Women Helping Women
Thirty years after the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) was formed, this organisation’s news bulletin frequently published reports of activities from its member countries. This sharing encouraged other members and demonstrated programs they could undertake or adapt to assist women and their families in their country. Sometimes, it was a simple activity that was inexpensive and, yet, created opportunities to improve the lives of those women and children in their local community. Other times, it was a report on a bigger project, or even a huge regional event held to promote a program that would benefit the families in that region.
One such report caught my eye when I was browsing a 1988 copy of ‘The Asian Church Woman’, the quarterly ACWC news bulletin. It was an informative overview of activities associated with the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Churches Bangladesh, and was submitted by Manjusree Biswas. Even though there were many similarities to Christian ministry in Australia at that time, there were also differences unique to women’s ministry in Bangladesh.
‘Following is the synoptical reports of some of the programs we implemented this year i.e. July ’87 to June ’88.
Time to time Women’s Committee organized Rural Women’s Seminar, Regional Seminar, Bi-annual Seminar, Leadership Training Workshop etc.
‘From 30th Sept. to 4th Oct. ’87 our Bi-annual Seminar and the Centenial [sic] of World Day of Prayer was held at Chandroghona under the district of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
‘100 women from different parts of Bangladesh and from different churches and denominations participated in the Seminar. Following are the names of participant Churches and denominations: Anglican, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Reform Church, Bogra Christian Church, Fellowship Church, Assemblies of God Church and Baptist Churches from different areas …
‘We planned for three Rural Women’s Seminars last year but we could hold only one and the others two were postponed due to the devastating flood. Only one Rural Women’s Seminar was held at Ruhea in Thakurgaon District.
‘A whole day Seminar was held on the 24th June ’88 at the Council Premises.
‘Though there was heavy rain that day yet 44 women from different Christian denominations came to the Seminar. It proves that they like our Seminars and social and religious awareness is growing among our women day by day.
‘In the Seminar, besides other things, group discussion was held on “PEACE” and lecture on “The behaviour of the mistress with their domestic helpers” was delivered by Dr. Mrs. Manjusree Chowdhury a writer of a number of books and articles.
‘World Day of Prayer Celebration
Every year we observe World Day of Prayer on the first Friday of March. Like every year we translated the prayer book of the WDP in Bengali and circulated the copies to the different Churches within the country for celebration. This year we observed the day on 4th March.
Women’s Committee of NCCB has started observing Women’s Sunday on the 2nd Sept. every year for the last 8 years. On this Sunday the women conduct the whole Church service. The purposes of this program is to make the women aware of their responsibility to Church and the Society, and to encourage them to work for the ministry of God.
‘Last year we observed Women’s Sunday on 13th Sept. This year we will observe this on the 11th Sept. We give a theme for the day. This year’s theme is ‘Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves.’ 1st Peter 2:16
‘Encouragement in Theology
There are women pastors in many countries of the world. But in Bangladesh there is none. With the hope of having women pastors in Bangladesh in future we started theological training course in 1986. Four women had taken the course for about one year. But three of them could not continue the course for their personal problems. Ultimately none has been able to complete the course.
‘We have planned to organize a three-day Seminar on Christian Theology in near future.
‘Rural Women’s Sewing (Tailoring) Program
With a view to helping the women to stand on their own feet by increasing their family per capita income and creating self-employment for the rural unemployed women we started Sewing Training Program for the rural unemployed women in 1986.
‘In the first year training course we gave tailoring training to 8 women from 8 villages with cooperation from Bangladesh Small Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC). This year we have given training to 6 women from 6 villages.
‘Rural Women’s Health Program
It was observed that the rural women are lacking adequate knowledge in childhealth care, preventive measure against infection of diseases, preparation of oral Rehydration Saline (ORS), family planning, proper sanitation etc. result of which is the cause of increased child mortality and ill-health of the mothers. It has, therefore, been considered by the Women’s Committee that Health Care Program for Rural Women be undertaken to raise consciousness of the rural women about the cause and consequences of the problem in three selected areas and educate them to find the possible solution.
‘In our first batch three tribal women from Rajshahi are taking training.
‘This year we will give training to 9 women. This 9 women will give training to the women of their own localities for one year and the Women’s Committee of NCCB will give them a nominal monthly allowance for their services.
‘Shelter for the Homeless
The United Nations declared 1987 as the year of the ‘Shelter for the Homeless’. On this objective the Women’s Committee decided to build dwelling houses for 6 poor shelterless families. Six shelterless families have been selected for the purpose (out of six there will be four shelterless widow[s]).
‘It may be mentioned here that one of the 6 dwelling houses will be build with the contribution from the members of the Women’s Committee NCCB. Already work has been started for building the houses.
‘Our Cooperation with some International Organizations
The Women’s Committee of the NCCB is the member of the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC), Fellowship of the Least Coin (FLC), World Day of Prayer (WDP) and connected with the Women’s Desk of Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). The Women’s Desk of NCCB pay a nominal contribution to these organizations every year. This way the Women’s Committee has been keeping close contact with these organizations and expressing solidarity with them. Our Committee Members and Women Church representatives participate in the meetings, conferences, seminars etc. of these organizations from time to time.’
Members of Australian Church Women have been blessed to fellowship with, encourage and learn from the Christian Women of Bangladesh since the second Assembly of the Asian Church Women’s Conference in 1962.
See https://www.acw.org.au/post/1978-wks-scholars for a brief article about a Christian woman from Bangladesh who was a recipient of a 1978 Winifred Kiek Scholarship from Australian Church Women.