Newsletter :

2004 November - Newsletter

Newsletter Contents
Come Build Talitha Centre
Circle Publications
Reports from the Chapters
News from the General Coordinator's Office

Come Build Talitha Centre

Talitha Qumi Centre under construction as of 31 August 2004

Talitha Qumi Centre is to house the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture created by Trinity Theological Seminary. It has been established to facilitate seminars and outreach programmes dealing with issues of mission, humanization and development. The centre is called "Talitha Qumi Centre", as it is our dream that, African women will arise and claim the human dignity due to them as children of God created in God's image. During the first four years the Institute was housed in the Seminary's women's hostel.

The vision/dream of the Institute is to develop a modest conference centre which will operate as part of the seminary's on campus facilities. This will allow the Institute to function on campus during the academic session.

The work of the Institute is an expression of hope that religion would be truly a humanizing factor in society and in the lives of individuals.

The Mission
  • The Centre has a Gender Sensitivity programme in progress, which conducts educational events around Ghana;
  • In alternate years there are national and pan-African conferences;
  • The Centre hosts individuals interested in studying culture and religion in Ghana and other African countries;
  • The Centre promotes research in women's lives in the area of culture and religion.
The Building
The plan of the building is based on the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life. This symbol became the representation of the female in biological sciences and is now the global symbol for Woman. The building also reflects the shape of the Ghanaian fertility doll, Akuaba, which is now a very popular tourist artifact. The Centre therefore symbolizes the vision of life enhancement utilizing global and African concepts.

It has a round plenary hall where people from east, west, north and south can come together, to think together about issues of life in community. It will be a place to manifest women's global solidarity. This is the head of the Akuaba.

The rest of the body includes four offices, four seminar rooms, ten guest rooms with double beds, a library, a resource centre and, a store room, to allow us to offer services for retreats and guests at all times. There is a separate building for one residential staff. This has been completed at the cost of US$28,000 - and is now in use as offices.

The whole complex is budgeted at US$500,000 - to allow us to complete and furnish it.

Current Partners
  • PCUSA Women's Ministries
  • Swiss fund to Aid Protestants
  • EMW
  • Global Fund for Women
  • Basel Mission 21
  • Proceeds from Million Women's Names
  • EMS - South West Germany
Services provided
  • Office accommodation for resource persons preparing for Bible Studies, sessions on Gender Sensitivity, sessions on Culture and Religion, sessions on Religion and Society;
  • Space for Resource Centre, housing computers, a library of books, audio and video tapes, and other visual aids;
  • Space for conferences and retreats;
  • Short-term lodging for guests visiting for educational purposes;
  • A quiet place to read, reflect and write on the impact of Religion on life.
Models of Participation
  • A million women's names: Naming our mothers and other significant women in our lives; honouring thousands of women who have been in mission in Africa. Recall their stories to nourish our vision of an inclusive community and lifesustaining partnership.
  • Dedication of rooms: Sponsor the construction of one of the rooms, which will then be dedicated to a name of your choice.
  • General fundraising during conferences: A donation may be offered for a specific structure of the building, i.e., a pillar, a door, a window, electrical wiring, plumbing, painting and landscaping.
  • Donations may be made to provide furniture and furnishing for the rooms. For example, the hall will need fifty trapezium shaped tables with chairs, which will allow us all to meet together in a circle to symbolize equal participation.
For more information, please contact:
Institute of Women in Religion and Culture
Trinity Theological Seminary
P.O. Box LG48, Legon, Ghana
E-mails: or

Issue cheques to:
Women Religion and Culture/Trinity College
Account No.: FE/A 8700-2265-421-00

Circle Publications

It's out!!!
Grant Me Justice! HIV/AIDS & Gender Readings of the Bible edited by Musa Dube and Musimbi Kanyoro, Pietermaritzburg/Maryknoll: Cluster Publications/ Orbis, 2004.

The Circle directory is updated annually. Beverley Haddad and Bridget Masaiti have updated the 2004 Circle directory. From 2005 to 2007 Beverley Haddad will update it. Please send your updates directly to her (

  • Women, Religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa: Responding to Ethical and Theological Challenges edited by Teresia Hinga, Anne Kubai,
  • Cultural Practices and HIV/AIDS: African Women's Voices. Edited by Dorcas Olubanke Ankitunde, Elizabeth Amoah and Dorothy Akoto, (Accra: Sam Woode).
  • On Being Church: Women's voices and visions from Africa edited by Sarojini Nadar and Isabel Apawo Phiri (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications).
  • Women and Health in Africa: Essays in honour of Mercy Amba Oduyoye edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri, Sarojini Nadar and Dorcas Olubanke Akintunde (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications).
  • The French book which is part of the 2002 conference books edited by Helene Yinda. (The manuscript is with a publisher in Cameroon).
  • A Portuguese book based on Guidelines on HIV/AIDS sensitive sermons and prayers, edited by Victoria Pereira and Felicidade Cherinda. The book is based on papers of a workshop held on 10-12th November 2004. It will also include some of the articles from the 2002 Circle Pan African conference. It will be published in Mozambique in 2005.
  • The Circle profiles and bibliography are being edited by Fulata Moyo and Lilian Siwila and will go to the publisher in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 2005. Any updates should be sent directly to Fulata Moyo (
  • Women, Culture, Spirituality and Faith Communities is the working title of the Pietermaritzburg/Cape Town Circles project, which is being edited by Susan Rakoczy, Sarojini Nadar and Isabel Phiri. Cluster Publications, 2005.
  • The Engendering Theological Curriculum handbook (English) is being edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri and Musa Dube and will be published in 2005.
  • The Engendering Theological Curriculum handbook (French) is being edited by Hélène Yinda and Josée Ngalula and will be published in 2005.
  • Isabel Phiri has been compiling the Circle newsletter twice a year since 2003, which is printed in Portuguese, English and French. From April 2005 to 2007 this will be the responsibility of Helene Yinda. Please send your news directly to Helene at (
PLEASE NOTE: All Circle work is done on a voluntary basis. The royalties received from the publishers of books that have been sponsored by the Circle go into the Circle account and are used for the continuation of the work of the Circle.

Circle website
The Circle is looking for a volunteer to be responsible for updating the Circle website. Please write to Isabel Apawo Phiri if you want to assist by taking up this responsibility (

Journal of Constructive Theology
Gender, Religion and Theology in Africa
Isabel Apawo Phiri is the editor of the Journal of Constructive Theology, which has been accredited by the Ministry of Education in South Africa. Circle members have contributed academic articles to this journal since its inception in 1996. In 2004 a decision was made to limit the scope of the Journal to Gender, Religion and Theology in Africa. Since then special issues have been published, which are parallel to Circle publications. For example, the July 2004 issue is focused on the theme: On Being Church: Women's Voices and Visions in Africa. The Theme of the December 2004 issue is Women and Health. Isabel and Sarojini Nadar co edited both issues. The guest Editor for the July 2005 issue is Sue Rakoczy ( on the theme of Gender and Spirituality and the guest editor for December 2005 is Madipoane Masenya ( on the theme Gender and the Bible.

Please write to the editors if you are interested in contributing articles. Make sure your article reaches the guest editor by 1st March for the July issue and 1st August for the December issue. Book early as each issue only takes five articles. Only articles of high academic standard will be published.

Write to Isabel if you want to be a guest editor for either July or December issues in 2006 and 2007. The guest editors choose their own themes and solicit articles.


The Circle will hold 3 regional conferences during 2005. The theme of the regional conferences will be: "Women and Health in Africa". This theme will allow the Circle to continue dealing with HIV/AIDS in the context of women's health. The book of Essays in honour of Mercy Oduyoye, will be launched at each of the Regional Conferences. Suggested dates, venues, and number of participants are as follows:
  • English: 50 participants (5 Diaspora) Malawi 10-15 July 2005.
  • French: 30 participants (5 Diaspora) Cameroon, 31st July to 5 August 2005
  • Lusophone: 20 participants (5 Diaspora), Maputo, 4-9 September 2005.
Please note: As of now funds are very limited. Therefore, if you can raise funds locally to pay for your travel it will be greatly appreciated. If the funding situation does not change, we may only hold one conference for 30 participants from all the three regions. Work very hard to have your paper for the conference ready by 1st March 2005 and send it to your regional research coordinator.


A Chapter on African Ethics
Circle members are invited to contribute a chapter on ethics from the perspective of an African woman, perhaps (but not necessarily) with the impact of AIDS in mind, to a book which is being edited by Martin Prozesky and Ron Nicolson of the African Ethics initiative in the Ethics Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal. The aim of the initiative is to identify and highlight African perspectives on ethics. The focus for now will primarily be the ethical perspectives of African people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Some of these ethical viewpoints will grow out of Christian convictions, some, no doubt, from traditional African convictions, but what they will have in common is a rootedness in an African context. Thus they hope that they may identify an ethical perspective, which is in some ways distinct from traditional Western ethics, whether religious or secular in origin.

The deadline for the chapter is March 2005. If you are interested, please e-mail Sarojini Nadar at, who will forward it to Prof Ron Nicolson.

Reports from the Chapters

Mercy Amba Oduyoye
1. 2004 at Talitha Qumi Centre in Ghana
Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Director IWRC
The Circle in Ghana has come to the end of the sixth year of the effort to help establish The Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary. You know the story but this is just to keep you informed.

The annual conferences have been alternating between national and Pan- African. 2004 was for a national conference, so only our keynote speaker was from outside Ghana. Oyeronke Olajubu of Nigeria spoke on the theme "Witches, Widows and Women's Wisdom: The Tradition Continues." Significantly she turned the statement into a question. Does the tradition continue? This is what we had spent some time investigating. The surveys on violence against women which began in 2003 were concluded and have been published in a book entitled: 'Too Painful to Tell'. The poems that Elizabeth Amoah has been collecting have now been published in what she tells me are a definitive version. The poems are now published as Poems of Mercy Amba Oduyoye edited by Elizabeth Amoah. Both books are published by Sam Woode Ltd. Two seminars were prepared in Northern Ghana but only one was held and the second one was cancelled for reasons unrelated to the subject, which was on witches, a follow-up of the one in Gambaga two years ago.

The other seminar had the theme A Healthy Society: The Role of Religion and was hosted locally by Youth in Mission.

This was unique in the sense that we have been working as a multi-religious Institute but we collaborated with Muslim women in a seminar organized by the Federation of Muslim Women's Association of Ghana (FOMWAG). It was the first time a Muslim youth group, mainly men, organized an Institute Seminar. The focus on health was their way of getting into the issue of HIV and AIDS.

The third Seminar was held in Adenta, organized by Revd. Lorene Nyarko for Methodist women in Adenta. It concentrated on some practical ways of coping with the HIV and AIDS challenge. They worked with the theme 'HIV and AIDS, We Care'.

The Talitha Qumi Centre to honour our mothers and Women in Mission now has a director's home (presently used as offices), a garage (used to store building materials) and is constructing a tworoom place for staff that have lived on campus. The conference center progresses steadily. The plenary hall is roofed-we are putting together donations to do the ceiling. Window frames have been made and we are doing an estimate for the terrazzo floor. In short we are short of funds and need fresh ideas to cultivate partners and to bring in the 'dollar a name' effort. I am happy sisters of the Circle will continue to help bring in names of women - we are far short of a million. But we know that even in Africa alone there must be more than one million women's names we need to preserve for posterity.

Thus far this is what the Circle in Ghana led by Mrs. Sophia Duke, Mrs. Araba Ata Sam, Dr. Elisabeth Amoah, Dr. Rabiatu Ammah, Revd Dinah Abbey, Revd Lorene Nyarko and Mrs. Rosemary Akurigu have stimulated other women to do in this year which is finishing.

2. Pietermaritzburg Circle Holds Creativity Workshop
Sue Rakoczy IHM
The Pietermaritzburg Circle (South Africa) enjoyed a Creativity Workshop on 16 October 2004. The writing we do as Circle members is a creative act, as is preaching, praying, cooking, gardening and making music. This workshop invited the Circle members to enjoy their artistic creativity.

The workshop was led by Karen Buckenham, whose doctoral research focuses on art, creativity and the sacred, and Dina Cormick, a noted artist. The opening ritual included the passing of a fragrant bowl of burning herbs for purification and the construction of a centrepiece of flowers.

Karen and Dina chose the stories of the queens Vashti and Esther from the book of Esther as focus for the day. A contemporary version of the biblical text was read and each woman then made a crown to represent her Vashtiness or her Estherness. As the women worked at a long table filled with magazines, coloured paper, and other art materials, a marvelous group of crowns emerged as they worked and shared their discoveries.

Then in groups of threes, more serious sharing occurred as each woman described why she had selected the pictures and words on her crown. Group photos of the queens and their crowns were taken, with much laughter.

After lunch the worktable was filled with balls of clay and the women became sculptors. Some admitted that they had never worked with clay before. That certainly wasn't evident as medium and small figures, walls, symbols and flowers emerged from the clay. Songs, storytelling and again much laughter dissolved the shyness some felt in working in this new medium. One woman shared that she had great difficulty with the clay until she realized she was working against the clay; once she relaxed, a lovely figure emerged.

In the closing ritual and prayer each woman shared something about her clay creation. The spirit of the day was surely that of the Creative Spirit of God.

The Circle has also been at work writing articles for a book on Women, Culture, Spirituality and Faith Communities. Other articles are being contributed by members of the Cape Town Circle. Isabel Phiri, Sarojini Nadar and Sue Rakoczy will edit the book.

The Pietermaritzburg Circle is now three years old. We meet once a month. One of its traditions is a supper together in November when the academic year ends. The coordinators for 2005 are Fulata Moyo and Sarojini Nadar.

The Pietermaritzburg Circle workshop participants.

3. The Cape Town Circle
Denise Ackerman
On the 11 November some 11 members of the Cape Town chapter met for the first time in a long while. The meeting came out of a chance meeting between Miranda Pillay and myself. We both felt strongly that something had to be done to either revive the Circle in Cape Town if there was sufficient interest to do so, or at least to have a decent wake for its demise. I am writing to you just to keep you up to speed about what is happening down south and to ask you for your continued input and support. We would dearly like to know about upcoming meetings and conferences, e.g. none of us have any direct knowledge of what is happening about the Malawi meeting next year.

At our meeting we brainstormed about the reasons for the trouble we have had over the last year at getting together and looked at possible ways forward.

These are some of the points of discussion that emerged:
  1. We have struggled since last year to find direction. A combination of reasons for this were put forward: a lack of commitment to the core purpose of the Circle, difficulty in finding focus around our writing project, difficulties about meeting times, pressures due to too many commitments that make demands on us and it was also suggested that when I dropped out of leading the Circle it also suffered.
  2. We all agreed that the membership of the Circle is essential for writing and publishing theology in the African context. We also affirmed our commitment to our multi-faith perspective and membership.
  3. There was a measure of confusion for some of us about what had happened to our joint writing project with Pietermaritzburg.
We then went around the Circle and most members recommitted themselves to continuing with the work of the Circle. We may well have a core group of about 12, counting those who could not attend but who have committed themselves to the continuation of the Circle. We intend re-starting the Cape Town chapter with these committed members.

In order to do this we decided to do the following:
  • to commit to a more rigorous and disciplined approach to writing and publishing; to taking the next two months to identify possible projects and to meet in early /February to plan our next joint writing venture. We talked about mentoring students and younger women who are at the threshold of their careers. It was also suggested that we hold traveling seminars at the three local universities in the name of the Circle to draw in new members and to publicize the work of the Circle. I have also committed myself to be around for the Circle provided that we are dedicated and disciplined and get down to our intended project.
I hope this puts you in the picture. I would also like to say that I greatly appreciated your article, Isabel, in the recent Agenda. Thank you for what you said about the Cape Town Circle. I found the article informative and useful in a piece I am writing at present.

Blessings to you all from us down here.

4. Lusophone Circle
Felicidade Cherinda - Research Coordinator, Lusophone
It was good to be with you in May in South Africa at the Engendering Theological Education in Africa. I know that our presence was not helpful but we went there to show our very low theological preparation and to make a cry. It is now time to leave the tail and begin to look for a better place for women in Lusophone countries. I pray to God to help you find scholarships for us.

In Angola, I could see that the Angola chapter is still alive. However, nobody is writing. Notice that we don't have skills to write because our preparation was focused on preaching. You can see that in Lusophone countries there are very few pastors who are writing.

In Cape Verde, Guiné Bissau and S. Tomé there are no Protestant women theologians. However, at the Catholic Church there are some missionaries interested in the Circle. With the Council of Churches in Mozambique, I will coordinate a 2 day workshop with women and other days with Faith Based Organisations. We will be in touch with Dr Sue Parry to work together.

Those people are isolated and they need our help.

Thank you for your support and forgive me for any inconvenience.

5. Nigerian Circle
Dorcas Olubanke Ankitunde - Research Coordinator, Anglophone
The third annual meeting of the Nigerian Chapter (Western Zone) was held on February 19th 2004 at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan Nigeria. The meeting had in attendance 21 participants from Theological Institutions in the Zone: The Baptist Theological Seminary Ogbomoso, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Lagos State University, Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ojoo, Ijanikin, Lagos, and the University of Ibadan, Ibadan. Also in attendance were teachers of Religious Knowledge in Secondary Schools, who have Masters Degree in Religious Studies. Among these were four new members whose profiles have been forwarded to Prof. Isabel Phiri, the General Coordinator for inclusion into the Circle's Directory. I am glad to report that she has been communicating with them from the responses I got from these sisters. The theme for discussion was Women Leadership: The Nigerian Context. The major activity of the day was presentation of abstracts on the theme. The theme was chosen after considering the fact that Nigerian women, like other African women, are not well represented in leadership positions in the country. We therefore decided to deliberate on this and suggest ways by which more women could be in leadership roles while the few presently on the ground could be encouraged. References were made to Dr. Dora Akinyuli, the Director of the National Agency for Food, Drugs and Administrative Control (NAFDAC) who is presently working hard against the importation of adulterated and fake drugs, and some other women in politics, specifically the two women Deputy Governors in some states. The meeting also drew inspiration from some women church founders who have a large following and who have not lagged behind in the spiritual assignment.

The Nigerian Chapter of the Circle regret to announce the passing away of our sister, a foundation member of the larger Circle, Rebecca Modupoore Owanikin (nee Ojeyemi). She was aged 46. She died of cardiac arrest on the morning of Monday 9th August, 2004. She hailed from Modakeke, a town in Osun State, Nigeria. Service of Songs and Christian Wake keep was held on Thursday 26th August 2004 between 5.00p.m.-7.00 p.m. at her residence, 32 Fasina Street, Baale Akinosin, Akute Lagos. Lying in State was at the same venue. The final burial ceremony was at Victory Garden City Chapel, Epe Road, Lagos while Internment was at the Victoria Garden Cemetry, Lekki, Lagos State on Friday, 27th August, 2004. Left to mourn her are Dotun Owanikin, her husband and Circle Sisters in Nigeria. She had an article in The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition and the Church in Africa and in When Silence is no Longer an Option edited by Amoah Elizabeth and Mercy Oduyoye. May her gentle and loving soul rest in perfect peace.

The Francophone Circle at the workshop on Engendering Theological Education. The workshop was sponsored by the Ecumenical Theological Education of the World Council of Churches.
6. The Francophone Circle
Helene Yinda - Research Co-ordinator, Francophone
In reference to the Engendering Theological Curriculum in Africa project of the Circle I wish to report that the francophone workshop took place from 13th to 19th August 2004 in Yaoundé, Cameroon and 17 Circle members from 8 countries (Benin, Congo Brazzaville, Congo Democratic, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Rwanda, Cameroon and Diaspora) participated in the workshop. The francophone curriculum, which is now circulating to various francophone theological institutions and centers, will be edited by Hélène Yinda and Josée Ngalula.

In order not to disconnect the theological reflection from concrete actions in the society and in the faith communities, a practical module on planning, project design and management as well as fundraising is part of the program.

To train women and men for proper theological work, a module on theological writing (research) has been planned. This aims to enable theologians to master the intellectual tools and the practices of writing, which will make them professional theologians.

For us, the two practical modules are instruments of concrete credibility of the entire project of Gender, Feminism and African theological training. We consider it as the levers without which all the theoretical framework of the courses would only be an ideological superstructure without ground. This shows the importance we put on the African Theological Education Programme.

This training programme project will be adjusted according to the contexts and the users in the theological institutions, the research centres, the faith communities and by the Circle members.

The project has benefited from the participation of Circle members, as well as specialists in different theological disciplines, which committed themselves to the effective formulation of the modules conceived.

Francophone Circle at the workshop on Engendering Theological Education.

A poem to introduce the programmes of study
In order to introduce the proposed programmes, this is a poem from Pastor Monique Loubassou of the Evangelical Church of Congo. It defines very well the spirit that surrounds the workshop of Yaounde and indicates the perspective in which the training modules are located.

The title of this poem, Journey towards the Transformation of the Society and Faith Communities, carries the entire dynamic, which is that of the Circle and its ambition for theological training in gender and feminism. It also characterises what we have accomplished in order to attain the study programme we are proposing.

Journey towards the transformation of the society and faith communities
Let us strive
Misunderstood and marginalised
Certain women are brutalised
Diverted source of these big men
Why become stupid of selves?
Since time immemorial, they are
Trying to sweep up the
Though they are able to express
In their heads there are tablets
Which open the capacities
In the domains of existence
Such as Gender and Feminism
They will raise selfishness
For better doing this rereading
Which corrects the caricatures
When a group of bees swarms
There is honey for the family
Although the bees sting
Making people who are afraid to
Some come to sell and buy
Others are just there only to
And us women should we keep
Let us strive and do better.

Other Circle Chapter Coordinators
The Circle chapters are the backbone of our movement. Find out who is the Circle chapter coordinator so that you can get involved in the chapter projects. If there is no coordinator, you can become one. Just organize a Circle and let us know about it. The names of some of the Chapter Coordinators who have not been mentioned in this newsletter are:

Zambia Circle:
Peggy Kabonde

Swaziland Circle:
Sonene Nyawo

Malawi, Zomba chapter:
Rachel NyaGondwe Fiedler

Malawi, Blantyre chapter:
Gertrude Kapuma

Kenya, Nairobi Chapter:
Grace Wamue

Kenya, Limuru Chapter:
Esther Mombo

Kenya, Moi Chapter:
Hazel Ayanga

Lesotho Circle:
Evelyn Vera

Zimbabwe Circle:
Chiropafadzo Moyo

South Africa, Durban Circle:
Betty Govinden

If your name is not on this list it is because I do not know about your Circle. Please inform us about it.


1. To All LWF Member Churches and National Committees
Geneva, April 2004
Warm greetings from Geneva and the staff of the Human Resources Development Desk.

By this letter we would give an overview of the main programs of our desk, and also take the opportunity to distribute the application forms for the programs where specific forms are needed.

The main objective for all the programs of our desk is to enable the LWF member churches to train and upgrade staff for the many tasks and challenges in their ministries. The demands for scholarships and other financial support for training are much higher than our limited budget can cover. The main criterion for selecting candidates, therefore, is that there is a clear plan for future service in the member churches.

The International Scholarship Program
The International Scholarship Program provides support for short- and longterm, academic and non-academic/ practice-oriented programs, in theological and non-theological areas, after completion of secondary school.

The study programs are to be implemented primarily in the candidate's home country, when possible. Some graduate study programs may require experience in another continent. For candidates from North America and Western Europe, support may be given for up to one academic year in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

Churches are encouraged to promote women candidates. For this reason, at least 40% of scholarship funds are earmarked for female candidates.

If a church presented more than one candidate, they must be listed in a clear order of priority. If a church had candidates in both theological and development related areas, it is also the procedure to set up two separate priority lists.

Enclosed you will find application forms for this program (not included here). The sheet attached to the application form gives important information, which should be shared with all candidates before completion of the forms. Completed applications have to be in Geneva no later than October 15 (each year), to be taken into consideration.

Scholarship Fund for People with Disabilities
For some years now we have a special scholarship program for people with disabilities. This program was started on request from a group of women with disabilities who met in Geneva to make strategic planning and recommendations to the LWF.

The objective of this program is to promote an inclusive ministry in the LWF member churches, and to encourage church leaders to consider people with disabilities when identifying resources for the work of the church.

The same forms and deadlines apply to this program as to the International Scholarship Program.

Disability Ministry Fund
This is a new program on our desk. The Disability Ministry Fund was established in order to further encourage participation of people with disabilities in the life of the LWF communion. Support from this fund can be given to facilitate participation of disabled people in the work and events of the churches.

Applications for support from this fund can be submitted at any time during the year. No specific application forms are needed.

Short Term Study and Research Program
The Short Term Study and Research Program provide financial support for member churches to participate in short term training programs at home or abroad, relevant to the work of the church.

Applications for this program may be submitted at any time during the year. No specific application forms are needed.

Language Training Courses
The objective of this program is to give financial support for language training to enable pastors, church workers and other facilitators from non-English speaking countries to participate in international gatherings and read literature related to their work in English.

Candidates should already have a basic knowledge of English. If possible, the courses will be implemented in the country itself or in a neighboring English speaking country. Arrangements could also be made for a group to follow a special course in the country. The corresponding application form is enclosed. Requests may be sent in at any time during the year.

Professional Experience Exchange Program
The Exchange Program serves to encourage an exchange of professional experience at different levels and in different areas. Financial assistance can be provided as a contribution towards travel and other expenses for professionals in different fields who spend a certain period of time lecturing in institutions or conducting training programs or workshops in countries other than their own. The LWF assistance is only a participation. The inviting institution or church is expected to cover part of the expenses for room, board and other maintenance expenses. There are no specific forms to complete. Applications may be submitted at any time during the year.

On behalf of the colleagues at the HRD desk, I send you our best wishes.

Kristin Roaldseth Moyer
Secretary for Human Resources Development
Email address:

2. Yale University Research Fellowship in Theology and Public Health: 2005-2006
Yale University Divinity School and Yale School of Public Health, together with Yale's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, announce the availability of a 2005-2006 Fellowship for women theologians addressing HIV/ AIDS in Africa.

This post-doctoral research fellowship aims to combine theology, faith-based initiatives, and empirical research. Research proposals must focus in some way on HIV/AIDS prevention and/or care in Africa, and they must incorporate both theological research and empirical research (whether qualitative or quantitative). Any proposals not meeting these basic criteria cannot be considered.

This fellowship is open to African women theologians who have earned a Ph.D. degree in theology or a related discipline.

History of this Research Fellowship:
In Africa, faith plays an important role in individual and community life and can influence social and health behavior. Despite this fact, very little empirical, scholarly research has been done to examine the actual or potential impact of faith-based prevention initiatives on the African continent. In 2002, the Yale Divinity School began a project entitled, Gender, Faith and Responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Participants in this project established a partnership with the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (Circle), one of whose goals is to improve awareness and effectiveness of faith-based organizations in areas related to HIV prevention.

In the spring of 2003, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Yale (CIRA), in collaboration with Yale Divinity School (YDS) and Yale Medical School, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH), and with support from the Fogarty International Center, began a program to provide research fellowship training grants to African women, members of the Circle. Three women received these grants in spring, 2003; two women received the grants for the academic year 2003-2004; three women are current recipients of these grants in 2004-05. Grantees work with mentors and colleagues from YDS, EPH and CIRA. The goal is primarily to develop research proposals for implementation in their own countries. It is essential that they have approval of their home institution (university, college, and seminary) and that upon their return to their countries; they work with their home institutions.

Provisions of the Fellowship:
This Research Fellowship provides funds to cover travel to and from Africa to the U.S., lodging and living expenses while at Yale, and implementation of a research project upon return to Africa. While travel and living expenses are fully covered, there is no stipend provided that is in addition to these. Each research fellow is expected to be at Yale during the academic year, August of 2005 to May of 2006. Questions for further information may be addressed to:, or to:

APPLICATIONS: An application form (not included here), which must be filled out and accompanied by a resume and an outline of proposed research. These are to be sent to Dr. Isabel Phiri at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and to Dr. Margaret Farley at Yale University Divinity School. Email addresses: and
Applications should be received by March 15, 2005.

Margaret Farley, Letty Russell and Anne Nasimiyu at Yale Divinity School

Dorothy Nwanyinma Ucheaga
3. A Report of my Stay at Yale University
Dorothy Nwanyinma Ucheaga - Dept. of Rel. Studies & Philosophy, University of Calabar, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.
I arrived at Yale University on November 15th 2003, two months later than I was due because of visa complications. All the paper work I needed to do was completed in the first week of my arrival and that officially registered my presence in the University.

I was given research fellow status both in the Divinity School and in the School of Public Health. I worked with Professor Letty Russell at Yale Divinity School and Dr. Kari Hartwig at Yale School of Public Health as mentors. They were the ones that suggested what courses I was to audit as part of my training exercise and guided me while revising and developing my research proposal. I did not benefit from the fall semester courses due to my delayed arrival. But I was able to maximize the opportunities offered by the spring I was given research fellow status both in the Divinity School and in the School of Public Health. I worked with Professor Letty Russell at Yale Divinity School and Dr. Kari Hartwig at Yale School of Public Health as mentors. They were the ones that suggested what courses I was to audit as part of my training exercise and guided me while revising and developing my research proposal. I did not benefit from the fall semester courses due to my delayed arrival. But I was able to maximize the opportunities offered by the spring semester courses as well as use the time available to develop my research proposal.

My Research-in-Progress presentation was made on February 27th, 2004. The forum served as a working session whereby trainees present their latest research ideas, data, papers or grant proposals for appraisal and feedback from Faculty, and other trainees who were in attendance. The Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS made all the facilities available for the smooth conduct of the exercise. My presentation was judged successful. The Research-in-Progress presentation was just one stage in the process of research proposal development. The proposal later went for peer review and thereafter was finally submitted to the Human Investigations Committee for approval.

As part of the training program, I was required to attend all the AIDS related seminars or talks and others specified by the Office of International Trainees at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) in addition to the three courses I had to audit. My own seminar presentation was organized by the Yale Divinity School towards the end of the Spring semester, precisely on April 25th, 2004. My paper was entitled: 'Anatomy of Female Powerlessness and HIV/AIDS Prevention in Sub- Saharan Africa: Need for Paradigm Shifts'. It was widely publicized and attracted a large audience.

On the material side, I was quite comfortable. I was given good accommodation in a conducive atmosphere that gave me all the peace and quiet I needed to function effectively. My living expenses were covered by the grant, so I did not have to struggle in order to survive. There was no distressing situation that more or less marred my stay at Yale. Let me use this medium to thank the Circle, the Women's Initiative at Yale Divinity School, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) and the financier of the program, the Fogarty International Center, for this wonderful opportunity offered to me to participate in the training program. It was worthwhile.

Dorothy Nwanyinma Ucheaga and Anne Nasimiyu at Graduation

News from the General Coordinator's Office

I cannot believe that 2004 has already come to an end! So many things to do and so little time, hence it felt like 2004 had only six months. May I take this opportunity to wish all the Circle members and partners a happy and peaceful Christmas holiday and a blessed new year. I wish to share with you some of the Circle and personal highlights since the last newsletter of April 2004.

At the 24th WARC General Council. From left to right: Ofelia Ortega, Aruna Gnanadason, Fulata Moyo, Omega Bula, Patricia Sheerattan- Bisnauth and Isabel Apawo Phiri
Visits to Circle Chapters
In July and August, I had the opportunity of visiting the Talitha Qumi Centre in Ghana. I went there with some Circle members who were participating in the Women's Pre Council and the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of the Reformed Churches. I was impressed with the progress made at the Centre and I really wish to encourage Circle members to get involved in fundraising for the Centre. If each one of us contributed a minimum of US$1 as a dedication to one African woman who has meant something in our lives, it could go a long way. The General Council gave me the opportunity to caucus with Aruna Gnanadason and Omega Bula about the possibility of having a Circle consultation on Women and Economic Justice in 2006. Once funds become available, I will come back to you on this issue.

In the first week of September, I was in Zimbabwe participating in a joint consultation of the Circle with the Zimbabwe Christian Council, under the sponsorship of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. 25 ecumenical women attended the consultation. Some of them were hearing about the Circle for the first time as most of the original Circle members have left the country. Despite the political difficulties, I was impressed with the women's articulation of the challenges facing women in Zimbabwe and suggesting solutions for the way forward. Chiropafadzo Moyo agreed to be the Circle coordinator in Zimbabwe. Her email address is:

From 5-8 September I was in Lesotho attending a meeting of the Southern Reference Group of the Ecumenical HIV/AIDS initiative in Africa, of which I have been the Chair. This meeting gave me an opportunity to hold a Circle meeting with our sisters in Lesotho. Eight women attended the meeting and committed themselves to forming an active Lesotho Circle chapter. Evelyn Vera agreed to coordinate the Circle there. Her email address is:

While in Lesotho, I discussed with Sue Parry, the Coordinator of the Southern Regional Reference Group of Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiatives in Africa about the writing challenges that the Circle is facing in Mozambique. This is where we agreed that if our sisters do not have the skills to write articles for publication, we need to capitalise on what they are good at, which is preaching. The EHAIA and Circle agreed to a joint workshop in Maputo to write guidelines for HIV/AIDS sensitive sermons. This workshop took place on 11 and 12 November 2004. I am glad to report that it was a success. The workshop was attended by 10 women, who committed themselves to complete the project that we started under the leadership of Felicidade Cherinda.

The Workshop on Engendering Theological Education in Africa
As advertised in our previous newsletter, the workshop on Engendering Theological Education in Africa took place from 15-22 May at Kempton Park conference center in South Africa. The manuscript is currently being tested in a few theological institutions before publication in the form of a handbook.

The interactive process of engendering theological education in Africa through curriculum development gave the Circle a chance to grapple with issues of self-identity, quality of the theological literature that the Circle is producing and the vision of the way forward for the Circle. This paper will now turn to a brief discussion of these three issues.

Naming our Work
The whole exercise brought back issues of language and people's perceptions of the work of the Circle and how that relates with the engendering theological curriculum. We had to clarify for ourselves the difference between "women's issues" and "gender issues".

It was noted that Circle members have used different names to describe their work. Some are comfortable to use the word feminist when describing their work. Others have resisted using that word even though their work is from feminist perspectives. Furthermore, some shared experiences of having been forced to use the word in the title of their books by publishers. The designed curricular has accommodated all the naming, which include: Circle Theology, Communal Theology, Bosati Theology and African Women Theologies. The users of the curricular are invited to use the title that seems more comfortable for their situation.

Quality of the Circle Theological Literature
The engendering process gave the Circle an opportunity to start a process of stocktaking what we have written in the past 15 years. A call was made to start with internal stocktaking by reading each other's work critically. We identified a need for a workshop where we can evaluate our work and find the way forward. When the Circle say that publishing is a requirement to individual membership in the Circle, it is understood that writing for publication presupposes that one has skills to do research, to theologically reflect on the information and to write, which is not true for everyone in the Circle. It has therefore become a necessity than before that the Circle should vigorously promote the theological education of African women. Besides that, it was felt that even the Circle women with theological education need regular workshops to develop academic skills to write professionally. Such workshops would cover the following topics: ethical issues of research; methodology; publishing; editing and co-publishing. The internal stocktaking was coupled with an invitation to objective external review of our work.

The Way Forward: Research Gaps
The original plan of the development of engendered curricula for theological education in Africa was to use as much of the Circle's publications as possible. The whole process has revealed where the gaps are in the Circle writings. The advantage of identifying these gaps in our research is that it helps us to direct future research to areas of need. The identified gaps are too many to be included in the newsletter but they will appear in the handbook that will be published soon.

Isabel Apawo Phiri, Circle General Coordinator.
On a personal front
Research and Publications in 2004
  • Phiri, I.A. "A Theological Analysis of the Voices of Teenage Girls on 'Men's Role in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS' in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa" in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, November 2004.
  • Phiri, I.A. "African women's Theologies in the new millennium" in AGENDA: Empowering Women for Gender Equity Number 61, 2004.
  • Phiri, I.A. "Healing from the Traumas of Crime in South Africa: Interaction of African Religions with Christianity as Perceived by Female Traditional Healers" in Journal of Constructive Theology Vol. 10, No. 2, December 2004.
  • Phiri, I.A. "HIV/AIDS: A Theological Response Of Mission" In The Ecumenical Review, (forthcoming) 2004/ 5.
  • Phiri, I.A."The Circle Of Concerned African Women Theologian's Contribution To Ecumenical Formation" In The Ecumenical Review, (forthcoming) 2004/5.
Plans for 2005
I am going on sabbatical leave from 2nd January to 31st June 2005. During this period I will be a research fellow at Yale University, benefiting from the Circle's collaboration with the CIRA project and Yale Divinity School. I will be able to access my e-mail through the same address. So, let's stay in touch.

When I return, I will be the new head of the School of Religion and Theology in the new premier University of KwaZulu-Natal, promoting African Scholarship. I wish to close by inviting as many Circle members as possible to come and study with us at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Unfortunately I cannot promise a scholarship from the University as it has put a moratorium on the appointment of Graduate Assistants until further notice.

Let us continue with the vision and mission of the Circle. Please write to your regional research coordinators, with a copy to me, to share with us what is happening in your life.

Yours in the Circle
Isabel Apawo Phiri

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.

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

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