A Women’s Indaba
Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE) has been bringing delegates to New York for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) for 10 years. In working with Continuing Indaba AWE saw an opportunity to deepen connections that already exist and develop vital relationships. The hope in holding an Indaba was to open the door for the women of the Anglican Communion to engage in deeper and more resonant relationships with each other and, out of those deepened relationships, to find in Christ the transformation so needed by our world.
You can read more about AWE’s hopes for the process in their newsletter.
The 3 day event took place in New York just before the UNCSW meeting in March 2013. Janet Marshall (Canada) and Alice Mogwe (Botswana) facilitated the Indaba between the 11 women from America and Africa, which focused on violence against women and girls. Speaking to Anglican Communion News Service Lucie Nzarambal, Vice Chairperson of the Mothers’ Union in Rwanda and a District Councillor representing women, explained that, thanks to the gathering, she would be going back with new tools to address violence in Rwanda, “This is the first time I’ve heard about ‘safe spaces’ where a woman can come and talk and break silence about the violence [she has experienced]. That’s something I will take back to my country; as is the idea of gathering two or three women together in small groups, giving them the opportunity to break the silence [about abuse]. Women are not able to talk about it in large gatherings.
Diane Enyon, Chair of AWE describes the process:
We were asked several questions. “What is the goal?” “What do you hope to achieve?” “How will it work?” We were unable to give exact answers; Indaba is an organic process, going where the Lord leads and where the group finds itself after deep conversation, prayer, and contemplation. We knew it meant trusting the process, our facilitators, and one another to do the work that came before us.
Essentially, the program was a place to “put down the burden,” a place to rejuvenate and draw strength, a place to share with others in a way we can’t or don’t do at home. It was an opportunity to talk about violence against girls and women. It was not a conversation based on facts and figures and set speeches but rather through genuine sharing with women who are experiencing or witnessing violence, not in the abstract but in real life.
You can read the ENS interview with Diane in full here
Just as with the Continuing Indaba Pilot Conversations, an Evaluator was present at the Indaba. Here are some of her conclusions on the process:
Overall, the aim of the AWE Women’s Indaba was to develop and further partnerships among women across continents in ways that might help bring about social change in their respective communities. The role of the Indaba in achieving this was to encourage genuine conversation among women across cultural and other differences, deepen mutual understanding among women of very different backgrounds, and offer insights that might strengthen local mission and enable mutual mission. The Indaba succeeded in developing authentic conversation across vast cultural differences, primarily through skillful and excellent cross-cultural co-facilitation; through American participants being willing to suspend their own cultural norms for communication in order to engage in earnest and patient listening to their African counterparts, and through the African participants’ willingness to take risks and speak openly to a group of women they barely knew. The data show that participants did experience a sense of mutual listening and deepened understanding within this abbreviated Indaba format.
The Women’s Indaba was particularly successful for the group of African women who came together as strangers across their own differences of culture, status, and other factors. They built an internal cohesion capable of sustaining their relationships with one another for pursuing local and mutual mission through practical projects intended to help women break the silence surrounding gender violence as well as to empower them psychologically and economically. These efforts should be actively supported through Continuing Indaba, AWE, and other organizations that might be interested in partnering with the participants’ efforts to move forward in this critically important area. How AWE will utilize the Women’s Indaba experience was unclear at the end of the event, although the vitally important step of a conversation within Africa could continue and deepen whatever transformative insights may have taken root from the indaba process.
In many ways, this Women’s Indaba can be considered to be characteristic in membership of female leaders who work cross-culturally, developing policies and programs that affect the status of women. All of the participants had experienced leadership within their own contexts. The Indaba methodology was helpful in developing a form of cross-cultural communication that is egalitarian and transformative. It respects differences and yet seeks to move toward action-related steps that are contextually sensitive, a process similar in many ways to transversal feminist dialogue.That the Indaba occurred within a religious context adds both a shared bond across cultural differences and draws upon the use of scripture and reflection as tools for deepened conversation in ways that might not otherwise have occurred.
What is emerging from the Women’s Indaba?
The feedback from the group was positive and they were keen to continue and deepen the conversation in the future, both as AWE and in different contexts. Indaba processes were seen as a safe space for empowering women’s voices. The group identified Indaba processes as potentially useful in a variety of situations, as this bar graph from the Evaluation Report shows.
This Indaba has sparked ideas and hopes for the future for the AWE group, who hope to meet again, this time in Africa, to go deeper together in conversation on this issue. In this article on the GTS website Kim Robey, one of the participants, expresses a desire to use Indaba in the seminary.
Want to know more?
Episcopal News Service (ENS) article – Women’s Indaba – a pathway to healing and wellness
Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) article – Women’s Indaba success will mean similar gatherings across Africa, USA