Faith Leadership Gender Transformation Programme
Imagine faith leaders across South Africa transforming their places of worship and institutions to be a driving force in turning the tide against GBVF…
Imagine faith leaders equipped with both sound theological foundations and an understanding of how their own gendered history has influenced their gender positionality…
Imagine faith leaders continually challenging and empowering themselves to lead this change in disrupting normalised patriarchal attitudes and behaviours through empowering their congregants, creating safe and inclusive communities and promoting mutual respect, dignity and human rights.
All rooted in contextual approaches to sacred texts. Within a strengthened interfaith community.
What began as a radical idea, translated into the launch of the Faith Leadership Gender Transformation Programme (FLGTP) in 2019 which then kicked into gear in 2020 and ran through 2021. Initiated by WWSOSA, the programme was conceptualised from the start as a collaborative project between WWSOSA Coalition members, and other partners then joined as the project was opened up to the Faith Action to End GBV Collective. The FLGTP-2 has just completed a review in cycle 7 with 24 participants which included possible improvements to the process for the remainder of pilot 2 as well as to propose more substantive changes to pilot 3.
Many participants expressed strongly that the FLGTP offers something unique and all agreed that it must be continued and made more widely available as the need for it is great. The mentor and facilitation team was commended as offering a diversity of skills and experience, and being committed to going the extra mile.
Important feedback was that some participants feel that the programme stereotypes all church leaders as perpetrators, rather than thinking about how they can be integrated into the GBV struggle. At the same time, it is true that there are silent perpetrators among church leaders while many women do not feel safe to speak out. It was proposed that in small groups, especially if the participants meet in person as was suggested, we need to create safe enough spaces so that participants can explore difficult themes openly and without shame – to be able to journey from where they are, avoid hurting people but also to be able to have courageous conversations, as happened when some KZN participants met in Durban.
Regarding mentorship, it was suggested that in pilot 3, mentor training needs to focus more on the methods of accompaniment and coaching skills so mentors can accompany their group members as they undertake their praxis work.
A key learning was that we need to work proactively to prevent GBV. At an individual level this would involve faith leaders being more proactive for instance in building healthy marriages and engaging before violence happens. At an institutional level, it was suggested that faith leaders focus on influencing policies and directions in the church to influence change and raise awareness in all aspects of ministries such as in sermons and Sunday schools.
For pilot 3 this may mean putting more emphasis on the praxis part of the programme – creating more opportunities for practical conversations and reflection on participants’ own ministry contexts and how in small ways they might shift their own thinking about how they focus more on implementing new life-giving approaches in their everyday ministry.