Being a sister takes a lot of courage, especially when tackling some of society’s deepest social justice issues. Each ASEC Sister in Africa brings a unique purpose and perspective to their communities and congregations as a result of their education and leadership training. Here are eight times women religious have fought for social justice in Africa.
1. Helping physically and mentally disabled children get the early intervention services they need
Sr. Elisabeth Didas Swai, LSOSF, earned her Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology degree at the University of Kisubi in Entebbe in Uganda as a part of ASEC’s Higher Education for Sisters in Africa program. She is now Center Director at Mama Kevina where she provides therapeutic services to about 600 children with special needs and their parents.
As of 2017, there were only 278 mental health professionals working in Tanzania. Sr. Swai recognizes the overwhelming importance of mental health resources and counseling support for communities.
2. Using crop and animal farming to sustainably support their local communities
In sub-Saharan Africa, farming and animal keeping are key to helping communities escape poverty. After learning about organic farming on a field trip to Kasisi Organic Farming Project, Sr. Veronica Nyambe, HBVM, immediately went back to her community and started her own. Now she grows a variety of vegetables and raises hundreds of chickens, quails, peking ducks and guinea fowls.
3. Using financial and leadership training to help those displaced by war and violence
Sub-Saharan Africa in particular hosts more than 26% of the world’s refugee population, with Cameroon among the highest of African nations. Sr. Veronica Dinla Jumfongai, HHCJ, traveled to the Diocese of Mamfe to experience firsthand what the refugees witnessed – gunfire and harassment from patrolling military personnel during mass. Using her grant writing and financial management training from SLDI training, she plans to raise enough funds to build single rooms for each displaced family to start their lives again.
4. Providing solutions to a war-torn South Sudan
South Sudan faces an overwhelming number of humanitarian emergencies, including a “nation-wide political and security crisis” according to the United Nations. These crises have had long-lasting impacts on the country’s infrastructure – more than two-thirds of the population needs assistance from food insecurity, displacement, sexual violence and lack of education. Rather than leaving, Sr. Mary Faida, SHS, stays in South Sudan to make astonishing impacts on her local community, including securing grants to help trauma-informed formation, pay for medical bills and provide clean water.
5. Reducing the spread and stigma of HIV/AIDs in Kenya
Kenya is home to the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. Sr. Mercelyne Norah Nyausi, FMSJ, began working with people living with AIDs after completing ASEC’s Sisters Leadership Development Initiative. Using the leadership, technology and finance training she gained through SLDI, she secured a grant to build the new Baringo Maternity Wing specifically to reduce and prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS.
6. Helping survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Uganda
Sr. Judith Athieno, SHS, is a survivor of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which is why she made it a life goal to use her ASEC training secure a grant to start the Capacitar Trauma Healing project. Founded in response to the effects of war crimes and cultural acceptance of SGBV in Northern Uganda, the project engages the services of local health departments, hospitals, social workers and counselors, lawyers and police to provide critical public health and survivor services.
7. Providing food, shelter and a new chance at life to underserved street boys of Kenya
In Kenya culture, circumcision marks a boy’s transition from boyhood to manhood and is typically carried out around age 13. Afterwards the boy is considered a man and therefore not allowed to continue to sleep under the same roof as their parents. As a result, many boys are left homeless as they have nowhere else to go. ASEC alumna Sr. Winnie Mutuku founded her own organization, Upendo Street Children (USC) to try to help this vulnerable population of boys.
8. Providing healthcare services to patients who would have limited or no access to medical care in Zambia
In Zambia there is a lack of qualified medical professionals, especially in rural areas, leading to a shortage of healthcare services to patients who need them. Sr. Anastasia M. Kalingeme, Sisters of Mercy (SOM), endeavors to assist in providing obstetric, gynecological, and surgical treatment to patients who would otherwise have limited to no access to medical care.
Being a leader isn’t easy, especially in places where resources are limited, which is why ASEC sisters in Africa are truly transforming their communities for the better. Through grant writing, securing funding, feeding the hungry and protecting vulnerable populations, ASEC sisters are committed to carrying out service wherever it is needed most.