The challenges of consent and respect for all human life

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

Sr. Olivia with a newborn infant and mother at the health clinic.

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Sr. Olivia's faith in God, internal strength and education all play important roles in protecting and defending the lives of unborn children carried by young rape victims in a South Sudan health clinic.

Across Africa choices are limited for young women. This is especially true for women in South Sudan. Sr. Olivia Namono Manana has witnessed the lack of choices for women through her work at a local clinic. However, one day when she was attending to maternity care mothers, three young women walked into the clinic throughout the day and left a lasting impact on Sr. Olivia.

The first young woman was a 14 year old girl, who came to the clinic to understand why she had amenorrhea for a month. She was forced to leave primary school and now she was forced to change her life again. Laboratory tests showed that the young girl was pregnant and would not be able to carry the baby.

The second young woman was a fifteen year old girl. She came in to request medicine to deworm herself because she was experiencing stomach fullness. When asked to lie down for an examination she protested and said she was not ready. The young women who had left her fourth year of school said another university student had tricked her but had denied having impregnated her.

The third patient was a sixteen year old requesting  to have an abortion. The young woman had to leave during her fifth year of school. While she was sleeping alone in a hut an unknown man attacked her and forced himself on her.

It is not easy in South Sudan to establish the truth about how these young girls got pregnant.  It can be even harder to prosecute those who violates these young women. Sr. Olivia has learned this hard truth by speaking with people in the area.

“Through the services that I render in the healing ministry I learned that some of the girls who are involved in early pregnancies and early marriages get [abortions] without [the father’s] consent,” said Sr. Olivia.

Although Sr. Olivia does not believe these procedures are right she acknowledges that neither is the way these girls are being treated.

“God didn’t tell him to exploit or treat her recklessly. But to be his helper suited for him, therefore let us seek ways to educate people or families to preserve everything entrusted to us including the unborn baby,” said Sr. Olivia.

Sr. Olivia understands that in order for her to continue her work she needs a great deal of strength. Although this environment is difficult for her emotionally she understands that she is needed her.

“I will continue to educate the young people to know that they are special people loved and respected by God. Nobody should violate their right they have a right to education and to make their decisions,” said Sr. Olivia.

Sr. Olivia acknowledges that the strength that she uses to be able to persevere through her work comes from the education she received through ASEC's Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program.

“I realized that there are many challenges but through prayer and the knowledge I acquired from ASEC, I will be able to educate the communities that I live in and serve to change their ways of thinking and respect life and live well,” said Sr. Olivia.

There are so many other religious women across Africa that rely on strength in order to successfully carry out their work. These women are already equipped with the strength to take the issues of Africa and the world head on. However, they need resources. ASEC provides religious women with the most powerful resource in society: education. We want to ensure religious women across Africa will be able to use their education to make a difference in society just like Sr. Olivia.

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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

SLDI Participant - SouthSudan  

Briana Ryan

ASEC Web Content Intern - USA  

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