The legacy of Madagascar theologian Helen Ralivao continues through the launch of the Research and Resource Development Fund
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) sees theological education as a means to promote systemic change for greater gender justice in the church and in society. This principle was at the heart of the October launch of the Hélène Ralivao Fund’s Resource Coordination Center dedicated to empowering women in Africa and beyond.
Reverend Chad Rimmer, director of the LWF’s Identity, Communication and Formation Program, explained that the fund, which was created in memory of the Madagascar theologian who was murdered in February 2020, has “two wings”. The first is a scholarship program that was launched earlier this year and has already provided scholarships to ten women who are pursuing doctoral or master’s studies in theology and in leadership development in various African countries.
The second is the Research and Resource Coordination Centre, Rimmer continued, designed to “serve women and men in Africa and beyond” through courses, seminars and dissemination of materials on developing gender justice work in various local contexts. This pavilion will be coordinated by Tumaini University Makumira, University of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT).
We hope that the program will promote structural change and capacity building to advance women’s rights.
Speaking at the online launch event, the university’s School of Theology coordinator and dean, Reverend Dr. Angela Olotto, explained that the first phase of the program will run for three years starting in 2022. Seminars will be offered twice annually for approximately 30 participants, consisting of two weeks of instruction, followed by three Months of research, culminating in the publication of material to be shared with LWF’s broader company of churches.
In a context where the majority of church leaders in Africa are men, Olotu said, “We hope the program will promote structural change, building capacity to advance women’s rights” on the continent and beyond. The seminars will specifically target women aspiring to various levels of ecclesiastical leadership and are designed to train women and men to become self-trained in the practical application of gender justice principles.
Also speaking at the launch event was Reverend Patricia Gabedu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Zimbabwe, recipient of one of the first scholarships offered by the Helen Ralevao Fund. She noted that she had grown up in a rural area and had endured similar challenges to those of a Madagascar theologian, who had dedicated her life to empowering women in Africa and around the world communion of churches.
Ralévão “Our Mother in Faith”
Gabedu spoke of the many obstacles girls and women face in her area, from child marriage and a lack of educational opportunities, to oppressive inheritance laws, and a lack of leadership positions in church and society. While studying a course on project management, monitoring and evaluation in the context of gender justice, she said, “It opens my eyes and my mind to evaluating my church and also my home, how we raise our children.”
Ms Eva Christina Nilsson, Director of the Department of Theology, Mission and Justice at LWF, emphasized the vital work of the Héléne Ralivao Fund in “embracing and affirming the gifts and calling of all people in the Church.” And as we remember many of our ancestors in the faith, she said, “It is very important that she is [Ralivao] She can now serve as a mother who inspires the women and men in our churches “to continue the work she started.” She added that the new fund was made possible by LWF member churches “who heard the call for greater gender justice and the need to support women in theology and leadership.”
Former LWF Secretary General Rev. Dr. Martin Young also commended the cooperation of all involved in launching the new fund, which will build on existing scholarships already provided by LWF. “We have high expectations,” he said, “that research and resource development at Tomini Makumira University “will become a center where strong theology is developed and women are equipped for leadership in the church and in the community.”
LWF/P. a kitchen