APRIL 10, 2020 (CISA)– sisters of the congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd in Africa have expressed concern for beneficiaries of their programs as projects close down over Covid 19 pandemic.
“The onset of COVID 19 has heavily affected the work of our religious communities and ministries in the region,” Sr Donatus Lili, the congregation’s regional designate for Africa said in a write-up sent to CISA.
In Senegal, Srs Brigitte Ndione, and Jeanne Ndene noted that women empowerment and skills training has stopped and migrants and trafficked persons who found refuge in the centres have been left exposed.
“While the restrictions are highly welcome for the common good, the programs have suddenly stopped. Our centers were able to train in cookery, embroidery and bakery. Majority were engaging in entrepreneurial activities, while others sought employment in the private and state sectors. Teenage girls in crisis have been finding refuge in our center. The women and girls are likely to revert to previous and immoral activities since they no longer earn wages and salaries for self-sustainability,” the sisters said.
In Sudan where the sisters provide education, alongside food to needy children, there is concern that some of the children could be going hungry.
“Some children come from families that are not unable to provide three meals for the children. These children receive nutrition in school so the situation may worsen. The sisters have been rescuing girls from forced early marriages by maintaining them in our schools and are concerned that such children may be forced into early marriages by the parents in exchange for money,” Sr Angelina Ibrahim.
“In the fight against cultural and religious harmful practices, some girls are forced into FGM by parents. Our schools have been refuge for such girls. The fact that these girls are at home there is concern some may be subjected to this harmful practice which endangers their lives,” she said adding that the fact that all schools have closed till September 2020 could lead to decline of the number of girls enrolling when the school re-open.
In Egypt Sr Janette Alfi notes that women empowerment, youth and interreligious ministries have stopped.
“All communication is done via social media in different platforms such whatsapp groups. We are sensitizing the public on COVID- 19 on social media, for example, we developed a video to raise awareness and post it on the media and other NGO platforms.”
In Burkina Faso Sr Bernadette Tapsoba noted that total lockdown has led to staff layoffs and this in turn burdens families with minimal or no finances for basic needs.
“Our activities involve working with trafficked persons who have been vulnerable into prostitution. We have been providing psychosocial support, empowerment programs and alternative decent livelihood such as cookery, bakery and social skills. These activities stopped and fear exists that these women could revert to prostitution,” she said
In Madagascar where the congregation engages in various ministries including a center for homeless children and empowerment programs for women, Sr. Earnestine Lalao notes that the government tries to provide food aid for the poor and the vulnerable, “…which is to our advantage as the women and children are provided for,” she says.
In Kenya, the congregation is a member of the Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT), a network of Talitha Kum in collaboration with Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) whose mission is to collaborate to eradicate human trafficking.
“The RAHT activities have been affected too and activities are conducted online. The situation does not provide opportunities to meet and share best practices on sensitization and preventive measures,” noted Sr Donata.
The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd is a congregation of religious women dedicated to promoting human rights and the empowerment of girls, women and children. It is international congregation working in 72 countries among which 14 are found in Africa. The congregation has special consultative status with UN-ECOSOC and has representatives at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Vienna, and has spoken out against human trafficking.