Thanks to the support of our donors, activists, and subscribers, we are pleased to announce that we have hired Elaina Ramsey as our new Women and Girls campaign associate! Previously serving as Sojourners’ assistant editor, Elaina brings intimate knowledge of both Sojourners and our Women and Girls campaign to this position. In fact, she has played a foundational role in the creation of this campaign, from helping to increase gender-focused content in Sojourners magazine, to creating powerful tools of engagement like our domestic violence toolkit, to coordinating creative communication opportunities like hosting a Google Hangout with Sojourners’ President Jim Wallis and author Michelle Gonzalez, who wrote the January 2014 Sojourners cover article on the church's inferior treatment of women.
I was able to sit down with Elaina to ask her a few questions about her background, passion for gender justice, and her vision for the position.
- What excites you about the Women and Girls campaign associate position?
I’m thrilled to be a part of Sojourners’ long legacy of seeking gender justice in the church and society at large. As a community organizer at heart, I’m most excited about working with our committed donors, activists, and partners to strengthen this faith-based movement that affirms the integrity and equality of both women and men. There’s still much work and healing to be done, but I look forward to seeing what God does through our efforts.
- Why are you passionate about women and girls’ equality?
Growing up in conservative evangelical communities, I wasn’t always taught to value my own leadership, voice, or perspective as a woman. These teachings caused me and other women great harm, particularly when responding to situations of domestic violence and sexual assault. Fortunately, I had great professors and mentors—both men and women—who encouraged me to challenge these assumptions that regard women as second-class citizens. Through their support and witness, I came to understand deep in my soul that all people are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Churches should be a safe place for everyone. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping people of faith become aware of and take action on gender issues. We can do better—we must do better.
- Why do you think it’s important that Sojourners launch this campaign?
I firmly believe that people of faith can transform the world. Despite the many flaws and failures of the church and her people, Christians have a tremendous amount of power and influence to do good. This campaign is all about harnessing the leadership of churches and clergy, and encouraging people of faith to raise their voices on behalf of women and girls. Through education and empowerment, we can confront gender-based oppressions and change harmful practices, policies, and structures within the church and the broader culture. It’s a tall order, but one that demands nothing less from us if we truly believe in the sacred worth of women and girls.
- What do you see as Sojourners’ biggest success with this campaign so far?
Through Sojourners magazine and the God’s Politics blog, we continue to offer great reporting about gender equity and empowerment, creating a safe place for women’s voices and experiences. Some of these perspectives were even featured in our latest resource called I Believe You—a powerful discussion guide responding to stories of sexual violence and the church. As a follower of Christ and a former editor, I believe in the power of storytelling. It’s what connects us to one another and the good news—God’s story of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation for the world. Together, through these stories, we continue to break the silence around gender-based violence and sexism to uphold the God-given dignity of women and girls.
- What are some of the campaign objectives for the next year?
We want to become the “go-to” place for these important conversations and stories about gender justice and the church. As such, Sojourners will develop more theological and biblical resources focused on women’s dignity and empowerment, creatively amplify women’s voices, and advocate to change policies that negatively and disproportionately affect women and girls—all while building relationships with unlikely allies and bringing them together for our 2015 leadership gathering, The Summit, to collaborate together and help improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
We’ll also build on important work from the 2014 Summit, where we released a groundbreaking study that reveals the alarming need to equip clergy with more resources as they respond to sexual and domestic violence in their congregations. In the coming year, we’ll work directly with seminaries to better educate and train faith leaders to prevent, identify, and respond to violence against women.
Human trafficking and women’s leadership in the church will also be priority issues for the campaign. And we’ll delve more deeply into how climate change, immigration, poverty, and war all impact the lives of women and girls. These are exciting times, and I’m honored to be a part of it.
We look forward to the leadership Elaina will provide as we move forward with this exciting new chapter in our Women and Girls campaign. Thank you for the role you played in making this possible, and we look forward to continuing to partner together in this important work!
Katie Chatelaine-Samsen is director of individual giving at Sojourners.