August is women's month in South Africa, with Woman's Day celebrated on August 9. So the visit to South Africa by one of the world's most powerful women, Hillary Clinton, was an inspirational moment in continuity with the spirit of South African women of all races who marched against oppressive laws during the apartheid era in 1950.
South Africa is an example of an intentional political commitment to a process of ensuring that representation of women in all levels of society happens. Clinton took time to address women's issues in addition to other pressing political concerns, such as the situation in Zimbabwe and HIV and AIDS. During her tour of different African countries, the world was able to witness the celebratory way in which Africans welcome visitors, through singing and dancing. The same celebratory spirit characterizes many church services as communities celebrate God in salvation and in daily experiences.
Another occasion for celebration was the awarding of the citizen's award to Bishop Desmond Tutu by U.S. President Barack Obama! Bishop Tutu is a living symbol of faithful commitment at all costs to justice and the dignity of all persons. Two weeks ago, he appeared on national television, reading a story to children as a way of building a culture of reading among children. It struck me that his love for people enables him to expand his horizons in new and creative ways.
HIV and AIDS continue to take the lives of many, causing suffering to communities who have to take up the challenge of caring for orphans and people in the last stages of AIDS. As health issues continue to be a challenge, swine flu has emerged as a threat to life. So far five people from different parts of the country have died and more than 2,000 infections have been diagnosed. Life is precarious and precious.
With the political process moving slowly, many people in Zimbabwe seem to have lowered their expectations for a speedy transformation and are adopting a long-range view that includes continuing to engage critically in the political process and also focusing on survival and taking responsibility for families, relatives, communities, etc. A factor that has counted in favour of many Zimbabweans working in neighbouring countries is their reputation of being workers with high levels of productivity -- that is, "hard-working, educated, dedicated, and able to take initiative," which outweighs negative acts by individuals who engage in crime and other illegal activities.
As much as Zimbabweans work and support their families and communities, they cannot do everything alone. That is why partnerships with local initiatives and churches is important to enable those called to service to reach out and make a difference in the lives of vulnerable members of society. Please consider partnering with programmes that lie close to your heart so that together we can make visible God's loving presence in our world. As always your prayers are appreciated.
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.