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An event that was being similarly marked the world over, it had as its theme this year ‘Celebrating Women’s Leadership’, which, according to World YWCA General Secretary, Ms Musimbi Kanyoro, is a way of reminding oneself “to affirm the leadership of women.”
Women’s leadership, she said, “is particularly important at this time in our history; a time when there is so much uncertainty; when peace is threatened; when communities are threatened by illnesses; when the education of women is so much required and the presence of women to be part of the political decision-making is very much needed.”
Ms Kanyoro encouraged those gathered to celebrate the occasion “by remembering the women who have led this movement from the beginning and made it such a great movement where all the people gathered see the kind of work we are doing that is making a great difference to the communities in which we live.”
Also by “making sure that the leaders that have been there are ready and able to pass on the torch to the younger leadership, for a movement that is alive is a movement that continues to rebirth itself …and invest in the leadership of younger women.”
Seizing upon the theme, guest speaker, the Rev Faye Clarke chose as her topic ‘Virtues and Valour for Victory’, finding a parallel in Romans 12: 9 - 14 and 21 which says:
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Love being one of the specific virtues in this passage of scripture she felt was critical to effective leadership, Rev Clarke said: “It takes a great level of growth to get to the point where one can love unconditionally; where one can love, not because of any hidden motive or agenda, but rather because God expects it of us.
“It is love that should motivate us to do what we do; it is love that should constrain us and give us the impetus to go forward in the tasks we undertake to do because so often, even women in leadership face these particular kinds of challenges…especially if you’re in a field where perhaps it’s a male-dominated type of structure.”
Noting that women who are in leadership are, quite often, not only restricted to one particular area, but are leaders in the home, the community, in organisations such as the YWCA and can come under stress from time to time, the guest speaker stated: “It takes that virtue of love; God’s love in your heart, to make them continue pressing on; beyond their own flesh; beyond their own limitations; tiredness; when sometimes it seems that what you’re trying to accomplish is not getting anywhere.”
Careful to note the disparity between virtues and qualities, whereby the former is seen as coming from within and only achievable through personal effort and sacrifice, as opposed to the latter which can either be studied, developed, mastered or attained intellectually, she interpreted the virtue of being ‘not slothful in business’ to mean people who are diligent in whatever task they undertake, not just for the sake of undertaking it, but people who not only take pride in their work but are able to produce yet stick to deadlines.
‘Fervency of spirit’, on the other hand, is the ability to maintain “that fire; that vitality; that zeal” in whatever one sets out to do.
“In the absence of zeal,” she said, “we can’t make it. And that zeal has to come from within and not motivated externally. Your motivation shouldn’t come essentially because you’re complimented for what you’re doing, but your zeal and your motivation should remain steadfast, regardless of whether you’re complimented, opposed or criticised.”
“You must have that absolute confidence,” the minister stressed, “that what you’re doing is going to make sense, and even if it might not be appreciated or recognised initially, there is going to be point where you will be vindicated and your work validated.”
And, in veiled reference to the twin evils of crime and the realities of the economic situation here, specifically in relation to the virtue of ‘rejoicing in hope and being patient in tribulation’ she said: “We have to be patient; we have to not focus on the tribulations which would cause us sometimes to be distracted, but maintain our focus.”
As for its corollary: ‘Continuing in instant in prayer’, Rev Clarke said: “I believe this is one particular virtue that is sometimes neglected or sometimes the emphasis is undermined or thought to be a useless exercise.
“But we’re assured that even if we don’t have a measure of active faith, we must be conscious that there is too much empirical evidence to support the fact that persons who have coupled their lives not only with activity, but some strong measure of faith and prayer, owe their many accomplishments to God’s Grace.”
On the subject of valour, a word that is not in frequent use today, she said: “I think that we lose so much of the essence of concepts these days essentially because people have lost their sense of value; that foundation that we used to have years ago” of properly understanding the English Language in terms of the derivation of words.
Noting that the word ‘valour’ tends to connote being in warfare, she said a case in point is the term, ‘a man of valour’, which has specific reference to someone who is always championing causes, like the men of old, who were only too willing to put on armour and fight for - say the chastity of women, or the integrity of daughters or of a nation.
“I’m saying that valour is literally communicating that we must be women who are literally...willing to war for a cause; willing to fight for something we believe in; willing to fight to the end, and with the determination that we must win.”
Rev Clarke continued: “I do believe that if one is successful in acquiring the relevant kind of virtues, such as I’ve detailed before, as well as coupling that with the asset of value, undergirded by faith, one can be assured of victory.”
Noting the predisposition of men the world over to relegate that leadership role once held by them to their womenfolk by their very acts, such as their indulgence in the excessive use of alcohol and drugs and their involvement in crime, which, combined with other social societal ills, she said, “to my mind literally mandates that women rise to the occasion, not for the sake of challenging gender issues or male authority or things of that nature, but simply to fulfill a vital void that exists in our society.”
“as we work together as one”, she said, “I do believe that we will see greater success in our organistions; our children; our homes; our community; and in this nation.”
And, with reference to the passage of scripture, which is also one of the prophetic signs of the end-times namely, that “in the last days, a woman shall compass a man,” Ms Clarke while many relate this to the current gender struggle, what it actually means in original Greek is that “a woman will literally be an instrument of war, encompassing and fighting for men; fighting that men will become what they’re supposed to be.”
Among those who graced the early-morning function with their presence were British High Commissioner, Mr Steve Hiscock; his wife, Ms Dee Hiscock; Secretary-General of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) National Commission, Ms Carmen Jarvis; and Director, US Peace Corps, Mr Earl Brown.
The occasion was also used to highlight the YWCA’s Global Campaign, which, according to First Vice-President, Ms Shevone Lord, is a $25M endowment fund that was established at the last YWCA World Council in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to support its leadership and development programmes for women and girls throughout the 109 countries where it has a presence.
The objective here, Lord said, is to strengthen the organisation’s ability to secure both human and financial resources so as to guarantee its continued work.
As such, everyone present was asked to contribute $US1 or its equivalent towards this cause.
The new Board, which came into force in March, also seized the opportunity of honouring one of the organisation’s longstanding members, Ms Waveney Lee, who celebrated her 64th birthday on Easter Monday (April 21) and who is said to have been a pillar of strength to the group, particularly in its hour of need.
The new Board comprises:
Petal Ridley - President
Shevone Lord - First Vice-President
Beverly Riley - Second Vice-President
Aileen Nestor - Secretary
Dale Johnson - Asst. Secretary
Yvonne Harris - Treasurer
Julia DaSilva - Youth Director
Committee members are Dianne Blyden; Jean Williams and Joycelyn Stewart.