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About Admin Imago Dei Fund

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So far Admin Imago Dei Fund has created 44 blog entries.

Women Breaking Caste Barriers: Made in The Image of God

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This is the second post in an ongoing forum on the topic “What Practical Relevance Does the ‘Imago Dei’ Have for the Advance of Human Rights, Peace, and Global Development in the 21st century?” See the first post by Dr. J. Richard Middleton, author of The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1, exploring what the “image of God” meant in it’s ancient Hebrew context and how it can inspire us today in the 21st. c. to tap into the liberating current within our faith traditions. For this next post in this conversation, we have the honor of hearing from Maria Blackburn, Program Officer with Nomi Network, a women’s economic empowerment/anti-trafficking organization working in India and Cambodia, reflecting on the power of women to come together across ethnic castes to recognize their common humanity and shared dignity as human beings made in the image of God.


Human trafficking is an illicit trade, in which a person will trick, coerce, and force another person into sex work for profit. It seeks to destroy, twist, and shatter the image of God in other humans, taking away freedom and choice. Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Nomi Network was founded in 2009 as a way to combat human trafficking by providing women with the freedom and ability to make choices. The dream was to see every woman reach her full potential, be known and to know her identity as an image-bearer of God.

Getting Started in Bihar, India

In 2012, we had the incredible opportunity to start a program in Bihar, India with support from the U.S. Department of State. Bihar is one of the most impoverished states in India with over 70% of the 116 million people living in poverty. Here you will find the highest rates of bonded labor, caste discrimination, and social inequality. We intentionally chose the first set of trainees for our program to bring together women from different communities and castes for a common purpose. Although history and tradition held these groups apart, we saw Hindu and Muslim women from different castes, who would never associate with one another come together under Nomi Network. We found a way to bind them together through awareness that they are all made in the image of God.

Breaking Down Barriers

Nomi Network’s three co-founders—Diana Mao, Supei Liu, and Alissa Moore Williams—at Nomi’s recent annual gala in NYC

At Nomi Network, we believe every woman we work with is made in the image of God, and our training curriculum and organizational culture are interwoven, so that the women involved learn this themselves. Many women have a hard time seeing each other as equal, but we know they must first see themselves as worthy. We address this by having each woman share an affirmation about the person next to her during the first 10 minutes of class. Slowly, they become more open and speak positively about each other, which leads them to speak well of themselves. There is something powerful about speaking goodness about oneself that manifest into a life-giving reality.

The next part of daily training brings about the real challenge- teamwork. The women are placed into groups of four using random numbers to ensure the trainees are not working with others from their village or community. They start by learning simple stitching, and, each group is given the task to make a small pouch., But to complete the assignment, every team member must pass quality control. We see women step up as leaders and the spirit of teamwork take flight. All the barriers of difference slowly melt away as diverse groups accomplish something new together. Transformation takes the place of stagnant stigmas and comradery replaces dissidence.

Building a Culture of Value and Equality

The trailblazer for this program is a woman named Supei, Nomi Network’s VP of Global Initiatives. While trying to understand the culture, Supei realized that change would happen through creating a new culture with new traditions. Her favorite new tradition was hugging each trainee as a greeting, despite physical touch not being common among Indian culture. The women were stunned as Supei hugged everyone and were encouraged to hug each other. It is now a tradition for trainers to hug trainees, bringing all the women to the same level.

Another catalytic moment occurred when Supei could not find anyone willing to clean the bathroom. She was told to hire a street sweeper, a term common for someone from the untouchable caste left to do dirty work, but she refused. “Why hire someone to clean the bathroom when we can do it ourselves?” was the final word from Supei, as she set out to clean the bathrooms at the office herself. The staff and trainees were amazed to see her do such a lowly task normally done by women from the untouchable caste. Eventually this task was taken on equally by all the women on a rotating basis. As time went on with a framework of discipline and love, modeled by how Jesus works with us, we saw more and more transformation. Meals were no longer taken in small cliques, but together in a huge circle. The women have even started to turn their sewing machines around to make a circle so that they can chat while they work.

Supporting Each Other as Image Bearers

We knew for sure that the caste barriers were breaking down when one of the women in the program named Aleena became ill.

India is notorious for smog and dangerous air quality. In Bihar, many villagers burn trash for cooking and to keep warm, not knowing the health risks involved. Tuberculosis is a common illness that Read More

Global Health Corps is Looking for a New CEO

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After eight years of growing the movement for health equity and building the next generation of health leaders, Global Health Corps (GHC) is excited to announce that we are seeking our next CEO. Over the next several months, our co-founder and CEO, Barbara Bush, will be transitioning from her day-to-day role and onto GHC’s Board of Directors. Barbara has helped to catapult our movement to where we are today: a global community of nearly 850 leaders who are deeply passionate about health equity, collaborating daily across boundaries and borders of all kinds, and delivering short-and long-term impact in global health. Read More

“My empowerment is bound up in yours.” – The Circular Nature of Women’s Philanthropy

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“My empowerment is bound up in yours.”” – The Circular Nature of Women’s Philanthropy Read More

BESO Foundation’s Aaron Bukenya Named “Visionary of the Month” by Hearts on Fire

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If you could flash back in time to the small Ugandan village of Wanteete, you might see a gaggle of children on their daily trek, five miles from home, to school.

No one seems to stand out in the crowd, until they reach the classroom. That’s where Aaron Bukenya rises head and shoulders academically above the other students. Aaron’s parents were subsistence farmers who didn’t have much money or education, but they did have a vision for their smartest son. Read More

Ana Olivera, CEO of the NY Women’s Fund, Receives the 2017 McSilver Award

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Listen to her speak on “Philanthropy, Activism and Love of Humanity”. “Philanthros is love of humanity, it is the idea that when we give we transcend each one of ourselves… and we create another opportunity for humanity and create another possibility. Typically we prefer to create with… so activism or philanthropy is engaging with community… engaging with others to create or co-create solutions that are better… This is really what we are about. We want people to have ownership. Philanthropy belongs to all of us. It is not just for the uber weathy or the wealthy. That is why collective giving is so important.” Read More

Pope Deliveres TED Talk – “Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone”

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“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion… How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity — this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word — were not simply reduced to social work and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.” Read More

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Desmond Tutu