Newsletter :

2003 June - Newsletter

Newsletter Contents

Circle Appoints New Coordinators

Strategic Plans for the Circle Partnership Between the Circle and Yale Divinity School
Circle Holds Pan African Conference News from the Chapters
Circle Publications Desk Background to the Circle
Coming Attractions  

Circle Appoints New Coordinators

The Circle appointed a new coordinator at the last Pan African Conference, which was held in Addis Ababa from 4th - 9th August 2002. Isabel Apawo Phiri, currently a Professor of African Theology at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa was appointed the General Coordinator of the Circle from 2002 to 2007.

She will serve one non- renewable term of five years and then circulate to other members. The General Coordinator's role is to:

  1. facilitate the visibility of the Circle;
  2. network with outsiders, partners and friends of the Circle;
  3. raise funds for the whole Circle;
  4. maintain unity of the Circle as a whole.

At the same gathering, three Linguistic Research Coordinators were appointed. Hélène Yinda of Cameroon, Dr. Dorcas Akintunde of Nigeria and Rev. Felicidade Cherinda of Mozambique were appointed coordinators for the Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone regions respectively.

They will serve one non-renewable term of 5 years. Their role is to:

  1. maintain communication within the linguistic Circle;
  2. liaise with the chief coordinator;
  3. mentor writing within the linguistic Circle;
  4. promote the vision of the Circle and welcome new members;
  5. liaise with Circle chapters;
  6. help in updating database, website and dissemination of information to members and their chapters.
Contact details are as follows:
General Coordinator
Professor Isabel Phiri of Malawi
was appointed General Coordinator.
Her address is as follows:
School of Theology,
University of Natal,
Private Bag X01 Scottsville,
3209, Pietermaritzburg
South Africa
Tel: (27-33) 260 6132,
Fax: (27-33) 260 5858,
Research Coordinator-
Ms. Hélène Yinda,
World YWCA,
16 Ancienne Route,
Ch-1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland,
Tel: 41-22-9296053,
Tel: (41-22) 929 6053 (Off)
Fax: (41-22) 929 6044 (Off),
Research Coordinator- English
Dr. Dorcas Olubanke Akintunde
Department of Religious Studies,
University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria,
Tel: 08023244616
Research Coordinator- Portuguese
Rev. Felicidade Cherinda, Caixa Postal 21, Igreja Presbiteriana de
Moçambique, Maputo
Mozambique, Tel: (258-1) 421790,
Fax: (258-1) 421790

Strategic Plans for the Circle

Following consultations during the planning committee meeting and the conference, the gathering of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians in Addis Ababa developed a new Plan of Action which will guide the activities of the Circle for the next five years.

Circle Plan of Action

Research and Writing

  1. Continue research and writing about HIV/AIDS, including stories of those living with AIDS.
  2. Explore the possibility of other publication forms, e.g. videos, oral histories

Educational Programming and Curriculum

  1. Train counsellors for HIV/AIDS work
  2. Incorporate HIV/AIDS training in Ministerial Formation courses in the Theological Institutions. Support and participate actively in the WCC plan of action in:

    1. training theological faculty;
    2. training both current seminarians and alumni to use AIDS curriculum;
    3. re-reading and re-interpreting the scriptures from an African woman's perspective.

  3. Incorporate HIV/AIDS training in gender courses in colleges and universities.
  4. Promote safe sex practices through educational programs and workshops in the home, faith communities, and society.
  5. Promote good health and nutrition and regular medical check ups.

Religious and Cultural Traditions

  1. Advocacy to counter harmful cultural and religious practices and retrieve positive ones.
  2. Honour women's bodies and increase women's self esteem.


  1. Regularly update the membership database.
  2. Encourage the use and maintenance of the website.
  3. Maintain and circulating the Bibliography of Circle Member publications.
  4. Encourage the development of Circle newsletters.

An ad hoc committee was nominated to look into issues of a publishing policy. Other areas to be explored include electronic publishing.

Institutionalisation of the Circle
The Circle so far has been functioning as a movement. There is a need to institutionalise the movement. Exploration on a constitution as well as a permanent voice will be agreed on over the next five years.

More strategic budgeting and fundraising is necessary especially to support the institutionalising of the Circle and more programmed research.

Roles and Responsibilities of Circle Members
At the Chapter level, Chapter leaders will:

  1. initiate and coordinate chapters of the Circle;
  2. communicate with the relevant linguistic coordinator;
  3. coordinate meetings to discuss papers for publication.

General Circle Membership and their mandate

  1. Commit to research and writing;
  2. Stimulate theological dialogue, reflection and critical analysis from the perspective of women both within the Circle and beyond;
  3. Commit to do research with, rather than merely about, grassroots women and ensure to acknowledge them in the outcome of research;
  4. Keep the Circle coordinators apprised of changes of addresses etc., so that a correct database can be maintained;
  5. Help in the distribution of Circle publications and their promotion;
  6. Be willing to volunteer their time, skills, and resources in order to enhance the work of the Circle e.g. editing papers submitted to conferences, editing Circle books, contributions to website, etc.

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Circle Holds Pan African Conference

The Pan African Women Theologians conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from August 4th to August 8th 2002. The theme of the Conference was Sex, Stigma and HIV/AIDS: African Women Challenging Religion, Culture and Social Practices. 140 Circle members attended the conference from 25 countries. The deliberations of the conference defined the agenda of the Circle for the next five years, 2002-2007. (A full report of the conference is on the Circle website).

Musimbi Kanyoro, Former Circle Coordinator, handing over the books of the Circle to Isabel Phiri, new Circle Coordinator.

Outgoing Circle Committee Members 1996-2002

The new circle committee would like to thank the outgoing committee for a job well done. You are the people who kept the touch of the Circle burning for the last seven years. The new committee will call upon you from time to time to draw on your wisdom. The members of the outgoing international coordinating committee that served since 1996 are as follows:

Coordinator: Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro
Research Coordinator: Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye
Theological Education and Ministerial Formation in Africa:
Rev. Dr. Nyambura Njoroge

Zone leaders:
Southern Africa: Rev. Phina Olga Kgosana
Eastern Africa: Rev. Grace Ndyabahika
Western Africa: Dr. Rabiatu Ammah
Francophone Africa: Ms. Hélène Yinda
Lusophone Africa: Ms. Eva Gomez
Francophone communication secretary: Sr. Bernadette Mbuy Beya
Anglophone communication secretary: Dr. Teresia Mbari Hinga


News from the General Coordinator Coordinator's Office
Dr Beverley Haddad worked with Isabel to establish the Circle's office in the School of Theology from October 2002 to April 2003. The School of Theology offered space for the Circle office, financial support for the Administrative Officer and general administration support while the Circle office was finding its feet. The support is greatly appreciated. Bev, the Circle wishes you well in your new full time job.

Celebrating Achievements
Prof Musa Dube The Circle is happy to congratulate Prof Musa Dube for her recent promotion from senior lecturer to Associate Professor at the University of Botswana. Musa is currently on leave of absent from her teaching job and is doing consultancy work for the World Council of Churches in Theological Institutions and HIV/AIDS curriculum. She is still based in Gabarone, Botswana.

Have you recently graduated with a diploma, degree, honours, Masters or PhD/ DMin? Please inform us at the Circle office in Pietermaritzburg so that we can share in your success with the rest of the Circle members. In your information, include the name of the institution, the qualification obtained, and where applicable the title of your dissertation/thesis.

Please tell us about your other achievements as well, including promotion from work, publication of an article or a book etc.

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Circle Publications Desk

Academic books
Coming soon Hear Our Cry: African Women, HIV/AIDS and Faith Communities, Edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri, Beverley Haddad and Madipoane Masenya, Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications.

Five other academic books are in the process of being prepared for publication in 2003. The books are based on papers, which were presented at the Circle's Pan African conference in Addis Ababa in August 2002. The above title has been sent to the publishers already and it is expected that the other books will be ready for publication soon. Watch this space for further information in the next edition of the newsletter.

AMKA publication
The Circle will continue to publish AMKA (Swahili word for Arise). Three AMKAs will be published in 2003 from the Addis Ababa conference papers, which were not included in the academic books. One of the AMKAs will be in Portuguese edited by Felicidade Cherinde and Victoria Pereira.

Circle Newsletter
The Circle will continue to produce a Newsletter, which will be circulated in April and October each year. The newsletter will be translated into French and Portuguese. It will be circulated to all registered members of the Circle and partners of the Circle. Helene Yinda will be the editor of the Circle Newsletter. Please send your contributions to Helene or to Isabel as soon as possible.

Circle Directory
An updated Circle directory will be circulated once each year in July. The constant updating of the directory is important because it offers the opportunity to add new members and to keep up with new addresses for the members. The Circle data form is on the Circle Website. The first updated directory will be circulated in July 2003. If you have changed your address please let us know as soon as possible.

The Circle Editor's workshop in Legon, Accra, Ghana, 1-5 Dec 2002.
Standing: Philomena Mwaura, Madipoane Masenya, Hazel Ayanga, Dorcas Akintunde & Helene Yinda
Sitting: Anne Kubai, Isabel Phiri, Felicidade Cherinda, Bernedette Mbuy Beya & Mercy Oduyoye.

Circle Profile Publication
Tell us something about yourselves. The Circle would like to publish a profile of Circle members, which will include a photo and a five line CV about each Circle member. This publication is necessary for conference, consultations, workshop, seminar organisers or possible employers. This will help to expose more Circle members to the world of conferences and it is hoped that the few prominent ones will not be overburdened with invitations as speakers at conferences, consultations, workshops and seminars. First publication will come out in 2004. Please send to the coordinator your recent coloured photograph and a brief CV as soon as possible.

Annotated Bibliography
The Circle is planning to publish an annotated Bibliography of the publications of Circle members. This publication will be very useful for theological institutions that want to use Circle publications in their teaching. First publication will come out in 2004. Please send to the coordinator a short paragraph of each of all your publications, describing what it is about and which discipline can use your article.

Essays in Honour of Mercy Oduyoye
The Circle has continued with the vision of publishing a book in honour of Mercy Oduyoye as the founder of the Circle. Watch this space for a call for papers for Mercy's book in the October 2003 Circle newsletter. The theme of the book will be: 'Women and Health in Africa'. This book will be published in 2004.

Circle Website
In March 2003 the hosting and updating of the Circle website was transferred from Geneva, Switzerland to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The Circle website address is http// The new host is The Blue Box Corporate Solutions based in Pietermaritzburg. The process of changing the host and updating it has taken much longer than anticipated. Please accept our apologies!

Please send Isabel the cover of your book/s (either by e-mail or by post) so that it can be placed on the on the Circle website.

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Circle Bank Account
The Circle financial account has been established within the University of Natal.
The banking details are as follows:

Account Number:
Branch Code:
Swift Address:
Physical address:

First National Bank Account
University of Natal
5087 1932 932
223 626
Durban Corporate Swift
22 Gradiner Street
The Marine 9th Floor,
Durban 4001

Coming Attractions

2003 Workshops, Conferences & Consultations

The Theological Society of South Africa Conference 18-20 June 2003
The Theological Society of South Africa is holding a conference in Pretoria, South Africa from 18-20 June 2003. The theme of the conference will be African Women's Theologies. Mercy Amba Oduyoye will be the keynote speaker.

World Young Women's Christian Alliance International Women's Summit 5-10 July 2003
Isabel will be representing the Circle at the World YWCA International Women's Summit, which will be held in Brisbane, Australia from 5-10 July 2003. The theme of the summit is 'Leading Change, the Power to Act'.

The Francophone Seminar
The Francophone Seminar which will be held from 11th to 24th of August, 2003 at the Institut Protestant de Théologie de Porto-Novo, Bénin. The theme is, Femmes et Nouvelle Société en Afrique: les Tâches des Théologiennes. (Women and a New Society in Africa: Tasks of Women Theologians). This initiative is with Nyambura Njoroge, WCC, ETE. For so far, we have support from the United Churches in Netherlands and the WCC, ETE.

The institute of Women in Religion and Culture: third Pan African biennial conference
The institute of Women in Religion and Culture housed at the Trinity Theological College, Legon-Accra, Ghana is going to host its third Pan African biennial conference from 1-5 October, 2003. The theme of the conference is 'Theological and Ethical Resources to face the Challenges of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Women Theologians speak'

Consultation of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians and The World Council of Churches 10-15 October 2003
The Consultation of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians and The World Council of Churches, the women's desk will be held from 10-15 October 2003 at the Kempton Park Conference Centre, in South Africa. The theme of the conference is 'Being Church.'

The AACC 8th General Assembly
The AACC 8th General Assembly will be in Yaoundé, Cameroun from 21 to 27 of November 2003 with the theme, Come, let's rebuild. I was in Nairobi last week to attend the AACC General Committee meeting.

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Farewell to Brigitte Syamalevwe

The Circle is paying tribute to one of its strong members, Brigitte Syamalevwe, who went to be with the Lord in February 2003 and was buried on her farm in Luanshya Ibenga, Zambia.

For those of us who were participants at the Addis Ababa Circle conference of 2002, will remember the Brigitte who shared her story of having been diagnosed to be HIV positive in 1992. Since then Brigitte worked with her husband of 30 years, Kabanda, to fight against discrimination for people living with HIV. Brigitte addressed many meetings, as an HIV activist to remind people that a person living with HIV/AIDS is not a statistic. She also shared her experience of giving birth to a child who is HIV/AIDS negative through the use of a short course of AZT. Brigitte highlighted the danger faced by African married women who are not able to negotiate for safe sex with their husbands, who have more than one sexual partner. She explained how she leads by example by adopting children whose parents have died of AIDS and opening an orphanage for them in her village. She also encouraged everyone at the conference that when one is a spiritual person, even when HIV positive, one does not live in fear of death.

Brigitte will always be remembered as a brave African woman, who risked stigmatization, to break the silence around HIV/AIDS in the church and society and used her story to empower others.

The Circle members who would like to send a contribution to support the Syamalevwe children, please send your donation to Syamalevwe Children, Global Health Council, 20 Palmer Court, White River Junction, VT, 05001, USA

Hamba Kahle, Brigitte. Go well, Brigitte

The Circle Supports Sister Anne Nasimiyu- Wasike

The Circle was shocked to learn that Sister Anne Nasimiyu-Walinke was censured by her religious community from public life because of a paper that she had presented at a conference and gave an interview on the BBC radio on the same topic. We call upon Circle members to support sister Anne in prayer and through correspondence for God's wisdom during this difficult time of isolation and uncertainty as to what the future holds for her.

A letter from Pietermaritzburg for Sr. Anne

Dear Sister Anne

We, your sisters in South Africa, have learnt of the events that followed your presentation of a paper in early March 2003 on the issue relating to women's moral agency including unsafe abortions in Kenya.

The decisions, which have been made to restrict your liturgical participation and professional activities, and the pressure exerted to force you to resign from your position at Kenyatta University, have filled us with dismay and consternation.

We are especially concerned that your religious congregation, your religious family, has not supported you, but instead has initiated the limitations to your ministry. In such a situation, we would expect that your first friends and defenders would be the leadership of your congregation and instead, they have not supported and assisted you.

We are deeply grateful for your theological leadership, courage and commitment to justice and offer you our prayerful support in this time of great suffering. We will continue to make your painful situation known to other colleagues here in South Africa and encourage them to support you in letters and prayer.

If there are other ways that we can support you, please do inform us.

In solidarity,
The Pietermaritzburg Circle of
Concerned African Women Theologians.

Circle Library Development at the University of Natal
The Circle would like to start a library of all the Circle members' publications (articles in Journals, chapters in books, books) unpublished dissertations and thesis, conference papers etc. Please send all your publications (even photocopies) to the Circle office addressed to Isabel Apawo Phiri.

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Partnership Between the Circle and Yale Divinity School

The Circle entered into partnership with the Yale Divinity School (hereafter YDS) in the USA to work in solidarity to examine the intersection of gender, faith, poverty and AIDS. The YDS is also working in partnership with USAID and CIRA on this project. This partnership involves:

  1. continued research for funding in the struggle against HIV/AIDS;
  2. invitations to African women theologians to become Yale Research Fellows who will be funded for four month of training and research through the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (CIRA).

Fulata Moyo from Malawi, Vaudi Vibila from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sylvia Amisi from Kenya were the first beneficiaries of this partnership. They spent four months at Yale Divinity School in the USA.

Letty M. Russell, Professor Emerita of Theology at Yale Divinity School had this to say about our three sisters: 'We are delighted that our three research fellows have completed their project proposals and are returning home' The women were so successful that the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS [CIRA] has proposed that we have two Research Affiliates at CIRA and the Divinity School at Yale for 8 months, beginning next fall. This is a great opportunity for two theologians who would like to do a year of post doctoral work with their expenses paid.'

The Post Graduate Programme in


In the School of Theology,
University of Natal,
Full-time and residential

This programme is designed for Ministers and Lay workers who are interested in developing their knowledge of and skills in the Church's engagement in gender issues.

  • This is a two-year Masters programme (incorporating Honours) for students with a relevant undergraduate degree (BTh, BSocSci, or BA) or a Joint Board Diploma in Theology (a bridging course is offered).


  • For BTh Honours (Gender and Theology) (one year)
    You will choose five of the following topics: African Women's Theologies (core); Feminist/Womanist Hermeneutics (core); Gender Studies: Theory; Sociology: Rural Studies, Gender and Development; Issues of Masculinity and Gender; Mini dissertation/Research (core).
  • For MTh (Gender and Theology) (one year)
    You will choose three of the following topics: Gender, Tradition and the Church in Africa (core), Theology of Medieval Women Mystics; Gender Studies: Feminism & Foucault; Sociology: Rural Studies, Gender and Development and Thesis (core).
  • For PhD (Gender and Theology) (Four years)
    MTh (in Gender and Theology or its equivalent) is the prerequisite.

Whilst the University has not yet finalized degree costs for next year, the cost of the entire two-year Masters degree in 2003/4 will be approximately R18,000. A number of bursaries and scholarships are available.

For more information contact:
Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri, School of Theology, University of Natal, Pvt. Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209; Tel (033) 260 6132; Fax (033) 260 5858;

Come and be part of a vibrant academic community that is on the cutting age of Contextual Theology!

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News from the Chapters

The Mozambique Chapter of the Circle
On the 26th of April, 15 women theologians met at the Christian Council premises in Maputo, Mozambique. The meeting was honoured by the visit of the General-Coordinator, Isabel Apawo Phiri and Maria Victoria Pereira, who interpreted for her. Felicidade Charinde, the Lusophone coordinator, organised the meeting. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the history, aims and current projects of the Circle. At the end of a whole day meeting, almost all the participants committed themselves to write and fifteen topics were identified for research and writing for a Portuguese Circle publication. Felicidade and Victoria will be the editors of the book that will come out of the Maputo Chapter of the Circle.

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Background to the Circle

For the sake of those who are not familiar with the Circle, the Circle for Concerned African Women Theologians (hereafter the Circle) was inaugurated in 1989. In the year 2002, the Circle registered over 500 members on the continent and abroad. The criterion for membership is the commitment to research, write and publish on issues affecting African women and women of African descent.

The Circle is the space for women from Africa to do communal theology based on their religious, cultural and social experiences. It draws its membership from women of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, cultures and religions rooted in African Indigenous Religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It encompasses indigenous African women and seeks to relate to African women of American, Asiatic, and European origins. These concerned women are engaged in theological dialogue with cultures, religions, sacred writings and oral stories that shape the African context and define the women of this continent.

Mission Statement
The mission of the Circle is to undertake research, writing and publishing on African issues from a woman's perspective.

The vision of the Circle is to empower African women to contribute their critical thinking and analysis to advance current knowledge. Theology, religion and culture are the three chosen foci, which must be used as the framework for Circle research and publications.

The Pan-African Conference of the Circle clearly showed that this movement has grown and expanded and put its roots deep in the hearts of many women in Africa. It was amazing to realise that since 1989, members of the Circle have written and published 31 books. The authors attribute their publications to motivation stemming from participation in the Circle. This implies that the Circle is fulfilling its mission: To undertake research and publish theological literature written by African women with special focus on religion and culture.

Above: The Mozambique Chapter of the Circle

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Please share with us News from your chapter of the Circle!!

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