The campaign focuses on the work of the Anglican Church in Zambia to support women who face violence – but is part of a wider concern of Us to address domestic violence worldwide. According to the UN, up to 70 per cent of women worldwide experience violence at some point in their lifetime.
Churches and church-goers were invited by Us to order and wear friendship bracelets as a reminder to pray for women. In addition, Us invited people to write messages of support for women in Zambia – with hundreds responding. The messages will be distributed among women in Zambia.
Us International Programme Manager Fran Mate said: ‘We have been very moved by the messages we received. The topic has struck a deep and tender chord with people in this country. It is a reminder that violence against women something that touches every community – and we should not overlook it.’
One woman wrote: ‘My prayers and thoughts are with you. I know how painful escaping from an abusive relationship can be. Stay the course, and God be with you.’
Another wrote: ‘You are not alone. Many all over the world understand what you are going through and how complicated your life is.’
Us – which changed its name from USPG in 2011 – is supporting a domestic violence programme set up by the Anglican Church in Zambia. The church is working with Zambia’s government and other organisations to raise awareness of legal rights, run women’s support groups, and give women job skills and literacy training so they can attain independence if necessary.
Grace Mazala Phiri, National Programmes Director for the Anglican Church in Zambia, says the whole family must be involved if change is to happen. She said: ‘We want women to feel empowered, but we don’t want men to feel worthless. We have to look at both the victim and the perpetrator to bring about healing.’
The Rt Revd William Mchombo, Bishop of Eastern Zambia, says he and his colleagues are working hard to change mindsets. He said: ‘The work we do is about showing people they are all equal, that women are valuable and girls are not inferior to boys. We’re trying to teach the next generation, who will be our future leaders. Part of this re-education involves pushing for women to have a greater role in the church.’
Us has prepared prayers and worship resources, and is inviting churches in Britain and Ireland to pray for an end to violence against women, in Zambia and throughout the world. The mission agency is encouraging churches to set aside Sunday 16 or Sunday 23 November in the run up to the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.
Find out more, download resources and order friendship bracelets at www.weareUs.org.uk/bracelet
In the picture: Margaret Chibela (right), a member of the Anglican-run Agape Women’s Group, in Senama, Zambia, with Agnes, an abuse survivor who was helped by the group. Margaret has been trained to counsel local women and help them find solutions to domestic abuse and the economic powerlessness that often accompany it. Margaret helps women to find legal help, access medical treatment, find a route to economic independence and, equally importantly, be a shoulder to cry on and a supportive friend. (Us/Leah Gordon)