This is a great interview with Felicity Cowling from Micah Challenge International, so do have a read…
Tell us a little about yourself Felicity
I am 26 years old, grew up in Leeds, and now live in east London with three great flat mates. I love going to a local church and I am passionate about community, unity, and the church being a prophetic hope-filled voice for the marginalised and poor. I work on campaigns and digital communications for Micah Challenge International - a global Christian campaign reminding governments to keep their promises to halve extreme poverty by 2015. I am one of a small team of 4 people who work there. One of the projects I am working on is called ‘Woman to Woman’, which encourages women to discover their voice to be advocates for change.
What is it about your ‘job’ that gets you up in the morning?
I have great colleagues both in the office as well as our partners and friends around the world. Jesus said in Luke 4: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” I am privileged to see and hear of people trying to live out what we call at Micah Challenge, 'the Jesus Agenda' every day! Being part of a movement that seeks to encourage the Church to discover its prophetic role in society is very exciting. At the moment our focus at Micah Challenge is on a campaign called EXPOSED - shining a light on corruption, which is one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming poverty. I am moved when I hear stories of Christians all around the world taking incredibly courageous steps to bring change to their community - often in places where speaking out against corrupt practices is very dangerous. I love seeing people take small steps everyday, as they realise that even the smallest of actions can have a positive impact for the poor. Just watching the number of signatures on a petition and updates posted on Twitter to raise awareness amongst friends is so encouraging.
What has been your highlight of working with Micah Challenge?
There have been so many! In March this year I was privileged to be at our International Coordinators meeting in Cape Town. Being able to see and hear stories of all the work Micah Challenge campaigns for and that the partners are doing around the world was incredible. We heard how Christians in Nepal (1.4% of population) are discovering their voice in speaking out for the poor, and how a group from a church went to pray for the president! One story I loved was of 500 women who lived near Benin, organise a march called 'Birth without Risk of Death'. They read out a petition to the mayor and local health centre asking for better health treatment for women during pregnancy. The mayor promised to take action and called them 'brave women'. In some countries doing advocacy work as a Christian can be quite a lonely journey, so it was encouraging for everyone to be together, to share and pray, and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us with 'courageous hope' as we walk the last 1000 days to 2015.
It is roughly 942 days until Micah’s deadline to halve poverty by 2015. What is going well and where does more focus need to be given?
The world's extreme poverty rate has been cut in half since 1990, which is amazing. Progress on the Millennium Development Goals such as Goal 6 'combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases' has been encouraging, and I hope we keep up the momentum. Since 2000, eight million HIV and AIDS patients have been receiving antiretroviral drugs and more than 1 million lives have been saved from malaria. Goal 2 is also doing well - a record number of children are in primary school with an equal number of girls and boys for the first time. There is still a lot of work to do though - the number of women who die whilst giving birth is shockingly high; and too many people are living without access to improved sanitation. Corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming poverty and tackling this issue as a global community will be really important.
The UN has argued that the education of women can transform communities. Have you seen this in practice?
Women are often the driving force behind communities and the world's economy. You will have probably seen the amazing Girl Effect video (if you haven't, it's worth a watch), which shows that investing in girls and their education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Educated women, can for example, recognize the importance of health care and know how to seek it for themselves and their children. Micah Challenge in Zimbabwe has been encouraging a local community to look at the causes of poor maternal health care, in order to provide practical help and to advocate for better provision. The local women who are learning their rights are also growing in confidence to claim them. They are now making real transformational difference – they have decided to show love to the poorly paid staff at the health centre by doing regular cleaning of the wards there, and they have also held meetings with health officials.
Tell us a little about the Woman to Woman initiative.
‘Woman to Woman’ (W2W) is a Micah Challenge initiative and it' is all about empowering women to see their potential and to be change makers so we can end extreme poverty. Women and girls are victims of poverty, but are also key to providing solutions. As we have an incredibly important role toplay in advocating for the poor, we at W2W believe we need to discover our voice more and more and to encourage our sisters around the world to do the same. I am on that journey myself!
How can we get involved? Share some of the things that we can do to make a big difference.
There are two very quick things you can do right now that I would encourage you to take action on:
1. W2W is running a campaign called 'Your Call', raising awareness about the alarming links between sexual violence against women in the Congo and the mobile phones in our pockets. As a consumer you can help put an end to the silence on this issue and email your phone provider to create demand for conflict-free phones. We will also be taking part in an awareness raising 'phone-fast' on 30 June (DRC Independence Day). Do get involved! You can read more, email
your provider, watch the video and download the phone fast toolkit at the this
2. This year Micah Challenge is part of a wider global campaign to shine a light on corruption - EXPOSED. Stand alongside brothers and sisters around the world in signing a petition, which will be taken to the G20. The website address is www.exposed2013.com
Unfortunately many Christians do not see advocacy as a natural rhythm in their discipleship journey. How can we change that so it is an integral part of our faith? How can we battle apathy?
I think Christians can be very passionate about speaking out on some issues, but not on others. We need to break down the idea that speaking out against injustice and poverty is just for certain people. It was Jesus' agenda to set the oppressed free - God's heart is broken by structures, which keep people trapped in poverty. Throughout the Bible God tells his people to do something about it. The Church has an amazing history of advocacy - just look at William Wilberforce, John Wesley, and Elizabeth Fry (she's on your £5 notes!) Today our mandate to advocate for the poor is just as urgent. It will take key people and respected leaders to talk and teach on it, you could run a workshop or Bible study - Micah Challenge have produced some small-group studies which I have actually gone through with my own church home group. Most importantly it takes ordinary people to change the culture - just do simple advocacy (visit your politician or write to your supermarket) and let people know! It is so important to make sure the positive stories and successes are told - this can dispel fear and show people that advocacy does not have to be scary or aggressive. Imagine if Christians really united in praying and speaking out for a world free of injustice? The story of so many trapped in poverty and oppression might end very differently.
- How has this article challenged you?
- What can you do to make a difference?
- What will you do to make a difference?