Sunday, April 16, 2006

Archdeacon Robert and the Mother’s Union (Wed., 1 March)

We had been told to expect the truck to arrive early Wednesday, but it did not come and did not come. Having grown accustomed to East Africa Time, we were not unduly concerned. (It was much later when we learned that our truck had gone belly-up, and that the Lui folks were scurrying to find us an alternate vehicle.)

But some of our fellow travelers arrived in the guest compound, and they began talking with and challenging our missioners. Mama Margaret, Rebekah, and (I think) Mama Janifa and Lois had appeared in the compound, and they began quizzing Archdeacon Robert, wanting to know the details of the companion relationship agreement between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui. I was in my tukel at the time, and just overhearing this conversation. But a couple of things struck me.

First, some of these women had been present when we had talked about these items in the archdeaconry meetings. Why had they not spoken-out then? Was it because they defer to the men who were present?

Second, the issues these women raised – and raised very passionately – were somewhat different than the issues the men had raised in our archdeaconry meetings. The women spoke of education – the need to provide education not just for the children of Lui, but also for the young adults who have been deprived of education as a result of the past two decades of civil war during which there have been no schools. They also spoke strongly of the need for infrastructure that can empower women – especially the need for grinding mills, which could free-up women’s time so they could go to school.

Hearing this exchange, I began to develop this hypothesis: Even if we think we are giving the people of Lui an opportunity to speak, we need to make space for sub-groups – such as the women of Lui – to speak alone. Because I have a hunch that they are not going to speak when the men are present. Or at least that's my hypothesis, having seen this strong, smart women sit quietly in the archdeaconry meetings, then speak so clearly and forcefully with a small subset of our diocesan group.

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