In their impressive book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn tell story after story of women in the developing world in order to create a call to arms against what they call “our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.”
The call to arms is important, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it’s the best strategy for fighting poverty. When one woman is helped, her children, her family, and the whole village benefits exponentially. Far from being depressing, the book is filled with hope and pragmatic opportunities, showing how just a little support can transform the lives of women and girls and help unleash their potential.
The Katowa Center is an Institution of the Anglican Diocese of Lusaka in Zambia. It operates as a conference center for education, with special emphasis on the training of women. In particular, it functions as a boarding facility for adult open learning students and for St. Mark’s Secondary School for young girls. When girls can be provided a safe place to live and study, it provides the greatest opportunity for success. If a girl can board at school, it also relieves economic strain on the family, and therefore engenders support and encouragement. Once one member of the family or village is educated, others can follow and success can build upon success.
Over a thousand miles away in Uganda in East Africa, the Kakaasi Christian Sewing Project has a similar mission, but takes a different approach. The purpose of the project is to assist women and young adults in achieving hands-on skills that will enable them to stand on their own.
The Rev. George Kaswarra, the project originator, explained that he sat with many women and heard their sad stories full of fears and frustration because the future of their children and others in their custody was unknown and very dim. That was when he came up with the idea of sewing classes. In rural Kakaasi, most people buy locally tailored clothes, including school uniforms, because they cannot afford ready-made imports. This project equips women and young people with the tools to create their own employment and gives them a chance to earn a living in a country where unemployment is 17%.
The award of Alleluia funds has helped the Kakaasi Christian Sewing Project purchase sewing machines and support two instructors, which in itself has employed two people. It has also helped the Maurice Katowa Center improve their infrastructure so the boarding school can continue to safely house girls to continue their secondary education.
Put very simply, without the Alleluia grant, “the work would not get done and we shall have to go on our knees and pray that God will lead us to more funds,” said Kaswarra. This year, that has not been necessary. God has allowed us in the Diocese of Newark to be the midwife of two new births.
“‘Shall I who bring on labor not bring about birth?’ says the Lord.
‘Shall I who cause birth shut the womb?’ says your God.”
— Isaiah 66:9*
*TANAKH, The Jewish Bible translation