The brave fight mounted by religious sisters against human traffickers in Nigeria has been a key highlight of the ongoing conference that has brought together religious men and women in the... READ MORE
AFJN worked remotely with sisters due to COVID-19 restrictions. The sisters engaged in media advocacy.
Fort Portal Region
Between April and May, the sisters held eight two-hour radio programs on Jubilee Radio advocating against violence, particularly the domestic violence that increased during lock-down. The first hour and a half consisted of public sensitization followed by thirty minutes of question and answers from the public. It was so successful that the radio station director wanted to make it a weekly occurrence because the sisters knowledge was in such demand by the public. Unfortunately additional programs were not part of the budget so now they are doing follow-up via phone calls.
Sisters also held an eight hour workshop at Hope Community Development Initiative Uganda, a government establishment for skill provision for girls. There were 29 young women and five center staff participants. During the very emotional workshop, sisters discovered that ten women were victims of human trafficking who courageously shared their survival stories with the seventeen others who were considering traveling abroad. After hearing the stories the seventeen women vowed not to travel saying with tears in their eyes. One said, “I cannot make the mistake of going after listening to these stories.” At the end of the workshop, both the staff and the participants requested that the sisters hold a joint workshop for the participants and their parents. It was some of the survivors whose parents pushed them into traveling abroad and then abandoned them when they returned. AFJN is working with the sisters on this next workshop.
AFJN is also sponsoring two survivors in the center who are doing very well in their training and very vocal advocating against human trafficking.
AFJN held a Zoom meeting with thirty sisters brainstorming way to help. The sisters were very vocal in their effort to curb the high rate of domestic violence. They decided to do a radio program in Northern Uganda with Radio Wa in the Lira Diocese to discuss gender violence, with a special focus on domestic violence. The sisters have a Memorandum of Understanding with the radio station and hope to use this means to continue to educate the public on the importance of upholding the dignity of each person. The sisters also decided to mobilize the will of the youth in advancing justice.
On September 1-2, the sisters held “Youth for Social Justice” a training session for 85 registered youth passionate about working with the sisters on issues of justice. For four hours each day, the youth learned about issues of justice and advocacy. After the training the youth were ready to be launched into the society and ruffle the waters, but we had to slow them down as this is a dangerous time in Uganda for the youth to be gathering given the violence around the election. The youth have created a network and an active WhatsApp forum where they are reflecting and sharing ideas on ways to tackle domestic violence and gender-based violence in Uganda. Their plans include the use of social media for advocacy until the time they are able to travel to communities, churches, and schools for sensitization programs.
We have held two Zoom meetings with the sisters in Ghana but due to the lack of online access, most sisters live in the rural areas, the not everyone was able to participate in the Zoom meeting.
We also had a Zoom meeting with the President of Women Religious in Ghana, her Secretary, the National and Diocesan President and their Secretaries for Catholic Women Organization to talk about how the organizations can collaborate in advancing justice in Ghana.
Nigeria and Ghana Workshop
AFJN held a Zoom meeting for twenty-five sisters (core group members) to reflect on outreach during lockdown and to discuss expanding the network to include youth. Since the meeting in June, AFJN has held three online two-day training workshops, four hours each day, for Nigerian youth and a joint workshop for high school students in Nigeria and Ghana called “Youth for Change.” In total, 165 youth and 23 sisters and others participated. The workshops exposed the youth to challenges of Africa’s development, violations of the rights and the dignity of the person, human trafficking, domestic and gender-based violence, abuse of the environment, Catholic Social Teachings, and duties and responsibilities of young people in advancing a just society.
Two weeks after the first workshop, AFJN conducted a three hour online evaluation session where participants were asked to share their experience of the workshop. Over 40 participants responded positively to their participation.
- “This training gave me a sense of belonging in this country, speaking out is one of the ways I can give back to society.” – Nigerian Workshop Participant
- “This workshop is amazing […] before now, I see cases of rape on television and social media and I feel little concern for the victims, but after this workshop, I feel I have a responsibility to humanity to be part of the movement to end rape and bring about change in society.” – Nigerian Workshop Participant
- “We are enlightened, poised, and empowered to be agents of change in our local communities, and the world at large.” – Group from Ghana
Activities After the Nigeria and Ghana Workshops
Group created hashtag #WeStandForJustice, Facebook and Twitter accounts Africa Faith and Justice Network Nigeria where they post, messages and flyers to educating the masses on issues of sexual and gender-based violence, urging a break from the culture of silence that sustains both domestic and sexual violence. One of their posts included a flyer highlighting key points of the Nigeria’s Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions Prohibition Bill, using social media as a means of educating the public on the bill and to support the passing of the bill. Currently, the group says they have gained over seven thousand followers.
The sisters were on a radio program one hour per week for two weeks bringing awareness on the evil of human trafficking, sexual violence, and other gender-based violence including domestic violence. The high volume of calls received from the public during the talk show and the passionate appeal from the radio director as well as from some members of the public showed the strong demand from the public to hear the voice of the youth in the public square on these important issues. Here again the sisters were only able to do two programs as was in the budget.
Weekly Youth Chat:
Four participants of the workshop initiated a weekly Google group chat on gender based violence. Starting with only four youth it quickly expanded to over 50 youth across Nigeria. They are providing peer-to-peer education on rape. Seven participants have organized talk shows in their various youth groups to discuss rape and sexual violence and how the youth can be protected as well as help to protect others. Other participants have also shared their plans on how to engage their various youth groups in schools and churches once the lockdown is eased. AFJN is currently working with a participant who mobilized more than 60 youth from his parish for a Zoom workshop. The youth organizer is hoping to lead the group to engage their local leaders on discussions on some of the cultural practices that advance gender-based violence.
Nigerian School Group:
In Nigeria a school group will begin their planned radio programs to tackle traditional parenting styles that sustain gender-based violence. AFJN worked with them to plan an advocate visit to their local environmental minister to demand for a playground adequately equipped to enable young people in their school neighborhood have a good environment for recreation.
Justice for Abused Woman:
AFJN worked with the representatives of the sisters and youth to bring justice to an abused twenty-nine year old woman and her young kids. A youth brought her struggle to the attention of the sisters who helped engage a lawyer, the state police, and the social welfare department after her case was brought up by a youth participant to engaging the lawyer, the state police, and the social welfare department to protect the women and her kids. The unjust tradition would make a woman lose her kids if she walks away from an abusive marriage. Now the woman and her children are protected by both the civil and traditional law.
Ghana School Group:
In Ghana a school group formed a Global Awareness Club to tackle issues of the environment and violence in their communities. They plan to hold monthly events to educate themselves and others on environmental issues and gender based violence.
Education on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in High Schools:
The AFJN-Nigeria sisters and youths have been going around high schools in Anambra State creating awareness on sexual and gender-based violence. They spoke with staff members of Human Rights Commission in the state. Interesting to note – one school’s head wanted payment for the school claiming that the Nigerian government paid the sisters and youth to do this outreach. This is just one example of how important it is to fight for just governance along with these other important issues.
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