Justice and Empowerment for Women is Justice and Empowerment for Men too

Young children from a local primary school in Kenya raise up their hands against FGM
Young children from a local primary school in Kenya raise up their hands against FGM

You will agree with me that Patriarchy is an enemy of all! It is the source of all evil and generates seeds of violence against women and girls across many communities around the world. It makes innocent children suffer from what they don’t understand. Patriarchy is like a hidden cancer that continues to kill and destroy human family both from within and out. Even within UN and world’s target through Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), patriarchy still kills deep without much notice. Recently, I was invited by a fellow Anglican priest in his church to speak about Positive Masculinity and Biblical Equality for a bible study group in his church. My opening remarks without notice attracted much smiles and cheers from this group composed of young married women and men who were seated humbly and keen to listen to my speech and teaching on gender equality, a topic they considered hard but appropriate for young couples like them.

The simple statement in my opening remarks was that …justice and empowerment for women is equally justice and empowerment for men too In the middle of my presentation, one gentleman stood up and said, “…last week when our bible study coordinator mentioned that our next class/topic this week would be on gender equality, I was hesitant and uneasy for I knew it would be all about how men are bad, bad and bad…” He went on and said that, most in his life he has been opposed to discussions on equality between men and women as many speakers on the same topic ever since in his life always allude the fact that gender equality is a war between women and men, a struggle for power and leadership, women against men… and he thought this might be a risky discussion for his young family. My initial remarks that justice for women is justice for men too sounded like good news and a good start for this topic. He found himself positively on the receiving end on the topic he hated most. I later found that, majority of men in the room also thought like him.

Friends, one of the great lessons I’ve learned and that we all need to note in our passion and pursuit for gender equality is to relearn how to speak and tell this TRUTH in LOVE. Patriarchy has done and is still doing lots of harm to all human beings with its roots deeply in our religious misunderstanding and in secular worldviews of – socio-cultural, economic and political platforms. Millions of women and girls around the world are suffering and are enslaved just because they are females.

Based on my daily lessons, passion and struggles to engage men for the fight against patriarchy within the church circles, I want to say that –equality for men and women is not and should not be portrayed as war between men and women, or a contest of women against men for power. Gender equality is all about human race united together acknowledging, appreciating and understanding essential dignity, worth, gifting of each other as men and women made in God’s image. Gender equality is not about women’s issues but human family united against Patriarchy and its devastated effects on both men and women. The ideology of feminism always send cold blood among men who think that feminism per se is women’s philosophy to demonize, compete and over throw men. Gender equality is not about who to over throw who, who to take over, who to prove right, but a collective approach of all human beings coming together to face and challenge Patriarchy. As Christians, the Gospel of Christ ought to be central in our approach on gender equality in order to overcome and defeat Patriarchy through LOVE.

Growing up as a young boy in the rural village in Bondo (Kenya) and witnessing the reign and cruel hands of patriarchy both on us as children and on our parents, I grew up hating God whom I perceived from my Sunday school lessons as the author of patriarchy. I could not understand why my father had to marry all three wives who compete for his love. I could not explain why there was frequent fighting and beating of my mother(s) almost every day. I could not explain why my mother had to drop out of school at the age of 15 and be married a second wife. I could not explain why as children we lacked basic needs including enough food and better health care yet my mother continued giving birth up to 12 children in the midst of all struggles and uncertainty. I could not explain unbalanced community in regard to male and female relationship until I asked myself silently, what’s going on here…? Later in my life, God revealed to me that the arch enemy of human family is Patriarchy,and not males or females! Both my father and mother had no choice but to fulfill the desires of that cruel culture. Patriarchy hands all power to one gender (few men) locking out healthy choices for many communities around the world for any healthy relationship or meaningful development.

Oh, what I’m I saying here…this is just a glimpse of what we do as Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education. We empower both the church and community with Biblical knowledge of equality in order to influence and transform Christian theology and challenge/destroy Patriarchy. Yes, we can ……..

Below is the summery of activities done since January to April, 2016;

Christians from St. Peter’s Nyamira Church after receiving their certificates on Domestic Violence
Christians from St. Peter’s Nyamira Church after receiving their certificates on Domestic Violence

Training on Female circumcision (Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting – FGM/C)

In partnership with Tearfund UK, we conducted a follow up training workshop with Church leaders from Maasai, Kuria, Kisii, Meru and Luhya. This was to listen and learn/document lessons from the field and how church leaders are impacting and influencing community against FGM. FGM is the physical cutting of female genitalia for no medical reasons but for cultural obligation marking a stage from childhood to adult hood. It is always done for young girls from the age of nine. After cut, they can be married off. This is one of the main reasons for early marriages of young girls among the practicing communities in East Africa, lack of education for females and high rate of maternal deaths.

Domestic Violence Classes

Beginning January this year (2016), we piloted and launched a program called, Domestic Violence Discipleship Classes, eight weeks training with two churches in the Anglican Diocese of Bondo targeting victims of sexual and domestic violence within the Christian families and inclusively teaching and engaging the church to take lead in challenging structures and systems of patriarchy within the church and community. It is true from our classes that male dominance is the main cause of sexual and domestic violence in my community. Patriarchy finds strength both from religious teachings and cultural traditions and worldviews.

Supporting education of vulnerable girls

A part from gender empowerment trainings mentioned above, we are also involved in supporting very needy girls through paying school fees. Most of girls/women we support in schools are victims of sexual violence who are reconstructing their lives to live positively. Through this project, we are building a group of women/victims who have been sexually violated to have a voice in future to speak out against gender based violence and patriarchy.

 

2016 International Conference

In partnership with Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE International), we are in the process of planning an international conference this year in September with church and community leaders in East Africa. We are inviting top church leaders, teachers, researchers, students among others. This “Truth Be Told East African Conference” will explore among other things – Biblical misinterpretations that justify Patriarchy and how the church should take lead against Gender Based Violence. This conference will soon be available online for registration.

We need your prayers in all these endeavors. You can visit our website at www.efogeinternational.org for more about our work and how you can be involved.

Sincerely,

 

Rev’d Domnic Misolo – Founder

Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education (EFOGE) is a registered Non-Governmental Organization in Kenya and East Africa advocating for Gender Justice and Equality from a Biblical point of view through; Gender Empowerment Training, Research and Advocacy. EFOGE is managed by Board of Directors with Annual Audited Report.