Leveling the Playing Field: Women’s Empowerment
Since the 1980s women’s empowerment has been a major worldwide focus, especially in developing nations. World Bank, a global partnership of 189 countries whose mission is to fight worldwide poverty, defines empowerment as “the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions.”(Empowerment in Practice: Analysis and Implementation, May 2007). Using this definition, Jesus may have been the first empowerment pioneer, often showing the capability of women to make their own choices and achieve their goals.
Wherever Sports Outreach (SO) works, women have always received the respect and dignity befitting their creation as image bearers of God. While cultural mores often prevent girls and women from being seen as equal to men, through the example of SO staff members and biblical teaching, women are now filling leadership roles and gaining opportunities for economic equality. In northern Uganda Christine’s House (in partnership with Freedom 424), has given hope to nearly 150 sexually exploited young women. Daina, four months pregnant and in despair when she came to Christine’s House in 2016, is now employed at the new SO Guest House at the Good News Community Center (near Gulu, Uganda). She uses baking and other vocational skills learned there to prepare meals and serve guests, joyfully telling her redemptive story. Resources generated from the Guest House are being used to economically empower more struggling women through trades such as tailoring and hairdressing, and training in the use of computers.
The April 2018 SO newsletter mentioned the effectiveness of the SEED (Sustainable Education and Entrepreneur Development) initiative. Many of the approximately 100 people involved in SEED are women, and they are learning to implement the agricultural practices and leadership ability necessary to support their families and rise above the subservient existence they once lived. As these skills are strengthened and passed on, vibrant and self-sustaining communities will become models for future empowerment.
Uganda is not the only area where women are being uplifted. On Saturdays in El Salvador, you can find SO staff members Mirna Alferez and Hilda Lemus teaching arts and crafts to girls, as well as some of their mothers, enabling them to create beautiful items for possible sale. More importantly, a Bible lesson is taught and the group comes away with the feeling of having been valued and a growing self-respect.
By coming alongside women to encourage and empower through mentorship, discipleship, education, and vocational training, the goal of Sports Outreach is to provide a safe place for them to grow, while preparing them to be productive and able to manage their households. As they learn how much they are valued and loved by God, they will be empowered to step out into new roles with confidence and dignity.
Happy Mother’s Day!
The Sports Outreach Ministry Team