The Episcopal Church is in the midst of supporting 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the church’s House of Deputies says the campaign has put her in mind of donkeys. And plows.
“What do the donkeys and plows have to do with ending gender-based violence?” she asks.
Plenty, as I learned last summer when I traveled to the Diocese of Tamale in northern Ghana with 18 other Episcopalians on an Episcopal Relief & Development pilgrimage. There I met women farmers, market stall owners, seamstresses and rice mill operators who are benefitting from economic empowerment programs made possible by Anglicans in Ghana and Episcopalians who support Episcopal Relief & Development.
In a region of the country that has seen little of the economic prosperity recently enjoyed in the south, these Ghanaian businesswomen are gaining small measures of economic independence that increase their authority in their households and their ability to make decisions for them and their children. As a result, they are reducing their risk for gender-based violence.
Last year during the 16 Days of Activism, Impatient Optimists—a blog of the Gates Foundation—quoted Stella Dube, a Zimbabwean women who owns five market stands, explaining how economic empowerment reduces gender-based violence:
“When I started making enough to pay for the children’s school fees, clothe and feed them, as if by magic the abuse from my husband abruptly stopped. It was as if he had gained some new found respect for me and started treating me as his equal. He has not raised his fist to me in seven years and I think he fears that if he does it again I am empowered enough to leave him and start a life for myself or worse report him to the police.”
All the more encouraging, then, that Episcopal Relief and Development and the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organisation (ADDRO) in the Diocese of Tamale, Ghana, were just awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will provide loans for women smallholder farmers to acquire a donkey, a plow and a cart for plowing their own fields and renting to others.