This is an article from our quarterly newsletter. Click here to download the whole document as a pdf.

By Rose Mugabi Khalayi

Rose Mugabi

Rose Mugabi

The place of women in African religion is complex. In the past, a common African belief was that God created woman after making man because he wanted to improve on his art. He wanted to reflect beauty, intelligence, tenderness, compassion, patience and tolerance.

The story goes that God had tried but failed miserably with man. All he had got were muscles, a bit of a brain and little else! Despite this, the reality is that men rule in Africa. Parity remains out of reach.

In some cultures, women are considered the property of the men who father them or marry them. Boys are prioritised at school because sooner or later a girl will get married and no longer belong to the family. After a husband’s death, some ethnic groups expect the wife to marry a brother-in-law to get children in the name of the former husband. In other areas, it is taboo for a woman to talk when men are having a conversation. When someone asks, ‘Who is there?’ a woman answers, ‘It is nobody, just me.’

Women leaders from Rwanda

Women leaders, Rwanda

Traditional customs are deep-rooted but African Christian women are leading the fight for parity with men. Women across Africa are asserting their equality in the gospel and churches are beginning to embrace the giftedness and contribution of women in leadership. Nevertheless, women still face major roadblocks to full involvement in church life. In many African churches, cultural male privilege is reinforced by misinterpreting scripture. Ignorance of the full context of passages like 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and Ephesians 5:22 means thousands of churches claim that the Bible prohibits women from teaching and leadership roles. Women might be permitted to exercise their gifts in singing, children’s work and serve in the kitchen, but public ministry like preaching is done solely by men. Women do most of the work but men do most of the leadership.

“Women are still marginalized when it comes to leadership. Men are not helping women to come up and embrace their leadership roles because women are looked at as threats.”
Juliet Nabwire Wabwire, Women leader at Ebenezer Ministries, Uganda

Yet African women are transcending every social, political, economic and patriarchal barrier before them and are emerging as great leaders in the African church.

Their personal journeys have not been easy, but they have been spurred on in the knowledge that Jesus’s mission was gender inclusive and completely transformed the lives of women. For Jesus, there was no double standard, no exclusion and no limit placed on women’s God-given calling.

At Pastors Discipleship Network, my focus is on equipping, discipling and caring for women leaders. In partnership with APF and Next Leadership, we are organising a training event that will bring together 300 women leaders from across East Africa to develop their leadership, stewardship and accountability skills. This is an opportunity that will see them ready to effectively participate in ministry at both church and community level.

“Women need training to be able to perform their roles of leadership. There is so much ignorance about leadership and how it is done in many rural churches. In rural churches, women leaders who are married to non-believing husbands face a lot of hardship.”
Scovia Namusuubo, Women leader from Buvuma Islands, Uganda

Please join with me in prayer, asking that God would empower the ministry of women and men in full partnership. Pray that African women will no longer face unnecessary hurdles in the church and that male leaders would support women in leadership alongside them. Pray that scriptures covering the contribution of women in the church are interpreted accurately and in context.

Pray that churches come to the realisation that limiting women just serves to limit the advancement of the gospel. And pray that women will support each other to unearth their giftings in leadership in the African church.

Rose Mugabi is Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Pastors’ Discipleship Network, Uganda. Over the last seven years, she has seen over 700 pastors’ wives and women leaders equipped with Biblical, business and life skills. Rose has two master’s degrees including an MA in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary, California.

This is an article from our quarterly newsletter. Click here to download the whole document as a pdf.