The Girls Friendly Society (GFS) World Council is well underway in Johannesburg, South Africa, this week. Speeches during the opening ceremony, which included GFS members from across the Anglican Communion waving flags and banners in a colourful parade, stressed the importance of ending Gender Based Violence and the need to include boys.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Newcastle, Australia, Sonia Roulston, said that GFS was the reason she is a Bishop because it was there that she encountered Christ, “the presence and love of God in a deep way.”
Sheran Harper, the Worldwide President of Mothers’ Union, gave the opening address and received a standing ovation. She is impressed and excited with the energy and commitment of GFS and looks forward to how Mothers’ Union might work together more closely. She said: “in a world where women and girls face countless challenges and injustices, the work of the Girls Friendly Society stands as a powerful force for positive change. In the beautiful tapestry of service and compassion, both Mothers’ Union and Girls Friendly Society weave threads of empowerment and love, in a shared mission that uplifts the hearts and souls of women and girls around the world.”
She continued: “we must find ways to support each other prayerfully and practically as we embrace the challenges and celebrate the triumphs that face women and girls today, for our work is a symphony of love and hope, resonating with the transformative power of Christ’s teachings. Hand in hand, we can shape a future where every woman and girl can soar, defying limitations and spreading their wings to embrace their true potential.”
Mandy Marshall, the Anglican Communion’s Director of Gender Justice, gave a keynote speech on gender justice around the Anglican Communion. “Imagine every girl and woman being free of sexual abuse, rape and incest and not having to live with the lifelong consequences of that horrific abuse,” she said.
During a question-and-answer session after her speech, she said in response to a question about the challenges: “can churches build up a resource for survivors? Are there safe spaces for survivors to go? Are we connected to the local safe houses? Churches can’t provide all the needs for a survivor. They are traumatised, they are fearful and there are financial issues. A church cannot respond to all of those issues. You need to link into the service providers that are available. In some areas it is Mothers’ Union in some areas it is GFS. We need to be trauma informed about how to work with survivors to do that.”
The GFS World Council ends on 11 August.