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16 March - Cathrine Ngangira - Unsung Heroines

Unsung Heroines



  Rev'd Cathrine Ngangira, Curate at Holy Cross, Bearsted



I was not expecting a lecture to end in tears. After all, it was just a lecture on the Anglican Communion. From the PowerPoint slides, a picture caused my eyes to well up. Unknown to the lecturer, the faces of the Mother's Union members on the picture, were not just a random group of women from Zimbabwe. Instead, they were women whom I knew by name.

They are women whose lives and faith in action shape the story of my life and vivid memories of my experiences with them flooded my mind.

Following on from Mandy Marshall's reflection on Women's International Day, it seemed befitting that I celebrate this day and the whole month of Women (March) by commemorating the unsung heroines in my life and perhaps invite everyone to join in by celebrating their own unsung heroes too.

What makes the women that surrounded me growing up to be heroes is the fact that they defied the odds that were heavily stacked against them in a system that oppressed women. This group of women including young widows stood up for themselves and their children. They worked day and night using their God given gifts in sewing, knitting and gardening to provide for their children. Widows provided legal advice to one another from their experiences of fighting a system that took away inheritance rights from women and girl children. Some sacrificed their desire to marry again, so they would not neglect and leave behind their children when they moved in with new husbands after marriage.

In a society where dignity was defined by marital status, the widows and divorced women stood in solidarity with one another, giving one another mutual support physically, emotionally and in prayer. In the case of the death of a fellow widow, they became mothers to the orphaned children. 

They taught young girls to love and be proud of who they were. Not as second class citizens, but as God's beloved children, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Of course, it goes without saying that there were times when some of the teachings and grooming resulted in negative extrinsic factors such as gossip. Wherever hope and progress exists, detractors are not far away. That had the potential to break those at the wrong end of that stick and sway them off the positive path they were on. However, the fortunate ones turned the gossip into motivation to be better people. Some prevailed whilst some did fail.

I speak of the role and contribution of women back then in an unjust society as if it is a thing of the past. Some progress has been made in creating equal opportunities for men and women at work and in ministry. Steps have been taken in correcting the injustice around inheritance and gender based discrimination. Despite that, there is still a lot of work to do.

In this month, we celebrate the women whose work is recognised internationally. Let's not forget the many unsung heroines across the globe, whose stories we may never hear, yet are fighting against injustices at different levels of society especially in the grass roots.

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