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Scottish Parliament hosts faith-based gender justice exhibition showcasing women activists

Posted on: March 8, 2018 11:18 AM
WCC's deputy general secretary, Isabel Apawo Phiri, is one of the women featured in the Faith in Gender Justice exhibition, which opens today in the Scottish Parliament.
Photo Credit: WCC

[WCC] Christian Aid and Side by Side Scotland are staging an exhibition on “Faith in Gender Justice” at the Scottish Parliament. The exhibition is being staged this evening (8 March) for International Women’s Day. It showcases inspirational women from around the world who are working to challenge gender inequality across eight themes including climate change, violence against women, refugees and women in leadership.

Side by Side Scotland is part of a faith movement for gender justice. The opening is being sponsored by Kate Elizabeth Forbes, member of the Scottish parliament, and will be attended by other members of the Scottish parliament as well as faith leaders.

Miriam Weibye, church relations officer at the Scottish Episcopal Church and World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee member from the [Presbyterian] Church of Scotland, said many churches in Scotland are actively engaged with Side by Side, and the ecumenical steering group has been working to promote gender justice across the churches in Scotland, and in wider society

“Being supported by organisations such as Christian Aid, rather than by any one denomination, has enabled the group to be wide-reaching and proactive, and it is able to engage with events and materials in the different churches as well as organising things on its own,” said Weibye. “We’re aware that we cannot work in isolation on this issue, so we work together whenever possible, and since gender inequality is a global issue, the group works with international partners such as the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil and the All India Council of Christian Women.

“This is why we were keen for the exhibition to feature women of faith both from Scotland and from around the world,” said Weibye. “They have been tireless workers in their fields, and we are very happy to highlight and share their work here in Scotland.”

Churches in Scotland also support the longstanding global campaign “Thursdays In Black” to combat violence against women.

WCC deputy general secretary Isabel Apawo Phiri is one of the featured women in the exhibit, with her contribution to gender justice explained via text and a photograph. Phiri is quoted as saying, “‘Prophetic theology has turned me into an activist for gender justice.”

But her route has been costly, explains the exhibit text: “Isabel was introduced to gender justice discourse through the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. In 1995, she experienced violent attacks from male and female students at the University of Malawi after presenting research findings on sexual harassment and rape on campus.”

In the same year she was threatened with excommunication from the Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian for apparently inciting church women to seek gender justice in the church.

“However,” the text concluded, “she was voted Woman of the Year 1995 by the Nation Newspaper for breaking the silence in Malawi and bringing gender justice into public debate. A Centre for Gender Studies has since been established at the University of Malawi.”

In addition to Isabel Apawo Phiri, the women featuring in the exhibition include Roxana Añez from Bolivia, Maggie Birley and Dr Alison Elliot from Scotland, Major Maria Konti-Galinou from the Salvation Army in Greece, Lesley Orr and Professor Alison Phipps from Scotland, Sarah de Roure from Christian Aid in Brazil and Sister Isabel Smyth from Scotland.

From the Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the exhibition includes the Revd Marion Chatterley from the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Revd Elineide Ferreira from the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (the Anglican Episcopal Church in Brazil), Rachael Fraser from the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Revd Nosheen Khan from the Church of Pakistan and the Revd Dr Lydia Mwaniki from the Anglican Church of Kenya.

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The 16 women who feature in the Christian Aid / Side-by-Side Faith in Gender Justice exhibition at the Scottish Parliament.
Photo: Christian Aid

Rachael Fraser has been an Anglican Communion representative to previous meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The Revd Elineide Ferreira had been nominated by the Primate of Brazil to attend this year’s meeting, but her visa application was rejected by US authorities.

The Anglican Communion’s Director for Women in Church and Society, the Revd Canon Terrie Robinson, is co-chair of the steering group of the international Side by Side faith movement for gender justice, and will be speaking at tonight’s event at the Scottish Parliament.

“We are delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing the stories of inspirational women who have worked tirelessly, often under very difficult circumstances, to challenge some of the narratives around gender that prevent equal access to rights, resources and power,” the chair of Side by Side Scotland, Kathy Galloway, said. “We hope that our work raises awareness of the importance of decision makers and faith organisations working together to create gender equality, and our vision is that Side by Side as a movement can be a valuable tool for this happening in Scotland”.

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