A PASTOR is overcoming challenges as a female religious leader and empowering other women.

Joan Dada is the pastor at Pentecostal church, Open Heaven in Accrington, and is now one of many female religious leaders in a church.

Originally from Nigeria, the 38-year-old moved to Wolverhampton before moving to Blackburn in 2011.

She said: “It is really challenging but rewarding because it is my calling and when you find what you have been called to do, you enjoy doing it, and for me the best moment is when I am teaching at the church.

“I know this is just the beginning because I see this as a stepping stone to my future.”

Pastor Dada encounters criticism despite her positive messages, on why a woman should not be in her position.

She said: “Some people do not believe that women should do it and I have had one lady call me out and say that she could not listen to me because I am a woman.

“She gave examples from the bible where women are not allowed to be in this position, but she is misunderstanding the context.

“Women can do this, but we are always going to have opinions from some people.”

After studying political science at university in Nigeria, Pastor Dada originally wanted to become a TV presenter.

Pastor Dada has also received negative remarks about her ethnicity in the past but is resolved and determined in her work.

She said: “We are not competing with the men, but we do have this bond being a woman and being strong.

“A woman is not weak, it is the greatest gift to be a woman, because what the men cannot perceive, a woman can.

“A male pastor rang me up and wanted to interview me for his PHD.

“He follows my work on Facebook and loves it, but we think nobody is noticing us.

“When I started, someone said to me you are great, but the reason people may not follow is because you are black.

“It is challenging in Accrington because it is a predominantly white community and I said I know I am black, but I am equipped to be here, and I believe they will all warm up to me.

“It does not make it an African church of Nigeria just because I am a black pastor from Nigeria.”

The Open Heaven church is open to anyone, regardless of background and culture.

To empower other women, Pastor Dada said:

“I would advise all women that you need to know yourself, because for most women they think their identity is what people have said to them.”