Doing justice from an engendered perspective
William & Veronica Kyle – South Africa
As Easter and all it’s meaning has come and gone. I can’t help but reflect on the life of Christ Jesus and the way in which women and children were embraced in his justice agenda. It seemed that everywhere Jesus went he was willing to stop, listen and engage in the issues of women. We all know the stories, the woman with the issue of blood, the woman who’s child was dying, the sisters who were in competition for His attention and had lost their brother, and the woman with the “reputation” who he gave his attention to the dismay of the disciples. All of these stories bring out the compassion that Jesus had toward those in society that were considered “less than” or “not equal to” those in authority.
Each and every day that I arise and head to the office, I have to drive down a particular street filled with trash and lined with ruined old buildings that display the neglect of slum landlords and the abuse of poor tenants. It’s enough to make me turn around and slip back in bed and pull the covers over my head. I want the images to go away, but they will not and I cannot run from them. This is my reality, like Jesus we are all faced to look into the face of the “least of them” and we are called, I like to say compelled, to do “something.” My “something” as humble as it is, is the Lydia’s House Project.” LH is an income generating project that I began under the authority of the UCCSA Central region as a response to what I see each morning on my way to the office.
What I didn’t describe before is the faces of the many men, women and children that I see each day, but mostly women who despite those living conditions are out sweeping their humble porches, sending children off to school, leaving those homes dressed in their very best to more than likely go out and clean someone’s house or take care of other people’s children. In many ways this is not new to my vision. I have seen this before, the marginalized living in conditions that most of us would never dream of experiencing.
In South Africa every 6 days a woman is killed as a result of domestic violence. Every 3 seconds a girl/women is raped and the numbers of school-age boys who are being sexually assaulted has more than tripled in the past year. Unemployment in some communities in South Africa is as high as 70%, leaving many women with children in a desperate situation where survival is concern. In case you are wondering about government assistance, which is about $25.00 per household, you have to lucky enough to have been processed off the waiting list, which is backlogged for years.
South Africa is working on these problems and the local government has just stated this past week how much more of an increase these families will get. But the government is strongly encouraging churches, cooperation and other NGO’s to get involved. In 2004 over 500,000 children became orphans as a result of the AIDS pandemic. The waiting list for orphans to be placed in a home or receive assistance will not be filled in my lifetime. The number of children headed household is staggering. This is a direct result of losing both parents to AIDS related illnesses. It is predicted that in less than 3 years, many South African towns and cities will run out of cemeteries to bury the victims of this horrible disease.
So where is the hope? Where does one get their spirit revived? It is when I visit a Lydia’s House cooperative or host a meeting of all of them, that I see the New South Africa, full of hope and promise. The women come from all over South Africa, young and old, some with skills, others wanting to acquire some. We sit and meet and share the visions, joys and concerns of Lydia’s House. We listen to testimonies of how lives have been changed and women empowered. Be still and listen to some of our joys and concerns:
Hi my name is *Linda, I heard about Lydia’s House from a friend. I am a knitter, but until LH I only made things for my family because I didn’t think that anyone would buy my things. I make things for Lydia’s House and now I have a bank account and I never thought that I would ever have one. Now, my children and grandchildren look at me with pride, I have a job, I have something of my own.
My name is *Karen, I don’t talk much, too shy. But, Praise God for Lydia’s House! I had a real Christmas; I am having so much fun making clothing. Veronica encourages me, I see that my clothes make people smile, they look good. I am proud to be in Lydia’s House. May there always be Lydia’s House.
Hello, I am Mrs. Smith I work with HIV positive women in Soweto. When I met Rev. Adora and Veronica from the UCCSA, I was so happy. Veronica said our women could join Lydia’s House and make our AIDS pins. We couldn’t believe it, now we make all sorts of AIDS pins. They are now in America! Can you believe my ladies pins are in America?! Mrs. Kyle gave us encouragement to make more things, now we make table runners and knit baby clothes. The ladies are happy for their lives are sad. They have no one but our program and no income, nothing to live for. Now we have Lydia’s House and we are “LIVING WITH AIDS,” not waiting to die.
So, these are just a few of the women that make my ride to and from work possible each day. Their faces of hope, their smiles, their determinations to not only survive but to live.
Yesterday a new young woman, *Janet joined one of the community groups. She looked to have been in her 20’s. Janet was with her 2-year-old son. Both were a bit shy and uncomfortable. This is how it always is, they come not knowing what to expect. I suspect in some ways they are wondering, “who is this woman with this strange accent talking about women and power?” Janet shared with the group that she lives with her baby’s father. When asked how does he support you? She replied, “He drinks, no money.” We asked nothing further for we all knew the drill. Janet is now a member of Lydia’s House and we will assist her as far as we are able to grow as a woman both financially and spiritually.
Please pray for all the 100 plus women and children who rely on this project and pray for me, the Project Coordinator, as I discern how to keep it going.
But PRAISE BE TO GOD! I am so aware that it is my faith and the faith of all those involved in Lydia’s House that will sustain it.
Jesus walked amongst us to remind us that life is precious and that a community of faith is necessary to manage our lives on this planet. Thank you, my Global Ministries Church Family for stretching your arms across many waters to be a part of the Lydia’s House community of faith. May God grant you nothing but peace and God’s richest blessings this year.
As we say here in South Africa,
William and Veronica Kyle serve with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Veronica serves as a coordinator for education, social, women and youth programs. She also serves as a consultant to the Bridgman Center.