Anglican Partnerships Empowering Women

On February 28, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Zambian Anglican Council (ZAC) participated in “US African Partnerships: Success Stories from African Rural Women,” a panel facilitated by Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE). Moderated by Kim Robey, Executive Director of AWE, the discussion was a parallel event of the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNSCW).

The panel explored best practices and challenges in relief and development in Malawi, Zambia, South Sudan and Rwanda, and included participants from Love’s Harvest, Episcopal Church companion dioceses, and African Road. Grace Mazala, the executive director of the Zambian Anglican Council, and I represented the partnership of ZAC and Episcopal Relief & Development.

Before the event, Grace and I were nervous about having enough to say on the panel.  When we sat down to work on our thoughts, though, we realized we have done so much together as partners that we would be able to fill our allotted time after all!  One of the aspects of Episcopal Relief & Development that I love most is the partnerships and relationships we are able to build around the world.  Having Grace here this week has reaffirmed for me the power of these partnerships on the ground and in enabling people to transform their lives.

True partners support and nurture each other’s work.  They encourage and learn from each other in many different ways.  The panel event was a testament to how strong partnerships can facilitate development – not only in the communities they are working to serve, but also in the partners themselves. When partners recognize their own assets that are brought into the relationship, it not only strengthens the mission, but also enriches their ability to face challenges and obstacles. 

What also struck me about this panel was that most of the organizations grew out of the structures of the Church. As we explored the challenges to gender equality within the Church’s historically patriarchal culture, it is amazing to see that a cultural shift appears to be happening, and gains in gender equity and women’s empowerment are taking root at all levels.

Grace is an extraordinary woman. She not only has developed ZAC into a national organization in eight short years, but also has grown into a leader in her own community, her church and even her family. When she speaks of the partnership of the Zambian Anglican Council and Episcopal Relief & Development, you can hear the passion she has for the program participants and the changes she has seen in them over the years.

Her story is a perfect example of the role of partnership in the shift toward gender equity.  When Grace began her work with the Church, she had to fight to get even one bishop to hear her. But through her partners’ encouragement, she was able to continue along the path of developing ZAC – and today all five Anglican bishops in Zambia listen to her voice.  She has also facilitated the empowerment of other women on staff within ZAC, with a majority of them in leadership positions.  But she also recognizes the power of working together with men, and that no one should be left out of the process. Once again, this illustrates the beauty of partnership: With all participants being heard and contributing to the process, it has enabled everyone – women and men alike – to experience empowerment and transformation.


Danielle Tirello Givens is a Program Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development

Photo: Women in Zambia are progressing toward more equity with the support and partnership of the Zambian Anglican Council and Episcopal Relief & Development. Courtesy of Harvey Wang for Episcopal Relief & Development.