‘South African women carving out bigger roles’

New Delhi, March 11: Women are carving out a bigger role for themselves in the socio-religious and political arena in post-apartheid South Africa, said Episcopal priest Mpho A. Tutu, a daughter of Nobel laureate Desmond M. Tutu.

“Two women have been ordained as bishops by Anglican Church recently in South Africa. It has been a long process. Getting the women ordained as bishops was not easy… There are many denominations within the Christian faith. In some denominations, women have been able to make space for themselves but in others women have no voice,” Mpho Tutu told.

The Episcopal Church ordains women to the priesthood.

Mpho Tutu, the founder and executive director of The Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage, a charity for religious intervention and social service was in India to address an interfaith seminar to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda March 9.

A preacher, teacher, and retreat facilitator, Tutu is the chairperson of the board of advisors of the 9/11 Unity Walk and a trustee of Angola University.

The bishop believes in the idea of a global village on the premise that “as a single community, we all depend on each other and belong to each other”.

The ordaining of women as bishops by the Church has “an impact on women in general in encouraging them to take up greater roles of leadership,” said Tutu, herself an ordained bishop. “You hear more women’s voices in key positions.”

Women religious leaders in South Africa usually take up humanitarian missions in “poverty, unemployment, nutrition, sanitation and ethical and daily issues in life”, she said.

“Clash of faith is not an issue in South Africa because of our history of interfaith work and anti-apartheid struggles between the faith communities,” Mpho Tutu said. She is a daughter of Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, a social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid.

“Faith had played a crucial role after many religious organisations were banned during the anti-apartheid crusade. What drove them to carry on with the liberation movement was their commitment to faith,” the evangelist said.

Most of the leaders who were inside the country during the apartheid movement like Desmond Tutu, Roman Catholic Archbishop, Bishop Nathaniel and the leaders of the Muslim community were committed to their faith… (but) closed ranks for a greater cause, Tutu said.

Tutu, who is in her late 40s, said that as the executive founder of the Desmond Tutu legacy foundation she keeps the legacy of her 81-year-old father alive by “managing his archives to provide a coherent platform to all cultural and social causes of which Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were patrons”.

Mpho A. Tutu and a group of like-minded organisations are working towards social reforms in South Africa.

“The two largest issues facing the country are poverty and disenfranchisement on one hand and ecology on the other,” Tutu said. The poor are the disenfranchised in South Africa because “their votes mean nothing”, the bishop said.

“There is a disconnect between the representative (elected) and the masses. Our election process needs to change and we are working to change the system to make the election more delegate-oriented. We want good people who work for the people,” Tutu said.

Looking back on the nearly 20 years of the formal end of apartheid with the first democratic elections in 1994, she said “the walls have not completely collapsed”.

“Look at Europe 100 years out. How much has changed? We had a codified system of apartheid for more than 40 years since the 1950s. We haven’t even had the time to build one generation after the first democratic election. It is going to take more than one generation to build an equal society,” Tutu said.


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