Supporting women in their struggle for human rights

About

I am from Sri Lanka.  As a child, while I was in class 6, I joined the Legion of Mary. There we were asked to go in search of children, the sick and the older people who are in need of care and company.  Also we used to help sisters to collect things for the summer holiday camps for the poor children in tea estates.

When I had finished my secondary school examinations I was thinking - what must I do to choose a way of life?  I chose Religious Life, to be a Sister.  I had little idea about it, except I knew a few Good Shepherd Sisters who were my class teachers.  But I was shy and frightened to tell this to the sisters.

Then I thought - I love Jesus and all those people who are poor.  I can join the congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and I can serve them.

In Good Shepherd

I joined the Good Shepherd Sisters, and I learned more about Jesus the Good Shepherd who loves those who are weak and fallen on life’s journey - due to many reasons, mostly because they did not find anyone who really loves them.

Rose Virginie, our Foundress, Saint Mary Euphrasia - her passionate love  and zeal for Jesus and for the poor, the teenagers and women who needed  understanding - filled me too with a great zeal.

I was lucky to be with the girls of St. Euphrasia’s home for a long time.  I learned to love St Mary Euphrasia from them. I owe my gratitude to them.

Our mission of reconciliation taught me to be humble, to forgive, to be just and be of service to all, especially to people who experience a lack of love.

The Challenges

For some years I have been living and working in Pakistan.  I was co-ordinating the programme Hifasath ki Zindagi – New Life for children in need of basic education, in Karachi. 

Now I have moved to a place called Quetta surrounded by hills and mountains.  We are two Sisters in this new mission, working with girls and women.  We are working in collaboration with Salesian Fathers. We have a hostel for the girls from broken homes, orphans, and the children from very poor families. The place is very remote - no telephone or internet facilities. When we come to our community once a month I am able to check the mail.

I am very happy to be here, with the people, surrounded by Afghan refugees, a Christian colony and minority group of Muslims.

The women in Pakistan are struggling for their status, rights, equality and freedom.  50% of the population are women and most are uneducated. The girl child is not given preference for education.

Some women are taking steps to gain their own recognition and status, being proud of their womanhood and thankful for it.  On the other hand the culture declares women to be subordinate beings, the root of evil. They are second class citizens.

The law of “chaddar” and “chardawary” (veil and four walls ) keeps women confined to the home. The joint family system does not allow the daughter-in-law to take much responsibility at home.  The Mother-in-law sees to all the needs of the family, and sons are subordinate to their mothers.

In almost every aspect of life, women face the dual handicap of inequality and double standards:

  • In the workplace, women are paid less for their work.

  • In the area of morality and sexual ethics, women bear responsibility and blame.  Even to the extent that rape is considered to be the same act as adultery and the punishment for women is the same.

  • In the church we have seen a growing recognition of the abilities of women.  Religious and lay women are taking an active part in Church services and in Parish life, but very few are appointed to decision making roles at parish and diocesan levels.

The Inspiration

In my ministry I can feel the heartbeat of feeble, weak and poor Christians struggling to live, to educate children and to be firm in their faith in the midst of challenges and difficulties.  My faith is also strengthened in being with them in their struggle.

As Good Shepherd sisters we move with women to help them to be aware of their worth and dignity in society and to build up their capacity to face the challenges at home, in the workplace and in the society.

Our ministry in Pakistan includes:

  • Providing basic education and faith education to the underprivileged children.  Education is the tool to fight poverty and faith will be their guide and hope for dignified life.

  • Working with our Mission Partners in Pakistan, to build up their spirituality so that they will commit themselves to support the poor and the marginalized in the parish.

  • Pre Cana for engaged couples - understanding Christian Marriage and the blessings of the Sacramental life in an Islamic culture.

  • Teaching Feminist Theology in the Major Seminary, Karachi so that they will know the dignity of woman and their rights in a Islamic state and culture.

  • Guidance and counselling to the young and adults.

Our Good Shepherd friends have become our partners in our mission to reach out to many children and women who are crying out for the Good Shepherd Love.  Their presence is a source of strength.

This is my 43rd year in my life as a Good Shepherd Sister. I really experience the beautiful words of St. Mary Euphrasia:  “Live joyfully with your God.” My heart overflows with joy that I belong to the Good Shepherd’s heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Projects

Together in Mission, in Pakistan

Together in Mission, in Pakistan

Near the Afghan border Good Shepherd Sisters and Salesian Fathers are working together to offer education and empowerment opportunities to young people from various faith communities

Report from the Asia Pacific Partnership Team

Report from the Asia Pacific Partnership Team

Comprehensive overview from the GSAPP team - how Good Shepherd Partnership for Mission is developing in this region

Hifasath ki Zindagi - New Life

Hifasath ki Zindagi - New Life

Good Shepherd Centre works with children who cannot go to school due to poverty. They teach the children the basic skills of learning and studying to enable them to access government schools