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Empowering women through education

Education gives a voice to many women around the world

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“Education is the key for change in women’s lives to shape a better future,” says Raquel Arrais, associate director of Women’s Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church and who manages the scholarship program. 

The Women’s Ministries department of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church focuses on six areas that impact women globally: health, workload, poverty, illiteracy, education and leadership opportunities, and abuse. “When we looked at these six issues, and we agreed if you educate a woman, you educate a family and she can then have a little bit of hope and a way out. We are helping them to fulfill their God-given potential. Education is a gateway to leave the other five issues behind, because one empowered woman can approach her life better,” said Arrais.  

Rose Otis, the first director of Women’s Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, had a vision to empower Seventh-day Adventist women in higher education everywhere. Otis decided to start a Women’s Ministries Scholarship Fund. This program became a part of the Women’s Ministries department in 1991. Through the scholarship, the Women’s Ministries department can empower women in the local church and the Church’s global institutions, to help them in their education and career.

Linda Koh, director of Children’s Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church says the scholarship is a big advantage for the Adventist Church as well. “One benefit we found is that these young ladies, who’ve received a scholarship, have all graduated, and have become leaders of our Church because they have a higher education and they help other young ladies become educated.”

The first woman to receive the first scholarship was May-Ellen Colon. Today she serves as liaison between the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Adventist Community Services, an Adventist run emergency relief agency that operates in all world divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I felt affirmed and supported as I embarked on the huge and expensive journey to earn a PHD, especially since I wasn’t sponsored,” said Colon. “It was like a hug from God.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has established a special committee that goes over all the applications and criteria. To apply for this scholarship, a woman must be in her third year of college and within the last two years; be a baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, have an average GPA of 2.83 or higher, and attend one of the Adventist higher education institutions.

Arrais said, “If you consider the six issues that impact women globally, illiteracy is a big one. According to United Nations Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people which means one out of every three women in the world cannot read and write.

“We have centers of literacy in many places around the globe. ADRA has been instrumental in this mission not only empowering women to read and write but also creating opening forums for them to speak up. We are very grateful to ADRA,” said Arrais. 

ADRA launched their new advocacy campaign ‘Every Child. Everywhere. In School’ during the 2019 Gain Conference in Amman, Jordan. In School’. The campaign is an urgent call to leaders around the world that all children, regardless of race, age, nationality, gender, religion or origin, have a right to earn and complete an education, and that being in school is a recognition of the value and potential of each individual child.

The campaign aims to collect one million signatures by 2020. Anyone at the age of thirteen, with parents’ permission, and older can sign the petition on their website. The Women’s Ministries are always open to working with ADRA to talk about women in the local church.

Colon is grateful for the many opportunities the Women’s Ministries scholarship fund has afforded her through the years. “I grew up in a very humble environment, and I didn’t feel that I could contribute much of anything to God’s end time mission,” said Colon. “Women’s Ministries has been used by God to give me the courage, spiritual support, and resources to move forward in various areas of ministry in, and out of our church, that I never dreamed of.” 

The Women’s Ministries Department has received more than $1,400,000 in scholarship funds and has helped 2,500 women around the world, since its establishment in 1991. 

The Women’s Ministries Department has also developed an annual devotional book to raise fuds for the fund.  The devotional is special because it is written by women for women. This year’s theme is ‘In His Presence’. 

To purchase the devotional, donate to the scholarship, or to apply for the Women’s Ministries Scholarship fund, you can visit the Women’s Ministries Department website. The instructions and guidelines on how to apply, where to send your application, and how to donate, are provided on their website. 

Colon also expressed her gratitude by saying, “Thank you, Women’s Ministries, for being used by God to remind me, as well as myriads of other women, that we are valued in the sight of God and in his church. That changes all of us, by His grace.”