African United Methodist Women Address Local, National Needs

African United Methodist Women Address Local, National Needs
Cordelia Maigari, coordinator for UMW Cameroon and graduate of the fishery program, clears a fish pond of Nunephr grass, which kills fish.

After completing six months in Cameroon United Methodist Women’s fishery vocational training program, Cordelia Maigari’s fish farm was up and running.

“I chose fishery because fish is good to eat,” said Maigari, women’s coordinator for United Methodist Women in Cameroon and graduate of the fishery program. “We do tilapia, kanga—a very large fish—carp, viper fish, mud fish. Nice fish. I make a living.”

Cameroon United Methodist Women offers scholarships and vocational training in cosmetology, dressmaking and fishery—and it is not alone. Throughout the African Central Conferences, United Methodist Women groups offer scholarships, health and academic education and income-generating skills training programs to enable women to support their families and improve the living conditions of their communities.

African women exchanged information and best practices about their programs when they gathered for the “Women Transforming the World” conference in Maputo, Mozambique, Oct. 17-21. The conference was sponsored by U.S. United Methodist Women.

Cameroon United Methodist Women plans to grow its fishery program into a cooperative business enterprise that supports local women. 

“Tilapia is going to produce every three months, and some of the bigger fish in the pond eat some of the tilapia,” Maigari said. “By end of the year one fish can have 3 kilos. I supplied fish for retail and wholesale traders in 11 months and two weeks. Women get fish from us and sell it. Last Christmas, wholesalers came to the pond with a big drum to get the fish.”  

The women’s fishery cooperative also dries the fish for retail and wholesale.

“Salaries are so low, this will let the women support their families,” said the Rev. Julienne Ngele Ngo Um, national president of Cameroon United Methodist Women. 

Cameroon United Methodist Women leaders said that, in time, the fishery will also provide a regular source of funding for its outreach ministries. A grant through United Methodist Women’s regional missionary Grace Musuka’s office provided seed money for the Cameroon women’s vocational training program.

Tanzania

Tanzania United Methodist Church Women is organized in a nation bearing the fallout of wars of neighboring countries in East-Central Africa. Thousands of refugees, women, children and orphans from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan live on the streets and in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Kigoma, home to five United Methodist churches. There is rarely enough food or other basic supplies for the camp’s more than 150,000 residents. On top of that, many Tanzanian families also struggle to educate their children and provide basic necessities. 

“We have women who don’t have anything,” said the Rev. Alphonsine Kabaka Ndala, women’s coordinator for the Tanzania United Methodist Church. “Owing to this situation, the Tanzania United Methodist Church Women are much more disturbed and discouraged as they feel abandoned by the church because many of them are not educated and because of the poverty and other social problems they face.” 

The Tanzania United Methodist Church Women Development program aims to address some these problems. 

“I’m teaching women how to sew, cook, study,” Ndala said. “We are making fabrics, and giving them skills so they can have money to support their families. We are paying school fees for children living with grandparents.”

The Tanzanian women’s program also teaches women and girls about nutrition, how to conduct business and includes Bible study.

“Our aim is to contribute to the social, economic and spiritual life conditions of the Tanzania United Methodist Church Women,” Ndala said. “We want to train and empower the women so that they become church, family and community pillars.”

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, widows and orphans are often at risk for poverty after the death of a husband or father when relatives take the deceased person's possessions, sometimes forcefully, other times without the knowledge of immediate family members. The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s Ministry with Women, Children and Youth department is addressing the issue in workshops that equip the community with information.

“We have a workshop on wills and inheritance laws to empower vulnerable people so they can stand up for their rights or be the voice of the voiceless,” said Tendai Rebecca Gurupira, coordinator of the Ministry with Women, Children and Youth. “Our presenters explained that there is a need for serious legal awareness. Women should not let everything be done by men. They must know where important documents like title deeds are and know their contents.”

Workshop participants learn how to create a will or family trust and how to enact these instruments upon the death of a spouse or parent. The women and youth were also encouraged to engage in some income-generating activity to improve their living conditions. 

United Methodist Women across Africa are addressing issues that impact the lives of women, children and youth each day; issues like education, poverty and economic development. 

Too often these issues of critical concern to women are not on the table when public and church policies are set. But women can and must change that, said Pauline Muchina, director of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society’s Healthy Families, Healthy Planet program.

“Tell me what African issue was addressed in the two weeks of General Conference?” Muchina said during the African women’s conference in Maputo. “So many women and children are dying and none of these issues are brought to the table. If you don’t have women who will lift our issues, we will always be left out.” 


Yvette Moore is director of communications for United Methodist Women.

 

Posted or updated: 10/30/2017 12:00:00 AM
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