July 25-28, 2006
This Women’s Conference brought 15 women from the Australian SCM and SCM Aotearoa New Zealand to Melbourne where the theme of the various identities women carry in their lives is explored. The participants reflected on issues of identity on the self, in the family, in the community, in church, in the media and in the SCM itself.
The conference inputs include discussions with senior friends from the SCMs of Pakistan and Australia who shared on women’s leadership and participation in the SCM as well as the gender stereotyping and discrimination in the work environment. The participants from SCMA shared on situations and concerns of women in Aotearoa New Zealand where pertinent issues such as domestic violence, the stigma of being a single mother, as well as the predicaments of married women not wanting to take up the last name of their husbands. These issues created a platform for a lively exchange between the SCMA and ASCM participants while the ASCM participants also shared on the various government policies and commissions that were set up for women but are not always benefitting.
Feminist Theologies with a focus on the study of Mary Magdalene was also explored. The SCMA participants followed with a discussion on the identities of women as portrayed in the bible. Some of the identities explored were Hagar, Miriam, Elizabeth and Mary, Lilith, Woman of Samaria, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The following input was a discussion on women in activism where the challenge was that activism in any social movements could also be laced with patriarchy and androcentrism, hence, how can a woman, particularly a Christian woman, understand such implications in her involvement and works towards ending prejudices and discriminations on women in social activisim. The concluding overview used Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s pyramids of oppression/hierarchy and the circle of ekklessia to explain the power relations between women and men, women and women, men and men. These power relations cultivated a building up and sustaining the social structures that create identities of the oppressor and the oppressed, hence, forming the pyramids of oppression/hierarchy in our daily life. The challenge for the participants is need to recognise the pyramids in us and around us, while working to break away from the pyramids to form the circles of ekklessia where peace, justice, love, sharing and passion for the whole of creation can prevail.