Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Dignity

Today is International Women’s Day.

Today we celebrate the achievements of women, reflect on what women contribute to society and advocate for equality.

When I think about the average Zambian woman, I marvel at her innate strength...

She is up before the sunrises tending to her home and family - sweeping, cooking, looking after her children (and often a few nieces and nephews as well). She gets her children to school and goes to work. This often requires a long walk or a couple uncomfortable minibus rides. Many women take their youngest child to work with them so these long walks include their babies or toddlers on their backs, bags in hand, something else on their head.

The day is spent working at the market, cleaning someone’s home, or working on the fields. Often times the woman is the provider in the family. Sadly so many fathers are absent here. Immediate families are so broken and extended family so strong. Everyone helps each other out with the women so often holding those networks together. Even when fathers are around, so many are unemployed and drink too much and just don’t seem to have the work ethic women have. Most women run their households with very little support from their husbands.

After work the long journey home commences, child on the back, bag in hand, market goods on her head. At home she tends to her home and family again - hand washing the families clothes, cooking, looking after her children. By the time supper is ready it is late. The family eat and she washes the dishes and everyone goes to bed.

From a young age girls here start their informal training on running a household. Young girls have their younger siblings strapped to their backs. They help their mothers with all the household chores, they learn how to cook. They too are strong, just like their mothers and aunties.

In the midst of this daily cycle there is a deeply imbedded cultural belief the men are superior to women. It’s hard to understand that in a culture where women contribute so much, that they have so little value. It is heartbreaking to hear how women are not only demeaned on a daily basis but that so often they are also experience physical or sexual abuse.

It’s our hope and are prayer that we can help give dignity to the women we work with and to the girls in the schools. In this difficult place, we know we have a loving God who cries, as we do, over the inequalities and hardships women and girls face.

I recently did some training with The Dignity Campaign (http://www.dignity.org.za/). I was struck by the need to work with women and girls and the importance of advocating for dignity amongst females.

This week we are starting this process by doing some sexual health education in the schools we work with. We want to start teaching and opening discussion about some of these issues. Next week we are doing a Dignity Day with the grade 7 girls from the schools we work with. We’ll be looking at finding our identity, purpose and belonging in Jesus.

The road will be long but there is hope. We see it in the eyes of the children we work with. There future can be brighter than their current situations. We can live in a world where we honour and respect each other, celebrating all achievements and contributions regardless of gender and advocating for dignity for all.

Nkandu Joyce Chungu
Catherine Chilekwa


Diana Chisenga