Swinging from side to side, the congregation joined the gifted preacher-cum-singer Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, the Executive Director of INERELA as she took to the podium as Guest of Honour singing “There is a race I must run, and a victory to be won…”

INERELA+ is an international network of religious leaders – lay and ordained, women and men – living with, or personally affected, by HIV.

Rev. Mabizela is a proponent against stigmatizing those living with the HIV virus, and discloses her positive status without fear.

The World Federation for Methodist and Uniting Church Women annual conference held at Africa University from the 29th of November to the 1st of December 2013.

The conference held under the theme “Bambelela! Hold on! Don’t Give Up! Christ is our hope!” was attended by over 400 women from The United Methodist Church (UMC), Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ), and African Methodist Episcopal (AME). The UMC unit hosted the event.

Clad in African designer dresses bearing the “Federation” and “Christ is our Hope” logos, hundreds of women from the three Methodist units thronged the Africa University campus to register for space at the UMC-Related University.

Bishop Hartzel over a century ago visioned the world coming together at this same site. Students from Africa have indeed come and the dream realized. Today Methodist women from the four corners of Zimbabwe gathered to chat their destiny during the “16 Days of Activism” the conference also coincided with the World Aids Day on the 1st of December 2013.

Indeed the women had an agenda. To them victory seemed certain despite spanners that may be thrown into the works – conditions of deprivation. Rev. Mabizela strongly condemned men and women of the cloth who encourage members through their teachings to abandon treatment on the pretext of a divine healing, yet they themselves take pain killers when they have headaches after preaching long hours.

For that reason the women were called to action. “We have been given a special honour as custodians to make decisions” said Dr. Rudo Mutasa, the daughter of veteran journalist Ezekiel Makunike and the only female Pathologist in Zimbabwe who spoke on the need for self care.

“African women are a resilient breed and they are the ones to teach the world about hope…” said Rev. Dr. Jimmy Dube a Contextual Theologian and Academic Dean at United Theological College. He said so referring to power in an African woman to defy all odds and whatever life throws at her.

In order to deal with all conditions of socio-economic and political deprivations, the women’s conference focussed on Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

High level speakers took turns to the podium to speak against domestic violence, against HIV/Aids stigma, women and children abuses, inequitable distribution of power and resources, lamented the environmental degradation, and raised the need for self care.

Dr. Rudo Mutasa the only female Pathologist in Zimbabwe implored the audience to; “Stand at the crossroads and chose ancient paths”. She said this in referring to the need for women to change refined diets to the old African dishes.

In addition she bemoaned the reality that women spend lots of time caring for others and forgetting to care for themselves. “Caring for yourself becomes a critical concern at this time when we as women are faced with the reality of caring for the orphans, the bed-ridden relatives and in the process about self care issues.”

“High level of speakers here are touching on concrete issues affecting women on a day to day basis” said a number of women interviewed during the course of the conference, “…particularly their focus on millennium development goals.”

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were established following the Millenium Summit of the United Nations(UN) in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millenium Declaration. All 189 United Nations member states at the time (there are 193 currently) and at least 23 international organizations committed to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The MDGs are as follows:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

The conference deliberated on MDGs numbers 1,2,5,6 and 7. After several presentations on; eradication of extreme poverty, primary education for all, combating HIV/Aids and other diseases, environmental sustainability, gender issues and Bible studies, the conference resolved;

1.To re-analyse and strengthen our facts through the word of God

2.To engage the men of cloth who preach against the use of drugs to prolong life in cases of HIV/Aids

3.To speak up against any cases of abuse and violence

4.Make self care an integral part of our lives pertaining to personal health and that of our families

5.To educative agencies in our communities that speak about environmental sustainability for example in preventing veld fires, access to safe water and sanitation services

6.Make a commitment as women of faith who will try to make Africa a better place to allow growth in understanding scripture and enable women to tackle issues with boldness.

The conference ended with a communion service.