By Martha Awinoh
International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8. An event marked in countries around the world and is set to acknowledge women’s significant contributions to society with the aim of achieving equality for women in all areas of life. This year, the annual event has been themed “Balance for Better”, a call-to-action for driving gender balance within the church and society. Studies show that most African countries continue to lag behind the rest of the world on matters women’s participation in development. This is largely due to deeply entrenched discriminatory views about the role and position of women and girls within African societies. This has positioned women at an inferior position resulting in unequal power relations between them and their male counterpart.
Within churches, there is still ongoing debate regarding the role of women in church leadership. Amidst all these rising concerns about women leadership, the OAIC acknowledges the big role played by women especially in the founding of African Instituted Churches. The history of women’s role in founding African Independent churches is well narrated through the lives of many women. A good example is that of Prophetess Agnes Okoh who is best described as an embodiment of hope, comfort, discipline, integrity, and Christ-likeness.
Prophetess Agnes’ ministry was planted in towns and villages. She always honoured people’s invitation to minister in their villages and towns. At other times, however, she is said to have been prompted by the Holy Spirit, through dreams and visions to go to certain places and preach the gospel. As much as Agnes was not literate, she did not allow her illiteracy to impede her leadership role. Through the use of her God-given gifts and talents, she integrated maternal health in the founding values. This initiative in maternal health has with time been scaled up to maternity homes. Realizing the importance of education, Prophetess Agnes Okoh established educational centres which trained both children and elderly on different walks of life.
The foundation laid by Prophetess Agnes Okoh and other women founders has greatly contributed to the mission of African Independent Churches consequently the OIAC vision and mission. Her interest in the holistic mission that leads to the transformation of the community reminds us that the AICs ministry is beyond the confines of the church. AICs mission and vision focuses more on the wider issues affecting the society ensuring people live an abundant life in the community for their children and the world.
At a time when Africa is striving to end child mortality, maternal mortality, poverty, youth unemployment, and food and nutrition insecurities and gender inequalities (The cost of gender inequality in Africa is over $100 billion), there is a need for the church to reflect upon the realities that are affecting Africa and to understand our calling towards transforming Africa. All these situations of indignity will be death with at a faster rate when women and their resourcefulness are recognized within our communities.
Therefore, promoting women leadership should be an integral part of visioning for a better world. This task calls us to realize the importance of women leadership in all spheres. As we observe Lent as a season and consequently the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is key to recognize the important role that was played by women during Jesus’ death and resurrection. According to scriptures, it was women who were reported as the first witnesses to the resurrection, chief among them Mary Magdalene. This places women in an important place in the proclamation of the gospel. Truly, there is more to gain when women flourish for their own good and for the good of the whole society. Happy International Women’s Day.