a better valentine

February has begun and with it come the heart decorations, the shops promoting oversized boxes of chocolate and a two week long panic as to the best way to celebrate/avoid Valentines Day.

But what if there was a better way?

St Valentine was a Christian priest in Rome under Claudius II. He was eventually martyred for helping Christians to escape persecution and for marrying Christians couples. Over the years we’ve turned his saint day into some sickly celebration of romantic love in its narrowest form. But the life he lived was less about romance and much much more about justice.

So may I propose to us that a better way to remember him this month may be to throw out the roses and chocolate-covered strawberries (or let go of the bitterness and frustration) and instead reclaim this saints day for pursuing justice?

Over at SheLoves – a collective blog full of wise, open and passionate women – they are doing just that. A campaign was launched on Tuesday to raise the money for 425 women to get their identity card in poor community Burkina Faso called Bubanza.

Why identity cards? you may wonder. Surely there are educational needs, jobs to be created, wells to be dug, food to be provided in such a poor place? Yes, those needs are doubtless there.

But without an identity card, these women are invisible. They do not exist in the eyes of the government. They have no legal entitlement to their land, to healthcare, to benefits that could help them forge a better life for their families and communities.

A couple called Claude and Kelley work in this community and decided to make applying for ID cards for all the women a priority for their work. In December, the first 120 women were able to receive their cards:

Bubanza Women receive their ID cards

These little blue cards represent true membership – visibility that cannot be denied. Possession of an identity card means that these women are now full members of their society. They can vote, their children are now eligible for birth certificates, they can go to a hospital, they are protected from unlawful arrest and their local leaders must represent their voice. This card also shows their address, for the first time, they are residents of Bubanza. They have a place. This is a great start to claiming basic human rights and moving toward land rights.

And the ladies at SheLoves have caught the dream. There are 425 women still waiting for their cards. Each one costs $12 (that’s roughly €9 or £7.50) so the fundriasing target is $5,100.

$12 is a small amount to bring about justice for a woman and her family. It’s a small but significant way to continue St Valentine’s legacy this February.

Rasmus and I were so giddy with excitement (giddy describes me more – he was calmly happy) to be able to support this fundraising drive. We have been blessed with so many rights here in Europe. I never have to worry about access to healthcare or being turned out of my home without notice. The biggest worry for so many in Europe this week is how or with who they will spend the 14th. It pales in comparison…

I’d love for you to take some time to read the stories this morning. Start at SheLoves, then read the stories from Kelley. And then consider choosing to celebrate justice this month as a better celebration of a Roman priest who risked his life to ensure the safety and rights of his people.

She Loves Bubanza Project