Hopeless and Despondent are two women who live in Africa. Hopeless describes herself as a person who lives with a sense of futility - she has passively abandoned herself to fate.1 Despondent describes herself as a person who feels constant melancholy and depression.1 Can they find hope?
For many women in Africa, to be female is to be disadvantaged. Women for Women International cites a litany of statistics2 which show how girls are considered second hand citizens in Africa. These statistics show an overall picture of many women who are being treated as commodities and are controlled for sexual and monetary gain. As a result they are exposed to poverty and disease through abuse and neglect.
The Women for Women International report quotes Pulitzer prize winners Kristof and WuDunn, who capture the global plight of women as follows: "Women aged fifteen through forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined".2
It is into this frightening milieu that the radio programme Women of Hope is broadcast. TWR's Ruth Mbennah is spearheading the ministry of Project Hannah in Africa. She says that there are many in Africa who just "don't care about the girl-child. They can sell her, or traffic her. Trafficking in Africa is just normal".3 As she speaks of this reality, her desire to bring an end to the ignorance, pain, and brutal experiences of African women is clearly evident. Our two friends, Hopeless and Despondent are on her mind constantly.
Project Hannah is currently broadcasting in the following African countries: Angola, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and South Africa. A listener from Angola writes, "Your programme brings relief, peace, and comfort to my heart. I am a mother of 10 sons and my husband left home. Sometimes I do not have anything to give my children, but as I listen to the Women of Hope programme my strength is renewed for the next day".4 This listener demonstrates that Project Hannah is like an umbrella that shields Africa's women from the rainfall of hopelessness and despondency.
Plans are afoot to officially expand this shield to Tanzania, Malawi, Mali and Zimbabwe. Some of these countries have been chosen because they have been asking for Project Hannah, others because there are already inroads in terms of contacts or languages. Going forward, Ruth explains her criteria on choosing countries, "I look for countries where you find the case of injustice of women is severe, especially countries experiencing war, and countries that ignore the justice and the rights of women".3
Now we come back to Hopeless and Despondent. When they meet Jesus through Project Hannah they can change their names to Hope and Joy. The power of the Gospel trumps the power of oppression!
3. Personal Interview with Mrs. Ruth Mbennah
4. Hannah's Heartbeat Volume 13, Number 1