This International Women's Day the Anglican Church in Zambia is launching a new initiative to tackle violence towards women and girls.
The statistics on gender-based violence in Zambia are shocking. According to one survey, 47 per cent of Zambian women have experienced some form of sexual or physical violence since the age of 15 . This violence includes beatings and rape, with some attacks ending in the woman’s death.
All five Anglican dioceses in Zambia are taking action to combat gender-based violence, including setting up women’s development groups to raise awareness of the issues, provide support, and help women to establish an income and a degree of independence. The church will also be offering support and counselling. And there will be training for church workers in how to speak effectively about gender-based violence in churches.
The Britain and Ireland-based Christian charity Us (formerly USPG) is supporting this work, which will be launched in Zambia with a march and public rally organised by the Zambia Anglican Council on International Women’s Day (8 March 2013).
Janette O’Neill, Us Chief Executive, said: ‘This is an issue that is massively affecting people’s lives, not just in Zambia, but in every country. When women are financially dependent on men, have little or no access to information about their rights, and are not given a voice in their community, they are vulnerable to ill-treatment and violence. The church is well placed to take a stand against this because it serves the whole community – regardless of gender.’
She continued: ‘Jesus was a radical in many ways, including with regard to women. In John 4 we can read about how Jesus interacted with the woman at the well - a woman who was rejected by her community and forced to draw water in the heat of the noonday sun. Jesus did not condemn or reject her and instead chose to reveal to her that He was the Messiah. Jesus affirmed women, included them, respected them and refused to condemn them when the crowd challenged him to do so. The heart of God is that every person - whether female or male - should experience the fullness of life Jesus speaks about in John 10:10.’
Grace Mazala Phiri is the National Programmes Director for the Anglican Church in Zambia and an Us partner.
She said: ‘Anglicans are taking action to support women and rebuild relationships, so women can reclaim their streets, their communities, their places of work – even their homes – as places which they can use in safety.’
The Most Revd Albert Chama, Archbishop of Central Africa, said: ‘We need to support women all the way until the goal of equality is achieved in all spheres of life: education and property ownership.
‘We have to be vigilant and make sure that the voice of the Church is heard when we speak on behalf of the downtrodden.’
Notes for Editors
[1 ]Zambia Demographic and Health, 2007