International Women’s Day Webinar – ‘Inspiring Inclusion’

The first woman bishop of the Diocese of Lesotho in the Anglican Church of South Africa, Dr Vicentia Kgabe and the Revd Domnic Misolo – Director of the Institute for Faith and Gender Empowerment (IFAGE) in Kenya will be speaking at a webinar for International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. Entitled ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ and organised by the Anglican Communion Office, Bishop Vicentia will talk about her life and challenges as a woman in leadership. The Revd Domnic Misolo will talk about his work in teaching Gender Equality, ending gender-based violence through his male engagement and women empowerment programme.

Both hope that the webinar will equip and encourage those attending, “It will be an opportunity to reflect, encourage and affirm current leaders and emerging leaders,” said Bishop Vicentia. Domnic hopes it “will challenge and equip both men and women to work together as equal human beings and help create safe spaces in our churches and community to end gender-based violence and domestic abuse.” 

Despite reaching a senior position within the Anglican Church, Bishop Vicentia still faces some challenges. She said, “As a woman in a senior position, I face a challenge because traditionally, this role is associated with men, typically those who are married and of a certain age. I do not fit that profile, so when I enter a space and am introduced to people, they often express surprise and scepticism that I hold this position. It’s my responsibility to lead and communicate in a way that re-writes their perception of what my leadership can inspire and give permission to.” 

She believes that women following in her footsteps will find themselves in leadership positions where there has never been a woman leader before them. “This means they will have to blaze a trail, which won’t be an easy process. They must be confident in themselves and believe that they are meant to lead and that they, too, belong in those rooms and spaces where important decisions are made, and love and care are shown. Ultimately, they should remember that God’s opinion about them is the most important,” she said. 

Men play a key role, in partnership with women.  According to Domnic, “they need to know that authority and leadership that is culturally and religiously assigned to men both at home, church and society is not the will and purpose of God according to the Bible and Scripture. The truth is, both men and women were created equally in God’s image and likeness, to co-exist together in mutual relationship, and to share equal power, authority and leadership.” The Anglican priest works across east Africa and often comes up against opposition. “On many occasions, I have been opposed for teaching ‘Gender and Biblical Equality’. In the context of the Sub-Saharan Africa where we concentrate our work, majority of people and community leaders, including faith actors, believe that male-dominance, or patriarchy, is the divine will of God concerning men and women – and that male leadership and authority comes from God. On many occasions, the bible has been misinterpreted to justify such beliefs and norms which we believe is the root cause of sexual and gender-based violence,” he said. 

He believes that involving men and boys in ending gender-based violence and domestic abuse is key and critical. He said, “We must be intentional to support men and boys in order to overcome patriarchal beliefs and norms that have shaped them to love and misuse power and always feel to be in control as authentic leaders just because they are born male.” 

Bishop Vicentia has this advice for men from Romans 12:6-8 reminding them, she said, of what they already know, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So, if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” 

Mandy Marshall, Director of Gender Justice at the Anglican Communion, said, “This promises to be a powerful and impactful webinar. The conversation led by Bishop Vicentia looks at how important it is to have women in leadership, breaking down the barriers, so that it inspires other women to step into leadership positions and seek our opportunities for leadership. Domnic will introduce us to models of prevention through his work with men and boys which is so very crucial in stopping gender-based violence before it starts. It’s looking at gender equality in a different and inspiring way.”

March is often dubbed ‘Women’s Month’. Following International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March is Mothering Sunday (in some parts of the world) on 10 March. The UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is from 11 to 22 March. This is the biggest event that the UN in New York hosts and one of the largest gatherings of women globally. It brings together leaders from the world’s governments to negotiate conclusions about how best to address the inequalities and injustices experienced by women around the world. This year their theme is reducing poverty. 

The Anglican Communion will be represented by a small delegation including women leaders from the Church in Burundi and Pakistan with direct experience of transforming poverty in their communities and Mothers’ Union. The delegation will be supported by volunteers from the International Anglican Women’s Network with links to the UK, Mozambique, US and Canada. Look out for articles and posts on our website and social media pages in the run-up and during UNCSW.

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