It can be hard to imagine an environment where information is not easily accessible by the entire population. In some places, individuals do not have easy access to life-saving information. It’s equally difficult to think about living in an environment where women have to teach other women that their voices matter – that they do not have to remain silent about the stigma placed against them. The heartbreaking reality is that women in many countries all over the world, including the United States, face these issues and more everyday.
No matter where women live, they remain strong in their own communities. Within these areas, there are the women who have a fire burning inside them to make their communities – and ultimately the world – a better place. Through Harper Hill Global and the Women Arise Network, women are working tirelessly to bring information and communication technologies (ICTs) to their own communities in several areas of Africa that suffer from information poverty. Through these ICTs, women are gaining access to information, education and are being equipped with effective communication strategies to better the lives of others, as well as their own.
Throughout her life, the Reverend Dr. Betty Kazadi Musau could see the stigma against women’s access to education that surrounded her. However, seeing this kind of inequality toward women did not stop her from learning what she wanted to better understand and becoming who she wanted to be.
During Betty’s time in high school, only boys were allowed to study certain subjects. She was one of three girls who studied Philosophy and Latin while attending school. Betty went on to attend a United Methodist College where she focused on English as well as African studies. After graduation, she became the assistant for the Missionary Director to help her fellow students. During this time, Betty pledged to help girls just like her to attend university and continue their studies for a better future.
Within her local church, Betty served as Vice President of Christian Education in Youth Ministry, devoting her time and life to educating women on the benefits of communication on their lives along with those around them. Betty would go on to Africa University to study theology and then later attend school in Belgium to receive her Masters in Gender and Development. Through her studies, Betty discovered her passion for equipping women with tools to effectively communicate with one another.
Betty dedicates her time to teaching women about how communication and love can allow women to help one another. She believes and teaches that with effective communication skills, women can help each other with self-esteem, reconciliation, and breaking the silence placed on them for a better life. Betty teaches women to actively love one another without discrimination. She teaches women to genuinely listen to people who are different from themselves, to build relationships with one another through faith, and to become advocates for one another in society. As an example, Betty talks of her experience with indigenous communities within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). “They are not different from me, as long as we share the same imago dei (image of God). Women should value Imago Dei in each other for mutual uplifting.”
Through utilizing information and communication technologies, Betty has implemented programs that ensure women are not left behind. The programs even support equal rights for women, which more easily allow women to be heard and use their voices. One of the communication programs Betty has implemented, Medic Mobile, allows women to receive information on prenatal and postnatal care which helps reduce unnecessary maternal deaths in North Katanga, DR Congo.
Betty has also implemented a program in which women receive handsets to communicate with one another. Even better, these handsets also allow them to listen to the radio, receive life-saving health messages, and much more.
Through Betty’s initiative and partnership with the Church of Resurrection in Kamina, DR Congo, many women have successfully completed their education at Lupandilo Nursing School. These women have been spread throughout the Lomami province to serve as nurses for different communities. Another woman, Angel Nkulu, works in the United Methodist Guest House in Kamina as a trainer who teaches women how to regain their self-esteem. However, these examples are just two of the amazing stories of women who have been taught and inspired by those working within Dr. Betty’s network. These women now have the power to be self-sufficient and become a beacon of health, peace, and dignity for other women to follow.
“Knowledge is power,” says Betty, “I teach other women to be self-reliant and be able to help each other.” Women can also use these technologies to magnify the problem and end domestic and community violence. They can use these tools to alert others on rape violence and receive voice messages about immunization campaigns within their areas. Women can communicate with one another to be more powerful together, rather than letting stigma keep them silent and separated. Esther, (left) the symbol of Harper Hill Global’s Women Arise campaign, represents the community of women working together with one another through communication and faith to rise from stigma.
By giving women information and communication technology along with ideas on how to effectively use their voices, women like Betty are actively making a difference within their local communities. Just like in America, some of these areas are disrupted in many different ways from disease, war, or politics. However, bringing women together and furthering their access to technology has the power to unite people from many different areas. Communication, technology, and love give people the access to information they need to understand one another, to see past political or social differences, and to work together to better their community.
Brave women like Betty, who have fought against stigma and still fight for the rights of women around them, are so important to spotlight and admire. Betty’s work has united many people and will continue to do so with the help of ICTs. Young girls will see Betty and know that they can make a difference in the world; all it takes it hard work and a leap of faith. Words and prayers can be our most effective tools; however, social stigmas need to be fought so that all voices may be heard on an equal level. We honor the work that Betty has done and are inspired by her story!
Written by Autum Hughes