Celebrating an African Initiative to Train More Female Theologians

In August, I attended a conference hosted by the Institute for Excellence, a part of the Overseas Council of Australia, on “Empowering Female Faculty in Theological Education in Africa”. I was one of some 60 participants from around the continent who travelled to Nairobi, Kenya. There, we were privileged to hear keynote addresses from Prof. Elizabeth Mburu, Dr Felicity Priest, Dr Esther Mombo, Dr Sophia Chirongoma, Dr Mercy Chukwuedo, Dr John Jusu, Prof. Philomena Mwaura, Dr Verena Schafroth, and Dr Marilyn Naidoo. Each of the five days began with worship and devotions led by women other than the keynote speakers. The remainder of those days was less the presentation of papers from a podium and more workshop-oriented, providing time for questions and invaluable discussion in smaller groups. Those groups enriched the whole experience, allowing me to meet many other participants as we processed the addresses together.

The topics addressed included:

  • Women leaders in the Bible (OT & NT)
  • Gender equality in the Bible
  • Gendered socialisation in Africa
  • Roles of women in African society
  • Forging an authentic identity as women in Theological Education
  • Manhood and Masculinities in the Bible
  • Women and Institutional Culture
  • Realities for women in leadership
  • Engendering the curriculum

I was excited to hear about the institute’s desire to start “The African Women in Theological Education Initiative”. This initiative hopes to provide ongoing training for female faculty through online platforms centred on research and publishing, faculty development, and leadership development. While the institute plans to run another conference next year, they strongly desire that these channels result in real action and change. Thus, in 2024, the institute will seek to engage the leaders of various African theological institutions, sharing their findings from surveying women in theological education and discussing ways forward that will develop and utilise female faculty.

The Lord used this conference to motivate me in my current role at GWC, which was an answer to prayer. I rejoiced in the reminders from Scripture that there’s a higher purpose to my being here. It was also a delight to be in the presence of so many African women also serving in theological education—some having done so for decades. Their faithful perseverance is a challenging model for me, giving me greater confidence in the work God has set before me here.

The conference made me acutely aware that only four women were in my class of 23 students. It compelled me to be more intentional in ensuring that their voices are heard in class discussions while also being mindful that this may be intimidating.

Finally, roughly nine out of ten women at the conference were PhD holders. This was both intimidating and a wake-up call for me to continue my studies.

by Ms Ikho Poswayo