Women's activities and in involvement in decision making in the Catholic Church: a case study of the Catholic Dioceses of Chipata

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Lungu, Martha
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The Catholic Church is making efforts to recognize the importance of equal participation of women and men in decision making. The Church has acknowledged the many activities that the women are involved in, in their parishes through the lay group organizations. Leadership in any institution or organization is crucial for its life and mission. It is true that leadership goes with decision making and the pattern of leadership is shaped by the given culture. In the Catholic Church, the structure has been hierarchical and patriarchal and no wonder the leadership pattern tends to be one-sided. Today there is great awareness among people in all walks of life about the democratic values and freedom to participate in decisions that affect them. Two strands of thought run the research: activities performed by women lay groups in a patrilineal, matrilineal and mixed cultural parishes, and women involvement in decision-making in the three above-mentioned cultural set ups by the women’s lay groups. The study aimed at identifying the activities that the women in the lay groups do and their participation in decision-making and how far the decisions they make go in an all male-centered and patriarchal governance that has kept women and laity in general at the bottom of the church hierarchy. The study used the qualitative method to collect and interpret data from focus group discussions (FGDs) through interview guides. 12 FGDs were held to collect primary data in the three parishes; Msipazi Parish located 25 kilometers in the south of Chipata, St. John’s Parish located 87 kilometers to the west of Chipata and St. Anne’s Cathedral Parish in the central part of Chipata town. The FGDs proceedings and interviews were recorded using an audio tape recorder besides note taking. Editing and correction of errors and verification were done. The study revealed that both the Catholic Women’s League and St Anne’s lay groups in the three set-ups carried similar activities in the church. The Catholic Women’s League in the mixed set up stands out stronger and more influential than other groups where decision making is concerned. The women in the patrilineal set-up are able to participate in decision-making unlike the way society perceives them. The women in the matrilineal set-up have little to say when they mix with men yet society perceives them to be strong. Women worked well in their groups but contributed less when mixed with men in various meetings. It was also noted that not all decisions made in the women lay groups are often endorsed by the parish councils and the priests. In most cases women leave major decisions to be made by the parish priest or the bishop
Women--Catholic Church--Zambia , Women in church work