On Being a Tough Angel and the International Day of the Woman

Patricia Melnice of Tough Angels has spent the last three weeks with me in Kenya visiting sites related to the work of the Kenya Gender-Based Violence Partnership. This partnership  consists of SAI/Servant Forge, UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Tough Angels, the Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Arizona, and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in Kenya.  Patty is a rape and abuse survivor and her heart and work is defined by seeking justice and bringing hope to the more than 1 billion women globally that are denied equal access to education, work, health, and are often victims of violence. In Patty’s own words she writes in her journal:  “I have become a warrior for women and children of violence. My own experience of sexual abuse and violence push me to do the right thing, to use my voice, to advocate for awareness and change.”

The International Day of the Woman is a reminder that we have many miles to go before justice and equality are achieved.  Working alongside survivor/advocates like Patty Melnice is a reminder that this issue is more than a topic of tea parties, church book clubs, and policy elites.  This is about women who live in the suburbs of Denver, the streets of South Central Los Angeles, or are pastoralists roaming the plains of Turkana in Kenya or work near the diamond mines of South Africa. They are our daughters, our wives, our mothers, and our sisters.  Patricia is working to generate resources to provide crisis counseling, sustainable agriculture, basic health services, and education.  In the community of Lodwar, Kenya, the women of that village rushed our vehicle to greet her and to embrace her – they kept saying, “she came back.”  As we brokered an MOU with the community to provide water, seeds, fencing, and tools to support their agriculture project, these women expressed hope for a future.

UNICEF and IRC are near completion of a wing to a hospital in Lodwar that will provide refuge, counseling and legal services to women and children.  The partnership forged between SAI/Servant Forge, the Church of the Nazarene, Tough Angels and these two revered and known institutions of humanitarian service will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of abused and neglected women.

The International Day of the Woman is a Celebration of possibilities.  When I look at survivors like Patty, or see the faces of women I have worked with in Garden projects in Swaziland or tribal women fighting drug abuse on reservations in the United States, I am hopeful. The will to survive and then to overcome is alive and well.  We will continue to make progress as long as we can find ways to hear the voices of women like Patricia Melnice and the Tough Angels that are rising up globally.  Support her work at www.toughangels.org or www.servantforge.org.

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