest strengths, and their sense of connection to a God or higher power is the cornerstone of psychological wellness and resilience throughout their lives.
In addition, women are central to the spiritual development of their children. Children who have a spiritual connection at a young age are 90 percent less likely to be depressed as teens or young adults. Children can receive both genetic traits and nurturing influences from both parents, but mothers are statistically more likely to provide the foundation of faith in the home. A Pew Research Center survey showed that women are more devout and report higher attendance than men, especially in Christian religions. Globally, women are more likely to affiliate with a religious faith (83.4% of women identify w/ faith group, vs.79.9% of men)
The voice of faith is the voice of women. Around the world, women use a faith-based language; ex: “Bless your heart”, “I will pray for you”, “God speed”, all creating a sense of community.
Whether called Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, Adonai, or God, many people believe in a higher power. Our first tenet as Big Ocean Women is that we are women of faith. Faith affects the way we see the world, and increases our desire to make improvements in our own lives and the lives of those around us. It gives us a bigger picture.
In a survey on religion and public life, 63% of adults said they believed in God, a statistic that has decreased during my lifetime, while the rate of people of all ages affected by depression has been increasing — now roughly 350 million people suffer from depression. Are these statistics related? I believe they might be linked based on an experience I had in 9th grade.
Just a few years ago I had three friends — all of whom performed along with me in “High School Musical” who severely struggled with depression. I wanted them to feel whole, and at times I was frustrated they weren’t trying harder to find solutions and to improve their mental health. Our conversations often centered on their lack of hope in a God and their belief that life didn’t continue after we die. They saw no point to living, and they had no faith that anyone else saw a point to their existence either.
As much as I tried to help my three male friends by sharing my faith and by having many philosophical and deep conversations at all hours of the day and night, one only began growing their faith in a higher power. from a small seed that was planted. My two other dear friends, through continuous hopelessness both took their lives. Their time on this earth ended at age 14. To say it was a tragedy is an understatement.
Through watching our group of friends deal with this loss, it was apparent who had faith to help them process the events. Those of my friends who have faith were able to eventually find joy again, whereas my friends who classify themselves as non-believers are still in a dark place years later.
Women in my life — including my mother, aunts and my friends’ mothers — helped me through this confusing time by sharing their faith with me. My faith has become a critical lens in my life through which I see my challenges and successes. Faith helps me to appreciate all of the wonderful works on this planet and observe everyday miracles happening all around me.
In summary faith increases resilience when faced with our own difficulties or to help others’ through their darkness. Faith provides the following four functions:
(1) the search for meaning in our life experiences
(2) the quest for emotional comfort or anxiety reduction
(3) promotion of a sense of interconnectedness
(4) communion with the sacred.
As women rely on their faith, they build resilience in themselves and those with whom they have influence.