Pragmatically, the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) responds to gender based violence in a number of ways. One of the ways is through various projects of Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWSD). In Haiti PWS&D works in conjunction with Partners in Health on an anti gender based violence program. In Malawi, one way of helping women is by empowering them. By working through a maternal and child health program sponsored in part by PWS&D, women can make more and better choices about their birth experience.
While Guy Smagghe, the director of PWS&D, was here a couple of weeks ago we were able to tour an all girls school that is run by the CCAP (the church I work with) in a remote rural area called Neno. The girls in the picture above go to that school and are therefore supported by the PCC. When asked, they wanted to be nurses, doctors, lawyers, business people and even one soldier. Sadly none wanted to be ministers! They came from all over but mostly the south part of Malawi. For the most part they were from Christian families but there were some Muslim girls as well.
One of the young women pictured was particularly sparky. She answered for the group, eliciting giggles from the others with her brazenness. She comes from a very densely populated neighbourhood in Blantyre that suffers chronic infrastructure problems such as no electricity and no access to potable water. The education she would obtain locally would be far below the level that she gets in Neno. She is thriving in Neno, getting a top quality education and expanding her horizons. By getting an education each of the girls lessen (but certainly not eliminate) their chance of experiencing violence. They will have the tools to work for a more just Malawi.
In an ongoing effort to promote women, the CCAP has intentionally trained up a new headmistress (Esther, pictured above with mentor, current headmaster John). This has been a multi year effort and has yielded impressive results. Last year, all Neno girls who took the final standardized exams passed. This puts Neno among only a handful of schools in the country to have such a high pass rate. Now all of the girls will have a tangible role model of a strong professional woman before them to compliment the many strong mothers they have.
Guy Smagghe, the director of PWS&D, is in the Lower Mainland to speak about these projects and others. If you have a chance, go and hear what he has to say. Here is the pdf with info PWSD, Guy’s visit, Nov 2017