Lilana Anne Kasper is a woman who fears God and seeks God’s will wholeheartedly. She is a wife and a mother of three children. As an ordained Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa for the past eighteen years, she has served in various capacities including serving as the first, and to date the only, female Dean of the Soweto Circuit and the Bishop’s Deputy in the Central Diocese.
Rev Lilana Kasper also worked at LUCSA as the Christian Education Desk Coordinator and was part of the team that developed various resource materials for LUCSA’s Christian Education Program. She is also one of the founding members of the Female Theologians Forum of LUCSA which was established in 2005. She then proceeded to join the ELCSA Development Services as the Project Coordinator for the Lutheran Action Against Gender Based Violence Project. This is a project which focuses on addressing the scourge of Gender Based Violence and Femicide. In 2015 she joined the Lutheran Theological Institute in Pietermaritzburg as a lecturer in Practical Theological. Her dream, imagined as a young student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary-Umphumulo, to one day be part of the education and formation of theological students especially that of young female students, was unexpectedly fulfilled with this appointment. Unforeseen circumstances led to her joining the South African Police Service as a Chaplain. The four and a half years spent in the service of the SAPS has been the most valuable experience of her journey has a pastor. Rev. Kasper is driven by a desire to develop people and is constantly seeking ways to grow and evolve. She has faced many challenges in her journey and therefore knows that she is nothing apart from the God of grace, who orders her steps.
What achievements are you most proud of and why?
The first would be my calling to the ordained ministry. What a gift and privilege it is to serve in the vineyard of the Lord. Being a part of the Female Theologians Forum of LUCSA has, through the years, contributed tremendously to the development female pastors in the LUCSA region. The stories shared at the forum meetings and the fact that women are taking up leadership positions in the member churches of LUCSA is a testament to the work that has been done through the forum. Serving as the Dean of the Soweto Circuit, meant working twice has hard as my male counterparts to prove that, women are strong, independent, and able to lead. So many expected me to fail, so it was not an easy road at all. The development of the GBV toolkit for the LAAGBV (Lutheran Action Against Gender Based Violence) project was another achievement to be proud of as well as the continued work in the area of combating Gender Based Violence through a project called Trauma Accompaniment for Survivors of GBV.
As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
The fact that there are not enough programs intentionally designed to support women in leadership and to prepare women for leadership positions. Mentorship, management and administration, financial literacy and management, assertiveness training are all programs that should intentionally be made available to help women thrive and succeed.
What is the most important change that should be made in our country?
Currently the South African government is ticking all the right boxes in establishing a special interim Task Team to respond to Gender Based Violence and Femicide. They developed The Gender-based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan (GBVF-NSP) in April 2019. Yet our statistics on GBV and Femicide tell a different story. We urgently need not only the revision but implementation of this policy. We also need to establish safe houses and counselling centers.
People with special needs are an integral part of life, who need more opportunities for inclusion. An improved quality of life for all must be ensured.
Ongoing corruption perpetuates the imbalance between the rich and the poor which is a dire concern and needs to be urgently addressed. The efficacy and integrity of the judicial system is essential for this to happen.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Study, study and study!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Education and continuous self-development are crucial. Building support networks and finding ways to intentionally support women who are in leadership positions. It is very cold at the top!
What are you most passionate about?
Developing people to reach their full God-given potential. I am also passionate about teaching and pastoral formation. Being a survivor of GBV, it is essential for me to aid people in understanding that I am not everything that has happened to me, I am everything I became when I healed. I am also very passionate about family, cooking, baking and entertaining people.
What is your motto in life?
Never give up in life, no matter how hard it gets. Every stumbling block is a stepping stone to success.
What should LUCSA expect from you?
I am someone who firmly believes in inclusive leadership and ensuring that everyone has a rightful place at the table. One of my priorities is working towards ensuring the sustainability of the Communion Office.
What would you do if you didn’t achieve your current goal?
Acknowledge what has been achieved, assess what led to failure and go back to the drawing board.
What does being a women mean to you?
This is a difficult question to answer, as I value both women and men and the unique contributions they make to the world. I love the fact that I lead with my heart and my head most of the times and that I can look at things from a different perspective and through feminist lenses, which allows me to approach situations from a different angle.
Why do you think organizations would benefit from having more women in the top structures of governance?
From my experience in the church, it is of paramount importance to have women in top structures so that issues pertaining to women are addressed e.g. Maternity leave. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had challenges applying for maternity leave under the conditions that were laid out in the leave policy.
To ensure that Gender Equality in the workplace is achieved, election or appointment of women for these positions must be done on merit and not for the sake of fulling or achieving a quota.
This will create positive inspiring role models for young girls and women.
Any last words?
I give all honor to God for the privilege of serving the LUCSA Communion Office and region. I pray that God’s abiding presence will stay with me as I serve Christ and the region.