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Women participants now 45 per cent at world church

Women are playing a stronger role than in the past at the assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) where 45 per cent of participants are females, leaders from the world’s largest grouping of churches say.

"The World Council of Churches provides a space for women," said Agnes Abuom, the WCC’s Africa regional president on 14 February, the opening day of a global meeting of the council’s highest governing body that is held once every seven years.

"This year we are celebrating an increased participation by women. We are 37 per cent of the delegates and 45 per cent of the participants," said Abuom, a Kenyan, speaking to a media conference at the assembly, which runs until 23 February with more than 4000 participants.

Prior to the start of the assembly of the WCC, which consists of more than 340 churches representing some 550 million people, the council’s general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, said the roles of men in society needed to be reorganized.

Speaking to a meeting of women participants, Kobia said such a change of roles for men is a pre-requisite for meaningful social transformation. Kobia said that during the 20th century, the change in women’s roles from that of being homemakers to working outside the home had impacted on women and family life. But this had not yet led to changes in men’s roles he rued.

"The role of men needs to change for the transformation to make sense in this assembly and beyond," noted Kobia. Still, the WCC general secretary warned that men in leadership positions would not give up power easily. Therefore, women should continue in their struggle for social transformation, he declared.

Louise Bakala Koumouno from the Evangelical Church of the Congo (Brazzaville) said very few women hold church leadership positions in sub-Saharan Africa, and urged the church to give training to women so that they could take up such positions.

(c) Ecumenical News International