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Empowering women, strengthening communities

Josephine, left, is a leader in her community in Burundi.

March 5, 2020

By Will Postma

Leave no one behind. Justice for all. Empower women and girls. These ideals inspire PWRDF to move forward in the important work of achieving gender equality. And we are emboldened with the knowledge that we are all made in God’s image, that in Christ, there is neither slave nor free, Gentile nor Jew, male nor female.

This year, International Women’s Day (March 8) falls on the Second Sunday in Lent, a season when we try to inhabit the life of Christ by praying, giving to others and giving up temptations. It is fitting that we reflect on the many women and girls whose lives have been touched by the work of PWRDF partners and who in turn have helped their own communities to become stronger.

One woman I remember meeting is Josephine, a farmer in Githanga, Burundi. PWRDF had worked with the local Diocese to build a health clinic and food warehouse. Josephine welcomed me with a big smile and wanted to introduce us to her committee, of which she was now a leader. She had learned organizational and governance skills and how to manage finances as well. In spite of having little formal education, she was leading the steering committee to support health programming and to keep the warehouse clean for the cooperative so the food would be safely preserved. For Josephine, her faith and love of Christ inspired her to do the work. Together we are stronger, she said.

Eunice (left) is with development worker Rosemary Waigwe

I often remember my conversation with Eunice, a farmer in Kenya, who was participating in a project supported by another local Anglican Development agency. She grows maize and vegetables on about a half-acre of land. When asked to join a training session to learn how to care better for her land, she said no and “that training is for lazy people.” Eunice did not have formal education. When I met her, she was 88 years old and still farming. But the water well that she depended on all her life had run dry for the first time, so she attended the training. There she learned about tilling, mulching, crop rotation and other aspects of conservation agriculture. Today, she is known as a champion farmer, and with the increased yield on her farm, she is able to care for three orphans in a neighbouring community.

Josephine and Eunice speak to the important contributions that PWRDF and our partners make to the lives of women. Their stories are anchored in God’s care for us all. As Archbishop Antje Jackelén of Church of Sweden shared with such prescience, the work we do is all about how we learn from each other, how we learn together. Gender justice is critical in empowering all people, said Archbishop Jackelén. It’s a win-win for women and men and for all of us.

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