Who comes to mind when you think of ‘inspirational women’?
Some names crop up again and again: Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa and more recently Malala Yousafzai. But, ‘usual suspects’ aside, the world is full of inspirational women that never make those top 10 lists. Despite that, they still leave their inspirational mark on the world.
To celebrate Women’s World Day of Prayer and International Women’s Day, we have selected four women that you may not be so familiar with (and a plasticine dog that you just might know...). Read on and prepare to be inspired.
Cally Magalhães - trying on ‘another man’s shoes’ with criminals in Sao Paulo
How do you get violent offenders to leave their old lives behind when they come out of prison? Tearfund worker Cally Magalhães has found a surprising answer.
She co-founded The Eagle Project to help offer young offenders in Sao Paolo’s youth prisons a second chance. At the heart of their rehabilitation process is role playing; the young people act out scenes of violence and crime.
We put them into improvised dramas.’ Explains Cally. As well as acting familiar roles as thieves or kidnappers, the young people also get to play the part of the victim or one of the victim’s family.
‘At certain points, we’ll freeze the action and ask the victim ‘what are you feeling?’ And they actually begin to experience that fear a victim really feels.’ says Cally. The result for many of the young people is dramatic. With the help of mentoring and rehabilitation, large numbers turn their backs on crime altogether. Sometimes all you need to see the world differently is to ‘walk a mile in another man’s shoes.’
Sarah Williams: daredevil fundraiser, voice of plasticine guide dog...
Sarah may well be familiar to you already; she’s the voice of Pickles the guide dog in Aardman’s Creature Comforts shows. But it’s the real life woman that’s the true star...
Sarah was born with Marfan Syndrome - a connective tissue disorder that leaves her almost blind and makes walking difficult. Not that you would guess from her CV of life experiences. She has so far raised over £31,000 for 150 different charities through her charity Smilingeyesinternational.co.uk - each one involving a different charitable challenge.
Among her fundraising achievements are (deep breath): climbing Ben Nevis and St Paul’s Cathedral, flying in a Tiger Moth and hot air balloon, tandem-ing from coast to coast in
the UK and sailing in a tall ship across the Bay of Biscay. That’s along with her work with dementia sufferers and children with behavioural difficulties.
‘I find the Christian journey really magical,’ says Sarah. ‘I believe the more you put into life, the more you get out of it. I enjoy living life to the full. As Pickles says, "life is fantastic."'
Anala: returning to a place that nearly destroyed her
It’s said that victims often return to their abusers. Anala regularly goes back to the red light district in Mumbai where she was kept as a sex slave for ten years. But her reasons for returning are entirely positive...
Anala was sold into sex work in Mumbai aged 13. Staff from Tearfund partner Oasis Mumbai found Anala, and rescued her from her horrifying life. The team gave her the love and support she needed to build a new life.
Now she has come to faith and received emotional healing, Anala has joined Oasis India team. Now, when she goes back, she shares her experiences of abuse and healing to show sex workers that there is a way out for them.
Not only has she helped many women to leave the sex trade, some of the women she has supported have set up their own projects to help sex workers too. Once Anala was held captive. Now she is setting other women free with her amazing story.
Margaret Weston: she ‘does’ enthusiasm for Tearfund. She does it rather well
When Margaret took early retirement from a well known high street bank, her prayer was ‘to do something worthwhile.'*
Eschewing gardening magazines and repeats of Poirot, she has written twelve Christian books. But the big turning point was when she learned about Tearfund ten years ago. ‘It’s a late discovery for me I know’ she admits ‘but I’m making up for lost time.’
Margret is catching up by speaking for Tearfund. She speaks at churches, at events, anywhere that will listen (within reason - she’s giving rugby clubs a wide berth right now...). When Margaret talks, people listen and they respond, helping Tearfund’s work with the world’s poorest people.
‘She just has a way of energising the room when she speaks,’ says volunteer manager John Archer. Margaret is at a loss to explain the ‘Margaret effect’ other than prayer and boundless enthusiasm.
As she explains ‘Tearfund’s all about sharing the love of Jesus around the world, what could be better?’
*With apologies to employees of high street banks...
You can support hundreds of inspirational women (and men) around the world, working with Tearfund