Botshelo Moilwa, a young African woman from Gaborone, Botswana, called on churches to affirm the dignity of women amidst the realities of HIV and AIDS and sexual violence, if they are to realize the Christian vision of justice and peace.
As one of the speakers at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) 10th Assembly here, Moilwa was addressing the theme “God of life, lead Africa to justice, peace and dignity.” The AACC assembly was held from June 3-9.
Representing the Botswana Council of Churches, which includes members of the World Council of Churches, Moilwa stressed that “affirming the dignity of women means affirming the dignity of Africa” for which she encouraged young theologians to work together.
Based on her experience since 2010 of coordinating a project on HIV and AIDS targeting female sex workers, in partnership with Kgolagano College of Theological Education in Botswana, Moilwa called violence against women a major challenge for the African churches.
“The stigma and discrimination that female sex workers face is only part of the violence that targets them every day. Being considered ‘loose and immoral women’ and rejected by the family members, they are highly marginalized and vulnerable,” she explained.
In such situations, “we need to remember that we are all created in the image of God and that the dignity of women comes from the creator and matters the most in adding value to how we relate to one another in our communities,” said Moilwa.
Based on these Christian values, her project attempts to help with “spiritual uplifting” of the female sex workers, along with conducting activities on psycho-social support, awareness raising, providing income generating alternatives and methods of HIV prevention.
To restore the dignity of the marginalized segments of society, including women, Moilwa endorsed the African concept of ubuntu, meaning humanity and sacredness of all people, a guiding principle for the churches when they seek justice and peace.
“A church has to be a safe place, where women faced with such violence can be embraced with love and compassion, and where they can find a sense of belonging.”
Moilwa said that churches can change the mentality of accepting sexual violence, and can encourage women to speak out against abuse, rape and incest. “It is the responsibility of the churches to help prevent such tragedies that victimize women in Africa and beyond.”
She stressed the role of women theologians as a significant one in helping to bring the churches together in addressing the issues of sexual and gender-based violence.
“To uphold the religious values of peace and justice, we must condemn violence against women as a pertinent sin against the creator. As theologians, we should address the threats to human dignity. We must work together to enhance all that dignifies even the most marginalized, stigmatized and vulnerable beings,” she added.
Moilwa’s speech at the AACC assembly was in response to a presentation made by John Mbiti from Kenya on the theme of “peace, justice and dignity.”