Update: Michele was honored as the August recipient of an award sponsored by the 2013 Epoch Awards!
SIS President and Founder Michele Rickett has been nominated for an Epoch Award! The Epoch Award, which will be presented this fall at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, honors the “unsung heroes who cross the boulevard or the world to serve where poverty, drought, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, homelessness, and fear reign.”
Six grants totaling $50,000 will be awarded, and these funds can be used by the winning organizations for specific projects or general use!
Michele recently spoke about She Is Safe’s work and what it means to her to be nominated for this prestigious award.
1. When did you first become passionate about the plight of women and girls around the world?
As a young missionary wife in Africa, I saw that young girls were often the last to eat; that they were kept out of school to work or be coerced, sold, or given into marriage, and that others were forced to live as domestic or sex slaves. The more I looked into the abuses of girls across the least-reached areas of the world, the more grieved I became by the pervasiveness of these injustices.
The dream was born to reach out to girls and women by addressing the injustices they suffered – providing rescue, education, vocational training, tools, and discipleship. I knew African women who were strong champions and interveners – transcending the oppression under which they were raised. Christ was the transforming difference for them, and He was compelling them to combat the injustices women and girls suffered.
2. How did your passion flare into action?
In 1995, after returning from Africa, my family landed in the suburbs. Few Christians there were aware of the depth and magnitude of the suffering of women and girls in places least-reached with the gospel. I had a growing sense that God expected us American believers to leverage our blessings of freedom, education, and wealth on behalf of the oppressed.
I began sharing the most up-to-date information I could find on the plight and promise of women and girls with churches, raising awareness, prayer, people and support. I presented the stories of real women and girls I had met, along with opportunities for us to participate in their rescue and restoration. We formed She Is Safe and created an expanding network of partnerships with local indigenous churches and NGOs to prevent, rescue and restore women and girls from abuse and exploitation through best-practice programs.
3. How has She Is Safe been an innovator in the field of development?
Among missionary organizations in the 1990s, we were early voices speaking on behalf of oppressed women. As we rescued them from abuse and exploitation, we equipped them to build whole new lives in Christ. Many have gone on to become our co-workers. We have published two books: Daughters of Hope, first-hand stories of women who suffer to serve (listed on InterVarsity Press’s bestseller list for four years) and Forgotten Girls, which details the abuse and slavery of girls.
Over the last decade we have gleaned and employed best practices in prevention, rescue and restoration through indigenous partnerships. We have equipped over 60,000 women and girls with the gospel and the ability to generate income that helps them stand strong against exploiters. These empowered women are raising sons and daughters who see each other as equal in value before God, their families and in their communities.
4. What are She Is Safe’s plans over the next year? What’s on the horizon in the years ahead?
She Is Safe is multiplying our impact to free and equip 25,000-30,000 women and girls this year in 8 countries.
We are training and deploying women of the indigenous church with our signature program, Transformation Groups, where 12 women, led by a SIS-trained co-worker, commit to learning about health and safety for girls, vocational training, and discipleship in a savings/lending group platform.
In the long term, as God provides we see She Is Safe:
- Mapping High Risk Areas – We are mapping out the highest risk, least-reached places, where women and girls are likely to be abused and sold and providing safe passage from slavery, vocational and discipleship training.
- Removing the Roots of Injustice – By expanding from community to community, we are working with local Christians to widen circles of protection and empowerment for girls, ultimately changing values about females at the roots of injustice.
- Multiplying & Supporting Laborers – As part of a strategy to expand the gospel, we will work with whole denominations who are already seeking our support and train the women of their congregations as co-workers with us to reach their neighbors for Christ by focusing on freeing and equipping women and girls.
5. What does it mean to you to be nominated for an Epoch Award and to be recognized as an “unsung hero” in the plight of the oppressed?
We are very excited for the opportunity. The Epoch Award is a great platform to draw attention, action and support to address the plight of women and girls in the least-reached areas of the world. We want Christians to see the strategic nature of investing in initiatives that equip girls and women for the advance of the gospel and to transform the roots of injustice that oppress them.
For most of my adult life I have wanted to exalt Christ by setting girls free to thrive as they become the women He has created them to be and to lay new paths for the next generation. The financial award of $10,000 would rescue over 300 girls from slavery, set them free to know Christ and to live whole new lives.