A recent online event, hosted by the Anglican Alliance and the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, highlighted the role of churches worldwide in tackling gender-based violence and speaking out for gender justice.
The webinar, which took place on Thursday 1 December 2016, marked World AIDS Day as well as the 16 Days of Activism, which run from the 25 November to the 10 December each year.
Five presenters spoke from their areas of expertise, covering issues such as engaging men in work to prevent gender-based violence, the role of young people and educating young people about gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS, and how church leaders can be mobilised to promote gender justice.
Audience participation was high as poll questions invited viewers to contribute their thoughts and experiences of the 16 Days of Activism, and how they were tackling gender-based violence with their churches and communities.
A question and answer session following the presentations revealed the complexity of the issue and the need for the conversation to continue, as viewers contributed their comments and invited further discussion.
First Man Standing
After an introduction and a short prayer, the presentations began with Peter Grant, the Co-Director of Restored, which is an international Christian Alliance committed to transforming relationships and ending violence against women.
Peter introduced Restored’s ‘First Man Standing’ project, which engages men in conversations around gender-based violence and concentrates on redefining concepts of masculinity.
Peter began by asking, “What does it mean to be a successful man where you live?” He went on to say, “As Christians, it is important to reflect on that model of masculinity given by the media and compare it to Jesus … One of my first pleas to all of us is to reinstate Jesus as our model of masculinity, rather than those that we see so often in our media.”
He called on men to stand with women to end gender-based violence, model respect for women in all their relationships, and challenge negative attitudes and actions.
Theological education at the grassroots
A presentation from Mara Manzoni Luz followed. Mara is the Deputy Head of the Latin America and Caribbean Division at Christian Aid, based in Brazil. She shared on the work of churches in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting the link between gender-based violence and high levels of inequality, particularly in Brazil.
Mara highlighted the role of churches in using bible studies to promote gender equality and empower communities to tackle gender-based violence at a grassroots level, sharing examples from Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil.
The Church as a safe space
Revd Canon Dr Vicentia Kgabe, Rector of the College of the Transfiguration in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and chairperson of the Board of Directors for HOPE Africa, then spoke on the essential role that churches play in providing a safe space for survivors of gender-based violence.
She said, “We need to equip our clergy with the necessary tools and knowledge for them to be in a better position to care.”
Dr Kgabe spoke on the need for a concentrated, intentional effort by the Church to end gender-based violence, suggesting involvement in the 16 Days of Activism as an initial focus to raise awareness and begin educating congregations about the issue.
Engaging young people
Revd Immaculée Nyiransengimana, from Shyogwe Diocese in Rwanda, a member of the steering group of the IAWN, then had her presentation shared by Pumla Titus, from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, who chairs the IAWN steering group.
Revd Nyiransengimana spoke on a recent youth event, which had taken place in Kigali, Rwanda, on Sunday 27 November 2016, as part of the 16 Days. Over 100 students from all eleven dioceses of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, with some of the teachers from church-run schools, gathered for a conference in Kigali to explore the role of youth in tackling gender-based violence and preventing HIV.
She said, “It is important to break the silence and address the links between HIV and ending gender-based violence. We need to engage the youth to raise awareness.”
Celebrating success and working together
Revd Terrie Robinson, the Director for Women in Church & Society at the Anglican Communion Office in London, UK, ended the presentations by celebrating the work of churches worldwide in tackling gender-based violence and getting involved in the 16 Days of Activism. She also shared some of the collaborative campaigns that run throughout the 16 Days and beyond, and urged more churches to get involved.
Revd Robinson said, “We need to work to transform damaging behaviours and attitudes, in individuals, in communities and in leadership structures. And we can do that transformative work better if we work together.”
Here are the links to some of the initiatives she shared:
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