Help women tackle prejudice and poverty this Christmas

The Bishop of Loughborough has shared how three strong women in her native Iran have helped inspire her to become one of the first pioneering women bishops, as she urges people to support Christian Aid’s Christmas Appeal highlighting the plight of women around the world.

The Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani said how the determination and courage of three British women serving in her native country of Iran in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, helped her challenge cultural and patriarchal norms to become part of a ground-breaking generation of Church of England women bishops and encourages everyone to help women tackle prejudice, oppression and poverty through gifts and actions.

Bishop Guli said: “In an age when middle-class women in Britain were largely confined to the home as daughters, wives and mothers, these three - Emmeline Stuart (one of the earliest women to train as a doctor), Mary Bird (an evangelist) and Isabella Read (a teacher whose married name was Isabella Aidinyantz) - travelled across the world, facing all manner of dangers, to fulfil their calling and to serve others.

“They were tenacious and determined, gutsy and brave and refused to be limited by the confines of what was considered acceptable behaviour for women. They had an unshakeable Christian faith which gave them inner confidence and enabled them to embrace challenge, live sacrificially and work to improve the situation of others.

“Their memories serve as a permanent reminder of what women can achieve when they are given opportunities, encouraged and feel empowered.

“As we think about the gifts we can give this Christmas, perhaps the most precious thing we can give is hope – that might come as a word of encouragement or a space to be heard, or perhaps it is a financial gift to a charity such as Christian Aid, empowering women and their families across the world.

“This Christmas, please do think of the women close to you – your mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, or friend – as well as those far away by supporting the Christmas Appeal, and freeing them to meet their potential, so more people can experience life in all its fullness.”

As churches and individuals remember the resilience and strength of Mary in the Nativity story this Christmas, Christian Aid is highlighting how whole families can thrive if mothers are given the opportunity to discover their voice and inherent gifts.

Mothers, such as Ranjita (30) from Rajasthan, India, who cleaned latrines and sewers by hand from the age of nine – but with the help of a Christian Aid-funded self-help group, discovered she was entitled to a government compensation grant and help to find a dignified occupation. She is now earning a living as a tailor and able to send her daughter to school.

Last Christmas churches across Leicestershire raised £9,074 for Christian Aid.

One in three women globally experience gender-based violence in their lifetime*. Approximately one third of married women in developing countries report having little or no say over their own healthcare, and more than 2.6 billion live in countries where rape within marriage is not considered a crime**.

Research*** shows that more money in women’s hands contributes not only to eliminating poverty but also to better education, nutrition and health outcomes for children and other members of the household.

To find out more about the Christmas Appeal or to donate visit In India, £5 could buy a set of clothes for school and £19 could provide a woman with skills training, like tailoring, to enable her to set up a business.

You can find out more about the women who inspired Bishop Guli in her dissertation which is available online by clicking here.




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