One of the poorest villages in the district of Butyama, Kibubwa recorded high rates of domestic violence and child marriage and low rates of girls’ enrollment in school. Women were not allowed to speak in public, did not own their own land but were required to provide labor on the farm, and were not permitted to participate in household or child-rearing decisions. In addition, there was no church and many villagers held to traditional beliefs and did not believe in God.
World Renew and the African Inland Church of Tanzania have been engaged in five-year community development programs in the Diocese of Mara Ukerewe and Kibubwa was enfolded into this program, integrating programming in leadership, literacy, conservation agriculture, savings programs, and gender justice.
With the gravity of Kibubwa’s gender issues in mind, at the beginning of this year World Renew and the African Inland Church decided to support the community in discussing and analyzing issues around gender in their village. To encourage the Biblical principle that men and women are both image bearers of God, they used this text from the Christian Reformed Church’s testimony Our World Belongs To God: “together, male and female, single and married, young and old—every hue and variety of humanity—we are called to represent God, for the Lord God made us all.”.
This testimony was powerful because, in addition to community development projects, Kibubwa now has a church as well. Many people have accepted salvation, people have abandoned their traditional beliefs and turned to Christ, and more churches have been established. Through the church, the community has benefited from a number of development projects including community banks, agricultural training, a community health center, and boreholes to provide clean water for household use. Community members have become more open to learning and have adopted new ways of doing things. Together they speak about the spiritual transformation they have seen since this intervention began. All of this has prepared the way for the village discussion of gender issues and changes can be seen there too.
Villagers Francesca and James Nyamitegeza were among the first converts to Christianity in the village. As they grew in their relationship with Christ, they took up leadership roles in church and the community. James is now a church elder and evangelist and Francesca is a role model and leader for the women’s group in the community. They are also champion farmers charged with forming farming groups. Having discovered that farmers adapt more easily when learning from a fellow farmer in the community, they make available their farming plots as demonstration farms for others.
After the training, James started treating his wife differently. Because he learned that they were equal before God, he started respecting her, proudly introducing her to visitors, and showing affection to her in public. He invited her into conversation, gave her an opportunity to make decisions, and started helping out with difficult household chores like collecting water and splitting firewood. He allocated Francesca her own plot of land and allowed her to make decisions about the cash earned from the sales of the produce.
Francesca and James see their marriage and family as Christian role models in the village. As a couple they hope to continue being good witnesses for Christ and to play a role in the transformation story of their community.
World Renew East Africa