Oscar Blayton at All Africa (Self-Help) Bazaar is a wonderful chronicler of self-help initiatives in Africa. Taken together his posts form a kind of textbook on the subject. His writing is thourgh and engaging. Recently he posted about The Lady Mechanic Initiative in Nigeria. There are many things about this project that endear me to it, first of all that there's a local connection. Stephenie Feckzo of Carbley's Garage in East Pittsburgh and Lucille Treganowan of Transmissions by Lucille fame are on the management board.
Sunday was the thirty-third aniversary of Roe v. Wade a Supreme Court decision that paved the way for safe and legal abortion in the USA. After watching the Steeler game, I was a little too drunk to take not of that in my blog post. Abortion is such a contentious subject that I rather generally steer clear of the topic. At 3 Quarks Daily there was a link to a review by Garry Wills of Jimmy Carter's new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. The whole article is available at The New York Review of Books.
Wills points out that Carter sees that "the norms of religion and politics are different." My home religion is Episcopal, but having grown up in the American South it's easy to have some idea about Baptists. So when Carter protests that the religion and politics together nowadays contradicts traditional Baptist beliefs, the premise doesn't seem far-fetched. Indeed a long strand of the Baptist fabric is resisitng coercion in matters of faith. Said via the positiva Baptist beleve:
"the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ, whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures."James Carrol writing about the legacy of Pope John Paul II in Time provides an excellent introduction to this seminal debate in Christianity from a Roman Catholic perspective. It's interesting that two religious men, a conservative Christian president of the United States and the Pope in Rome should share as a matter of values at the intersection of religion and politics the "renunciation of the use of coercion in defense of the truth." Carter sees the new Christian fundamentalism as a regression to authoritarianism at odds with fundamental precepts of Baptist faith.
Mostly I've let religion lapse. As someone who is pro-abortion rights it was interesting to find so much agreement with Carter who is opposed to abortion; agreement based in commonly held values.
I laughed when I read Margot's Journaling Ethiopia about people shunning working with teens because "they're difficult." Of course they are, but at the same time none of us wants harm to befall them. Violence against women and girls is a subject I have such a hard time talking about, yet I'm not so naive to think it's not something important to talk about. We must defend our teens against violence, but: How?
Sandara E. Aguebon is the driving force behind The Lady Mechanics Initiative. Going through the Web site brought me joy listening to her story. Becoming an auto mechanic empowered her and now she wants to empower other women. One of the objectives of Lady Mechanics is:
To reduce scandals and abuse of womanhood. Reduce the level of female participation in social vices such as prostitution, human and drug trafficking, armed robbery and other immoral practices.On the front page is a highlighted text box: "Free accomodation especially commercial sex workers." Without knowing their objectives one might wonder what they're up to. Aguebon is keen to show that auto mechanics can empower young women. And she doesn't beleive in "throw away" people.
Politics is hot these days in America. Religio-political fundamentalist will dismiss Carter out of hand, but Carter's book is still important. He shows that in the current crisis in values there are still fields of common ground for cultivating. It's important we do so.
The sharing and communication I garner through this blog is so very gratifying. After yesterday's post a friends sent me a couple more links for online resources for making flipbooks: here and here. Also a friend sent me a photocopy of an article from December's Gourmet. Gourmet's Web site is useful and entertaining, but so far as I can see I can't link to the particular article The Healing Fields. The article is about the challenges Ugandans face with more than a million children orphaned by AIDS. It's a good article which gently addresses the religio-political fundamentalism undermining the promotion of condom use that has been one of the pillars of Uganda's success in stanching the rate of HIV infection. There is a very useful link mentioned in the article to TRICKLE UP an international non-profit organization whose mission:
is to help the lowest income people worldwide take the first step up out of poverty, by providing conditional seed capital and business training essential to the launch of a small business.There seem to be two distinct versions of "power" in human relations: the first power over others, and the second empowerment, i.e., power from within (I don't have the citation, but I'm sure that's from Starhawk). Carter's book addresses how authoritarianism in both religion and politics leads too often to perverse outcomes. He makes the case for liberty and empowerment and places them firmly in the relm of tradional American values.
It was a pleasant surprise to find local business women, Stephenie Feckzo and Lucille Treganowan, on the management board of The Lady Mechanic Initiative. Perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise. Americans have in many times and in many ways sought to develop our individual potential and then to share that with others. Our stock and image around the world has been tarnished by the hubris and authoritarianism of our recent politics. Nonetheless empowerment is an all-American value worth embracing against the furies of religo-political authoritarianism.