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BUC Celebrates International Women's Day 2019

Posted on 18 March, 2019

The work of eight members of Stanborough Park Church for their church and local communities was recognised at an awards ceremony held by the British Union Conference and the Development Education Department of ADRA-UK on 12th March.

The ceremony, held to celebrate International Women's Day, was hosted by the Development Education Department of ADRA-UK in partnership with Adventist Community Services and Women's Ministries Departments both of which are under the directorship of Sharon Platt-McDonald's purpose was, according to ADRA's Cathy Boldeau, intended "to highlight the contribution of women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the wider community. Based on Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality) as prescribed by the United Nations for humanitarian organisations, the afternoon programme was a development education initiative to inform, inspire and hopefully change attitudes and opinions regarding gender issues."

The afternoon of 13th march saw a large number of women and a few brave men assemble in the BUC loft at the beginning of an afternoon's programme to encourage, value and appreciate the role of women in society in general and the church in particular as well as thanking women who had made a significant contribution to their church or local communities.

Following lunch, the tables nicely decorated for the occasion by  Renatella Iunac, the Women's Department secretary, the programme began with a brief presentation showing how male and female gender roles were established in children's minds at an early age. A class was asked to draw a picture of a fighter pilot, a firefighter and a surgeon. Almost all drew pictures of men in those roles and were surprised when their real counterparts who turned up to meet them were women.

The day is usually celebrated on  8th March but was altered to fit the diary of the principle speaker, Chief Inspector Alicia Shaw, Hertfordshire Constabulary's first woman from the BAME community to hold that role. She gave an inspiring account of how she joined the police service and her rise through the ranks in what was traditionally seen as a man's world to her present role becoming a hostage negotiator in the process and finding herself being called out at all times of the day and night dealing with potential suicides. She pointed out that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is a woman as is a Hertfordshire Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable an organisation which has five male and five female Chief Inspectors.

Other inspiring talks by women were given by two fire-fighters, Christi Burling who is currently a retained (part-time) fire-fighter hoping to be appointed to the service before too long and Carley-Jo Rackley who is the District Community Safety Co-ordinator for the Watford & Three Rivers districts, both talking about their roles and their experience in the local fire service - which was also traditionally seen as a man's world. They pointed out the a woman is currently in charge of London's Fire Service! 
ADRA-UK's Chief Financial Officer, Stha Nyamusara, spoke at length about the role of ADRA in making a contribution to the sustainable development of girls throughout the world telling us of the hardships that many encountered as a result of their gender. Also of her own inspiring rise through education from a childhood in an African country to becoming a Chartered Accountant and working for ADRA-UK.

The Chairman of Watford Borough Council, Councillor Rabi Martin, was the second main speaker of the day speaking of how equality had progressed during his lifetime although the women assembled wouldn't necessarily have agreed with all his views as seen from a male perspective! He cited three women prime ministers as being amongst those who had achieved the most during his lifetime: Mrs. Indira Ghandi in his native India, Mrs. Sirimayo Bandaranaika who became the world's first female prime minister in her native Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1960 and Britain's Margaret Thatcher.

The celebration ended with a presentation of certificates to women across the age range who have quietly undertaken work for their local churches, communities or ADRA giving their time freely for no financial reward and tor those who have achieved a lot in areas traditionally seen as belonging to men. It was felt that they should be recognised and appreciated for their contribution during their lifetime rather than as so often happens just have it recorded at their funeral or in their obituary! The work they were recognised for was inspiring in each case and it was clear that without them working quietly in the background many Adventist churches in the country would have a difficult job functioning as well as they do in their local communities.

Those recognised for their work were: Pat Walton, Audrey Balderstone, June Coombs, Pastor Lorraine Fontaine, Lynette Allcock, Margaret Anthony, Pam Robertson (in absentia) and Annalisa Buraglio Molteni. Also honoured was Andrea Hayes Community Liaison Officer, Watford Labour party for her work with Watford's 'One Vision Project'.

In the words of Sharon Platt-McDonald, written nearly 30 years ago:
So let's value our women
Let them know that we care
And appreciate and celebrate them
Whether they be far or near

Then confirm us valuable as women
And you'll be sensible
Because in one word ...
We're just INDISPENSIBLE!!!