Anastassia Zinke interviews Rev. Joyce Kariuki, acting general secretary of the Anglican Councils of Africa.

Was this your first time attending the Conference on the Status of Women (CSW)?

I have been here several times before.  The last one I attended was the CSW focused on the Girl Child.  I think this is the fourth time that I have attended a CSW.  This year I was requested by the archbishop to come.  They send someone yearly, but some years for personal reasons I have been unable to serve as the delegate.

What have you learned or taken away from this year’s CSW?

We cannot let the Beijing Platform for Action to be eclipsed by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or be dropped as a tool in addressing women’s rights.  We are far from achieving our goal.  It is a struggle to keep this movement going, to achieve the empowerment of women.  The Beijing Platform is useful to us though, because it reminds us and equips us to keep this struggle going.  It helps articulate women’s issues.  We can refer to it and make sure – through the use of the right language – that others understand.

What are the pressing issues that you see in Kenya?  In the church?

Also, gender equity in the church needs to be addressed.  We are far behind the governments in terms of gender equity.  This will not do.  The church ought to be the model for society.  We also have to acknowledge the huge reach that we have.  We reach everyone: girls, women, men, and boys.  We have the ability to ensure that the message is being heard.

This can be complicated however.  There is a debate that the girl-child has been promoted so much that the boy-child has been left behind.  So now I include the boy-child, so that it is about holistic participation in change.  However, we have not forgotten that that the child-girl has been in a difficult situation.  We all have become involved, and help them become and stay students.

Another significant issue is domestic violence against women.  When there is violence, a woman is reduced to nothing.  We need to change this.  The church has not been able to address this yet.  During this conference, however, I heard a South African man talk about his work of leading men to address violence against women.  Men themselves condemning the violence.  They see that it is their issue.  This is powerful and a model that I would like to see adopted in Kenya, so that men don’t push the issue aside.

In Kenya, we are changing the constitution.  This presents a great possibility for women.  We need to finish this process.  Though we can critique the government, we cannot let this opportunity pass.  We must recognize that we all function under the government, so we need to partner with the government to get the constitution to its the best stage.

How do you feel that the church does on women’s issues?

There is good will with the church; that is why they sent me to the CSW.  Also, I have been given the opportunity to present on women’s issues in the past to provincial synod. Further, women are being given decision making opportunities.  There is now a woman serving as the provincial secretary, immediately under the bishop.  Also several women run departments, and serve as deacons.

African Consultative Council also has passed a resolution, calling for women to be in 30% of decision-making positions.  The implementation of this is going slowly, but improvements are being made.

How have you experienced being with women from around the world?

It has been a learning process, listening to them and hearing different perspectives.  Our struggles are the same, but we handle them differently.  Still it is encouraging to know that solutions have worked elsewhere and to be forming partnerships with other women leaders.  It brings a sense of unity to the Anglican Church to see that we are speaking from the same faith.

In what ways does your faith or theology inform the work that you do?

It is a part of it.  I am not separate from my faith or my God.  It is a part of me that I can’t do without.  And these issues affect human life, and therefore affect my faith.  They are not separate.  Jesus went around healing not just preaching.  His healing was the biggest part of his part of his ministry.

For ministry to be meaningful you have to touch people’s lives.  You have to work to make a difference.

What message would you like to share with the next generation?

Respect of human life, regardless of sex, status, race or any of factors.  Value them all as God’s creation.

Work to create a forum for people to be their full selves.  Emulate some of the good lessons that have been taught to you.  We will be mentors when you need us.

Achieving and living in freedom is important, but it comes with responsibility.  We have to accept this responsibility despite its hard work.  The next generation has to be able to sacrifice themselves for God.

Finally, the UN instruments have done quite a bit, but more improvement is needed to get the UN to work with the faith-based sector.  This is especially true in regards to capacity-building.  When the UN is working in communities, to be successful they must involve the faith-based sector.  We have the people to do the work and know the challenges at hand.