This is the fifth in a series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence.
Rev. Damon Mkandawire is hospital administrator for the United Church of Zambia’s Mbereshi Mission Hospital.
Q: How did you become involved in Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Mkandawire: My passion for fighting against rape and violence started a long time ago, back when I was doing my undergraduate studies. The passion was birthed from a bad experience. One of my friends was raped by some men just after we had our evening church service. From this day I started looking for a Christian response to fighting against rape. I fortunately came across Thursdays in Black online but never understood how I could make a difference. It wasn't until I was doing my second degree in theology that my church, the United Church of Zambia, sent me for a World Council of Churches’ short course on water, food and climate justice (ECO-School). Then, I had the firsthand information on Thursdays in Black.
Q: What reactions from people do you get when you wear a Thursdays in Black badge?
Rev. Mkandawire: People around are always intrigued when they see me wearing black and putting on a Thursdays in Black badge. Most of them ask what the campaign is about and get on board the moment they hear the explanation. My outstanding encounters are when people get surprised that a man is standing up for women’s rights. I am particularly encouraged when both women and men find it odd that a man is a gender justice champion. It’s a motivation that patriarchy deconstruction must go on.
Q: What are some of the events or actions that you have been involved in that you think have been particularly effective in addressing gender-based violence?
Rev. Mkandawire: In the recent past years we organised training workshops for the youth and the theological students on gender-based violence. We also have organised high school debates on the subject of gender-based violence. These platforms have proved to be ways of engaging the youth in fighting against gender-based violence. It is always amazing to see girls coming out and speaking out as a result of these platforms.
Q: What difference do you think Thursdays in Black has made so far?
Rev. Mkandawire: From my context and particularly as a pastor and hospital administrator, Thursdays in Black has made many victims of rape and violence speak up and seek justice. Thursdays in Black has made people bold enough to share their stories in the church and the victims now know that the church and hospital can be a safe haven for them.
Q: What is your first message to someone who is not yet involved in Thursdays in Black?
Rev. Mkandawire: Together, we can end gender-based violence; together our voice is louder. Let’s make the world a better place.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Council of Churches (WCC).
Rev. Damon Mkandawire