(Above): A mother and child health project in the Kenya West Tty 

October 15 is recognized by the United Nations (UN) as the International Day of Rural Women. António Guterres, UN secretary general, says, “The empowerment of rural women and girls is essential to building a prosperous, equitable and peaceful future for all on a healthy planet.”

Historically, there has been, and continues to be, a gap between men and women. Women are generally paid less than men, are more likely to be unemployed than men and have fewer opportunities than men.

To paint the picture: around the world, child marriage is still common and widespread, with 12 million girls being married before the age of 18 each year; 60 million girls are denied the right to a basic education; 200 million women have undergone female genital mutilation in the name of “purity” and increasing their chances to be married; and more than 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same job opportunities as men.

Discrimination against women is a persistent issue and, though there have been improvements, there is still much to do. The world missions department strives to empower women and adopt gender equality strategies when implementing new projects around the world. We subscribe to a holistic and intentional approach throughout our project processes, ensuring that women act as both agents and beneficiaries.

In the Sri Lanka Territory, we provided business skills and agricultural training to 80 female farmers, teaching important farming skills, such as improving the soil, planting seeds effectively, fertilizing, harvesting and land maintenance. Nisansala, one of our trainees, was able to improve her home garden and now sells her extra produce. With her thriving income, she is able to rent a vehicle to sell her fruits and vegetables to other villages, increasing her marketability and monthly earnings.

Photo: Students at The Salvation Army’s vocational training centre in the Congo (Brazzaville) Tty display their work from a tailoring classStudents at The Salvation Army’s vocational training centre in the Congo (Brazzaville) Tty display their work from a tailoring class
In the Congo (Brazzaville) Territory, we built a vocational training centre for unmarried mothers and vulnerable girls, providing them with literacy and job skills, such as tailoring, hair braiding and beauty care. Prior to this centre, many of these mothers and girls had never received a basic education. Merveille, one of the project’s beneficiaries, lived a hard life. “My dad died, so I stayed with my mother, but my mother did not have money for schooling,” she says. “My mother got sick, so I turned to prostitution.” Unfortunately, her story is not uncommon, particularly in developing countries. Women who lack education, skills and opportunities become easy prey for traffickers. This centre gives women like Merveille a place to learn and the skills to earn an income.

In the Kenya West Territory, the mother and child health project creates community awareness on maternal health issues and provides basic medical equipment. Women receive lessons on mother and child health, nutrition and growth, HIV and AIDS, injury prevention and immunization. Rose, a mother of seven, attended one of the seminars and helped to relay the information to her friends, family and peers, ensuring that mothers in her community remained healthy, knowledgeable and in control of their health. It’s no secret that when a mother thrives, the rest of the family benefits.

Nisansala, Merveille and Rose are all testimonies to the power of inclusivity and opportunity. When women are given the chance to learn and the resources to act, they can flourish and become agents of change in their own communities. These are just a few projects among many in which we seek to include, empower and strengthen women. By giving women the same opportunities as men and boys, we are building economies, uplifting communities and creating a sustainable future.

William Booth once said, “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight.” In the fight against gender discrimination and inequality, nobody loses. Rather, the whole world wins.

Kathy Nguyen is the office co-ordinator in the world missions department.

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