Amazing Women! (and Men)

What an incredibly rich day I had today.  There is too much to tell in a brief post, but I will share a few highlights.  Today, without a doubt, and more than anything else, I recognized the beauty and splendor of people working hard to fight against poverty, injustice, violence and hunger.  I am humbled and amazed at these wonderful people and their work.  Today was the second day of the conference that I wrote about in my previous post.  I met and spoke with several truly remarkable women.

Gretchen Wallace is the founder of Global Grassroots.   This organization is supporting grassroots efforts by women to tackle tough problems in their community.  “Global Grassroots’ goal is to catalyze the development of conscious communities of change agents who will work independently, collectively and systemically to advance social change for vulnerable women and girls.” Gretchen is working in Rwanda.  Please go to their web site and learn about the work.  Gretchen and I had a chance to visit for a few minutes at the beginning of the opening session today.  It turns out that she is acquainted with the work that Debby Thomas is doing with women and the moringa trees.  Gretchen concluded out visit by saying, “Oh look, there’s Swanee.”

I turned and saw Swanee Hunt enter the meeting room.  She gave the keynote address today.  Go here to read the biography of this energetic and accomplished woman!  Swanee gave a great address.  She spoke about women and political power.  Rwanda leads the world with the percentage of women as parlimentarians (56%), which far surpasses the next closest nation, Sweden.  The talk turned to a good interactive discussion with participants sharing with each other liberally during her time with us. This was a fascinating discussion, including a sub topic which was excellent, an examination between gender statistical norms and averages versus the wide ranging variability of temperment, values and strategies of individual men and women.

Hunt shared the best quote of the day, referencing the fact that usually woman who serve at the ministry level (cabinet in the US) usually serve in positions of ministering to the marginalized (women, the ill, the poor), as opposed to men who serve as ministers of labor, defense, and state.  She said, “Ministers for the marginalized people become marginalized”.  Think about this in the context of your own personal work.  Could it be that at times we step back from helping the most needy because we will become invisible, non-appreciated or even cast out?

I spoke with Winnie Muhumuza of the Rwanda Women Community Development Network. We talked about the challenging situation facing teachers in Rwanda.  She also shared with me some of the projects that her organization is involved with, most of which centers on providing safety for abused women, opportunities for health, education, training and employment.  I was counting my blessings the whole time, yet realizing that I am grateful for people like Winnie who are working very hard to help those in great need.

I had lunch with Justine Mbabazi, a Rwandan legal advisor who works for USAID and currently serving as the chief advisor to the vice president of Afghanistan. This very accomplished woman helped draft the Rwandan constitution after the genocide in the early 90s and is now assisting the Afghans develop and implement their new constitution.  In response to my quey regarding American military operations in Afghanistan, Justine delivered an eloquent and persuasive argument in favor of US intervention there.  She had the whole group sitting around the lunch table engaged is a very lively discussion about Afghanistan and its issues.

After lunch, were divided up into groups and worked on a project in identifying resources for the new Centre for Gender Studies at KIE.  My group examined possible academic partners.  There were four of us in the group, Jamie, a recently graduated intern from UNC Chapel Hill who was working with Shirley Randell at the Centre; Adeline, a staffer at KIE, and Magdelena, a professor from the University of Dar es Salaam.

I’ve featured the amazing women today, I will report on the men in a future post!

Explore posts in the same categories: Africa, Community, Learning

2 Comments on “Amazing Women! (and Men)”

  1. Gayle Denham Says:

    I am enjoying your posts Scot. Chrissy Muhr arrived in Kigali Tuesday; and we hope to follow her within a month. I pray for travel mercies for you and encouragement for your family in your absence.

  2. sheadley Says:

    Gayle, so good to see you here! I am pleased to know that you are very close to getting here. You will be a blessing and without a doubt be blessed as well.

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