According to the United Nations Development Programme, over the past decade, almost every African country has undergone “wide-ranging reforms aimed at strengthening state accountability and eradicating corruption”.
Despite these efforts, corruption continues to happen. Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) revealed that 40 out of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 states have a “serious problem with corruption”.
Africa’s development is stunted not only by corruption but by no ruling of laws as well. Some countries suffer from high levels of armed violence, sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations aim to reduce all forms of violence and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity.
What is being done to solve these problems?
Religious sisters, through their education from African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) programs, are working towards an end to corruption and injustice.
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After bloody government conflict in Kenya, over 600,000 people were displaced from their homes into Nairobi’s biggest slum. Many people lost their jobs, their homes and their network of social support. To decrease tension in one neighborhood of the slum, Catholic sisters have trained women to act as local peacemakers and mediators.
Several alumna of ASEC’s programs are working together in the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Association for Sisterhoods in Kenya (AOSK). Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) alumna Sr. Delvin Mukhwana studied community development to bring a positive change to the community. She is continuing her education to receive a Master’s Degree in project planning and management, which will greatly help the organization.
Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) alumna Sr. Mary Magdalene Kanini Mutua and Sr. Josephine Muthoni Kwenga have learned the ways of grant-writing and financial administration. As program coordinator and program officer, respectively, these skills have certainly helped the AOSK.
Sr. Josephine recognized a specific need to empower women in both rural and urban settings.
After graduating from the SLDI Administration track in 2015, she wrote a grant proposal to begin her social justice project titled “Women Peacemakers with Alternative Livelihood” and was awarded over $12,000 in funding. The project seeks to empower poor women facing social injustices in Nairobi slums as well as women in rural areas.
Her project activities include:
- Empowering women to overcome social injustice through economic capacity building activites such as: beadwork, crocheting, sustainable farming and chicken rearing
- Peace building initiatives such as peace circles in influence individual families and communities to reduce cases of violence
- Gender empowerment of marginalized women including those in extreme poverty and living with HIV/AIDS
- Collaboration for social justice and peace with Catholic Diocese of Nakuni to implement the project
For women in other portions of Kenya, they face injustice in the form of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Despite being recognized internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women, 27% of Kenyan women will undergo FGM.
Sr. Caroline Kimani of the Societies of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary attended an SLDI workshop on leadership that inspired her. She was told in the workshop:
“You lead from the front, and you empower the people you are leading.”
As Directress of the Marie Adelaide Girls Rescue Center, Sr. Caroline helps provide up to 24 at-risk girls with shelter, food, counseling and education so that they may have a better future. She says: “my future for these girls is to see them very empowered women who fight for the rights of others, and who are able to fight for their own rights.”
By doing this, the young girls will be empowered to say no to FGM.
On the other side of the continent, corruption and injustice is especially seen in Cameroonian prisons.
Accused inmates often have issues acquiring legal assistance and adequate healthcare, making it difficult to reenter society and avoid being sent back to prison. These prisons are not accurately moderated, so several inmates are there without committing a crime.
SLDI Alumna, Sr. Gwendoline Bijisang Ngwemetoh, is dedicated to ensuring that inmates in four Cameroonian prisons are given second chances. Even with second chances, the inmates struggle to support themselves after leaving the prisons. As a member of the congregation of the Sisters of St. Therese (SS), she began working with the Victim Offender Prison Care Support (VOPS) which helps current and former inmates learn the tools needed to reintegrate into society.
Sr. Gwendoline has been able to help inmates learn trades that would be useful upon release like craftworks and bread-making. She and her fellow sisters even operate a farm where they educate former inmates about agriculture.
Due to prisons in Cameroon often being overcrowded, inmates are more susceptible to illnesses. Sr. Gwendoline has raised funds to ensure that the inmates have access to proper supplementary nutrition and medical care.
The biggest issue that inmates face is the lack of access to legal assistance, but Sr. Gwendoline has been able to offer legal assistance to current and former inmates so that they can defend themselves against wrongful accusations. Through her work, she is helping reduce injustices that these people face.
Religious sisters in different countries are using their education gained through ASEC to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of peace, justice and strong institutions. They are immediately working towards solutions to solve problems of conflict, corruption and insecurity.