Forty years of the Global Women’s Project

Church of the Brethren Newsline
February 5, 2018

by Pearl Miller

In July of 1978, Church of the Brethren women gathered at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., to share our stories and our concerns as women to live and serve responsibly in the church and in the world. It was a time when as a nation we had just lived through the Vietnam War and the tensions of the civil rights movement, and now it seemed we were moving precariously closer to a nuclear holocaust.

Out of that setting came a challenge and an opportunity. Ruthann Knechel Johansen, in a speech entitled “Giving Birth to a New World,” reminded us that “neither a great social program nor a sophisticated theology are prerequisites to live in harmony with life.” We were called to reflect on our own privileged access to resources, “tax” ourselves on our luxuries, and use that awareness and that “tax” to create new relationships and structures that nurture justice. From that inspiration Global Women’s Project was born.

It seems like things have not changed much in the 40 years since Global Women’s Project was established. Wars are still raging around the world, racial tensions remain high, and we are still threatened by a finger on the nuclear trigger.

But I believe that in these 40 years of Global Women’s Project, there have been significant changes, all the same. In our reflections on our own privilege, hopefully we have made changes within ourselves that have moved us to be more creative and pro-active for the benefit of girls and women wherever they may be. Through small grants from Global Women’s Project, women around the world have been given assistance so that they can establish cooperative businesses, send their children to school, move away from lives of domestic violence, incarceration, or economic uncertainty, and work toward more just societies based on human values, equality, and peace.

Marian Wright Edelman has said, “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences, that we often cannot foresee.” Those changes have made big differences for these women and their communities! We are women together, bound by our deep concern for the families and communities that we nurture and that nurture us.

— Pearl Miller is a former member of the Global Women’s Project steering committee, completing her term in 2016. Find out more about the GWP and its current projects and international partners at

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