March 8 marks the International Women’s Day (IWD) all around the world. It is a significant occasion and we should celebrate the diversity of women right here in Macau.
This year IWD is celebrated under the #BeBoldForChange campaign. Macau Lifestyle is taking part in this global campaign and introducing you to some prominent Macau-based women. We sat down with each of them and asked some “bold” questions. The answers we got are open, real, and inspiring!
Sister Juliana Devoy is the director of the Good Shepherd Centre, which was established in Macau in 1990 to respond to the needs of women in crisis situations. A devoted missionary for 54 years, this formidable woman is committed to her calling, and her tireless efforts for the welfare of women are truly remarkable.
“I arrived in Hong Kong in 1963,” says Sister Juliana, “and with the exception of a few periods back in the United States for study, I have been in China for over 50 years, mostly in Hong Kong and Macau. I love working with women and making a difference in their lives. It’s challenging but I have been given a great gift to serve others.”
This year we are celebrating IWD in Macau. What is your connection with Macau?
I’ve been here in Macau for almost 30 years. I was in Hong Kong first and the general view of Macau at that time was that it was not very interesting. Hong Kong was a booming metropolis and Macau seemed a quiet little village. So, it was a great surprise that when I actually came here, as soon as I set foot down on the soil I fell in love. I had a major conversion. It was such a lovely friendly place. I found the charm of Macau. It’s more relaxed, and people are very warm. I have a lot of affection for Macau.
How does it feel to be a woman in Macau, what is your experience and what are the challenges?
I focus on myself as a woman who helps other women in difficulty. I belong to an international congregation called the Good Shepherd Sisters. Our special mission is women in difficulty. In several of the Asian countries, such as Philippines, India & Sri Lanka, we started schools when we first arrived more than a hundred years ago because at that time there were no schools for girls. But our primary mission has always been to assist women in distressful situations such as Women in prostitution, women who struggle with addiction, victims of domestic violence and so on..
I am so grateful that I have had these years to be able to do things that I would have never been able to do elsewhere. For me, Macau has made many things possible. I am fortunate to be here and do what I do.
With your work and contribution, what inspires you?
I am inspired by my faith. First of all, I have to say that it is because of my faith. My Congregation is an international Congregation with a 300-year history, But while always remaining faithful to our original mission we continue to encompass new needs of women in our ever changing world and now include prevention and community education on women’s rights and social justice. I find the other sisters around me and all over the world inspire me by the many new and creative ways they find to help transform the lives of so many women and give them hope for a “better tomorrow”. Lastly I am inspired and motivated by the motto of our foundress, St. Mary Euphrasia, “A single person is of more value than a whole world.”
My love of God has encouraged me to embrace this path and now after many decades, I am still here grateful and inspired. I have had such a wonderful life.
The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. While it is still 2017, what makes women different and so important at this time?
No one knows for sure. I started to visit Korea in the late 60s and women always walked behind men with very little opportunities. However, look at them now, they are at the forefront of fashion, movies, and business. I would not have been able to predict that they could have come so far in such a short time.
The media and communications have changed radically the lives of people and the impact on the world has been truly phenomenal. So you cannot know for sure when women and men will be truly equal. If you talk about Macau, I think women have access to everything. There’s no discrimination for any job or education and the sense of equality is very strong.
This year IMD is celebrated under #BeBoldForChange campaign. What “bold” actions can we do today to help drive gender parity?
I would like to cite a recent law that has been passed by the Macau government criminalizing domestic violence. Before that, the position of the government was that it was a woman’s human right to decide whether or not to prosecute her husband/partner for beating her up. But the proponents of this new law insisted that it was a woman’s human right to be protected by the government from all forms of violence even when it happened in the privacy of her home.
It took 5 years of hard work by people from several sectors of society to get this law passed. While it was mainly women fighting for women our “concern group” also included a number of men. To celebrate this historic event, I and my colleagues organized a “Celebration Walk” to thank the government for listening to the voices of the people. We, together with a large number of supporters, walked to the Government House and presented a letter of thanks to the CEO and members of the Legislative Assembly. While it was a victory for women our response which recognized the good will of the government turned it into a “win – win” outcome.
In your daily life, how do you balance all the different roles of being a woman?
My main goal is being a nun and that’s my whole life. I am a sister and that embodies who I am. I want people to know that I am happy and grateful and contented. I am so lucky to have been given this great gift to serve. This was my personal choice and I have never regretted it.
What is the message you’d like to share with all the women out there?
It’s wonderful to be a woman. Choose the best you can for yourself. Love and appreciate yourself and know that you are special. Do what you can to develop your skills and talents. You can do anything at any time of your life. At 60, I got a Master’s in Theology. You can learn so much at any time of your life.
To read more #BeBoldForChange inspiring interviews follow the hashtag #BeBoldForChange.