The African Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) secured financial support from Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to mobilize sisters in three African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya) to engage issues of justice in their communities. From May 13-16; we held a … Continued
2021 Workshops and Events
After over a year, AFJN was finally able to begin in-person advocacy trainings on the continent of Africa with both the Women’s Empowerment (WE) and the Africa Church Together Against Corruption Projects. In-person meetings are crucial during the nascent stage of education and advocacy workshop trainings. AFJN continued holding virtual meetings, trainings, and mentorship in addition to in-person advocacy.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
AFJN’s WE advocacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo has started with a team of three sisters who have traveled to four rural villages raising awareness on human trafficking. In 2022, WE is planning a collaborative workshop with the Dominican Office for Justice and Peace for the sisters on the environment.
From May 22– 28th, AFJN’s WE and African Church Together Against Corruption (ACT) projects did joint advocacy and awareness events in Ghana. The sisters spoke at gatherings in Battor-Dzodze, Apolonia, Fodwoku, Atebubu-Garadima, and Brewaniase. The group educated locals and high school students in these towns on land grabbing, human trafficking, women empowerment, and child labor. The workshops were well attended.
As part of the WE project, sisters and youth have been holding several events on gender-based violence and human trafficking each month.
On May 6 the team engaged 1000 students and staff of Federal Government College Odi and discussed how to protect students from rape and human trafficking. On May 16 they held a 3-hour meeting with the Abari Community on violence in the family and its consequences and human trafficking. They also met with 350 women of the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) in Kaima and discussed child abuse and child trafficking.
The May 22 “Youth Arise and Shine – Now is the Time” AFJN-Nigeria Youth Leadership Training Workshop on human trafficking and child labor, gender–based violence, land grabbing, and communicable conflicts held in the Jos Province of Nigeria, had 100 youth empowered to speak against violence on the radio, advocating for non-violence, public witnessing, and campaigning in parishes and communities.
The July 8-17 “Let us work together to eradicate human trafficking” campaign in Uyo AkwaIbom State began with research by Valentine Iwenwanne in the region who discovered that two things were driving human trafficking in the area: ignorance of its reality and lack of will to fight the evil. Mr. Iwenwanne presented his findings during “AFJN Report: Current State of Human Trafficking in Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State) 2021” ahead of the workshops. To garner attention for the workshops, for seven days leading up to them, jingles in English and the native language about human trafficking were played on popular radio stations. The July workshops was for 6-hours at Holy Infant Secondary School, Oron, with 1,200 staff and students and a drama on human trafficking written and produced by the students and other workshops at Mbribit Iram Community and Cathedral Community.
On July 12 the stakeholder meeting had over 200 stakeholders from government, civil society, youth, parishes, and the vicar of the diocese. The participants pledged to end human trafficking. The Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) invited the group to speak with the zonal office director and staff. The sisters did an advocacy visit to NDLEA and advocated for a rehabilitation facility for female drug abusers (since there wasn’t one).
The rest of the days were more engagement and workshops with youth including: 1500 girls from Notre Dame Girls Secondary School Ura Edet Obo Essien Udim LGA; over 100 youth marching on the streets of Uyo with the sisters about ending human trafficking; town hall meeting with over 300 men and women at Afagh Eket Community, including the chief and his cabinets;, and 2,000 high school student at St. Peter and Paul Secondary School Ibeno; Town hall with Ibeno community where a youth leader spoke about the mass drowning of 13 girls by their traffickers; Town Hall at Oron Local Government with 16 village chiefs and over 300 men, women, and youth. Many of these meetings led to a strong commitment by the leaders, chiefs and families to protect their children and start acting as a community to identify and the eliminate human trafficking in their communities. Many sad stories of real life trafficking were shared by members of the community.
On July 30, the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Women and Children Justice Initiatives and AFJN held a one day advocacy event at the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd Enugu. NAPTIP also held events to raise awareness. The sisters also were part of a week-long sensitization in schools and churches organized by a sister who received AFJN training in UYO. With AFJN mentorship, she mobilized the JDPC, NAPTIP and Catholic Lawyers to join the march against trafficking.
In August sisters met with the Catholic Women’s Organization at Bamishi Abuja where the women pledged to kick out trafficking in their communities.
In September “AFJN Nigeria Youth Video for Peace” premiered. The youth produced this video calling for peace over the increased tensions and violence among their communities caused by the growing instability. The youth shared the video among themselves and their social networks including WhatsApp. Also the sisters and the youth were invited by the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos to participate in “Youth Week 2021” September 5-11th where they talked about the importance of advocacy in the struggle for justice.
In October, ahead of the 2021 election in Jos, Nigeria, AFJN – Nigeria youth produced and circulated a video calling for nonviolence ahead of the elections. Generally elections in Nigeria are bloody and politician are known to use youth to perpetrate the violence. In the video, the youth ask others not to engage in violent activities during the elections. Post-elections the youth reported to Sr. Eucharia, that Saturday’s elections were not violent – the youth refused to be used to perpetuate the violence.
Prior to the workshops with youth and sisters, AFJN commissioned research by Denis Mpagaze into the prevalence of human trafficking in Tanzania where he found that gender inequality and lack of awareness on human trafficking are two major issues. The youth also created a human trafficking jingle that was aired for a week prior to the youth workshop to draw public attention to the issues.
On June 19, AFJN held “Tanzanian Youths: Working Together to End Human Trafficking” for youth in Songea, Tanzania. This one-day workshop with the youth was held in-person with AFJN giving Zoom presentations on gender-based violence and on Human Trafficking. One hundred youth of various ages attended and even the District Commissioner of Songea participated on Zoom. After the workshop the youth created the AFJN Youth Network in Tanzania where the youth continue to gather and use social media and other outlets to disseminate knowledge to the public including a standing appearance on Jogoo Radio F.M 930 every Saturday from June to the
AFJN also held “Witnessing to Our Faith in the Public Square” workshops for the sisters on August 16-20. Over 80 sisters from over 50 different congregations attended the 3-day workshop including an advocacy visit to the Commissioner for Home Affairs. During the visit the Commissioner was so impressed he said he will use the advocacy letter written by the sisters in his future discussion with other leaders on the issues of human trafficking. Additionally, he said that he would be implementing a new procedure where the chief must sign a document before a child can leave the village. If an officer did a search on a bus and found a child without the proper signed document the child would be taken off the bus and returned to the chief. Following the workshop the sisters have hosted two awareness creating events which AFJN staff participated via Zoom. Events were covered by seven local media outlets.
On September 10 and 11, the sisters held a public campaign against human trafficking with 270 staff and students in Dar es Salaam where they met with the Temeke District Officer and Social Welfare Officer and they visited with the former Ambassador to Japan. The workshop was broadcast on TV, the sisters were also on Sauti Ya dada Wadogo radio and on Radio Tumaini https://youtu.be/rSsuk8kW8oQ, https://youtu.be/9cY5FpP5q-g, https://youtu.be/r4qpt-bOt2M
Following the spring workshops, the sisters in Uganda produced a “Brief History of the Africa Faith and Justice Network Uganda” video about AFJN’s advocacy work in Uganda, the creation of Africa Faith and Justice Network – Uganda and the successes they have had on educating others about domestic and Gender-Based Violence including working with survivors and advocating against human trafficking.
In July and September, AFJN remotely mentored sisters on human trafficking prevention and educational outreach to new communities which led to: a radio program with Fort Portal’s Jubilee Radio 105.6 on the World Day Against Human Trafficking; outreach to the Anglican church community, to join the sisters in interfaith advocacy against human trafficking; and building a support group of 30 youth survivors by providing counseling and a community support network.
In May, the WE Project held a Zoom discussion on “Advocacy as a Christian Calling” with Executives of the Zambian Conference of Women Religious to spark their interest in advocacy and training of sisters in this important work. A follow up workshop for the Major Superiors in Lusaka is scheduled for November 13 and a workshop for Sisters from different religious congregations is scheduled for November 14-16.
AFJN has been working with three survivors (two in Uganda and one in Nigeria) who were trafficked abroad. The witness these survivors provided during our workshops and trainings have been immeasurable. Thanks to additional funding from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Base Communities, AFJN was able to provide these survivors with skills training and materials to start their own business as a way to thank them. The survivors were very grateful for the support.
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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