During their annual conference held August 12-16, 2015, Bware Yearly Meeting in southwestern Kenya took the historic step of appointing the first-ever woman Presiding Clerk of any yearly meeting in East Africa.
Monica Makungu Dalizu, age 53, had been serving as the Vice Presiding Clerk of Bware Yearly Meeting for the last three years, and had also served a three-year term as the YM Recording Clerk. She is currently also the Recording Clerk for Friends Church Kenya (the national umbrella organization for the 18 yearly meetings in Kenya).
She was born in Vihiga and grew up in the Lumakanda Settlement Scheme, an area in which the government assisted farmers to resettle on land formerly held by Brits. She trained as a primary school teacher with a diploma in Special Education, and currently holds the position of Deputy Head Teacher at Edemba Primary School in Migori. She and her husband, Abisai Dalizu, are blessed with six children.
Additional reflections, if you want a broader background story about women in leadership:
The Quaker movement in Africa has been characterized by its commitment to the dignity and rights of women, despite strong cultural forces to the contrary. Friends provided educational opportunities for girls at a time when the colonial authorities and other mission societies were only educating boys. Friends challenged some of the food-related taboos that contributed to poor maternal and newborn health, and empowered women to serve in pastoral ministry. Today, Quaker women are disproportionately represented in civil service and public life, due to their access to education and an ethos of empowerment.
The United Society of Friends Women (USFW) movement is particularly strong in East Africa, where women organize numerous spiritual and community development activities. USFW has provided important opportunities for women to exercise leadership at all levels. USFW office bearers and their programmes are commonly held in the highest regard in terms of integrity and effectiveness.
Yet challenges to women in leadership and public ministry remain. Women pastors still encounter cultural taboos against performing some of their regular duties, such as weddings and funerals. Women make up only a small percentage of the student body at Friends Theological College. And until now, no yearly meeting had appointed a woman to one of the three main leadership positions: Presiding Clerk, General Secretary and General Superintendent. The groundbreaking significance of Monica Makungu Dalizu’s appointment as Presiding Clerk of Bware Yearly Meeting cannot be overstated, and all Friends are encouraged to hold her in prayer as she takes up her new office.