Violence against women and girls is among the oldest and the most wide-spread form of abuses in the history of humanity. Sadly, many instances of gender-based abuse go unreported for fear of reprisal, stigmatization or fear that the woman will be blamed, especially in cases of sexual harassment. To bring the issue of gender-based violence into the limelight, the UN commemorates November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The theme for the 2019 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape.” As noted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, “Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination. Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances.” Sexual violence against women and children happens everywhere. Unfortunately, sometimes even in a place and among individuals with whom one should feel very safe, that is, in the home and among family. Also in conflict and war situations, both the state and non-state actors use rape as a weapon of war.

For the next two years, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign will focus on the issue of rape as a specific form of harm committed against women and girls in times of peace or war. A world without violence is possible. Take action and join in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.

Read more:

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s video message: https://bit.ly/2DpeSSB




Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at UN Conference in July, 2018

Each year, the United Nations hosts several major meetings in which members of civil society organizations accredited to the UN can participate. Through the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur NGO Office, Sisters, Associates, co-workers, students, etc. can participate in any of these meetings. There is no fee to attend these UN sessions, but participants are responsible for their room and board and transportation while attending the conference. Funds are available to assist Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Latin America and Africa. If you are interested in attending a major UN meeting in 2020, contact Sister Amarachi Ezeonu as soon as possible at SNDatUN@sndden.org. You can also follow UN meetings by webcast at webtv.un.org. Below are some of the major UN meetings taking place in New York between February and April 2020.

  • 10 – 19 February 2020: 58th Session of the Commission on Social Development (New York).  Priority theme: “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness” https://bit.ly/2O7gWVu
  • 10 – 20 March 2020: 64th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (New York).  Priority theme: “Beijing +25: Realizing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls.” Read more: https://bit.ly/2riAixT
  • 13 – 24 April 2020: 19th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) (New York):   Theme: “Peace, justice and strong institutions: the role of indigenous peoples in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16.”  Read more: https://bit.ly/2KIbjet



UN photo

World Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November every year. The 2019 celebration had a special significance because it also marked the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a legally-binding international human rights treaty that applies to every child. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion, or abilities.”  As of date, 196 countries are parties to the CRC, including all member states of the UN except the United States. The CRC is an acknowledgment by the community of nations that children are right holders. The late South African president, Nelson Mandela described the Convention as “…that luminous, living document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception, to a life of dignity and self-fulfillment.” In her “open letter to the children of the world” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the CRC, the Director-General of the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta H. Fore, highlighted eight reasons she is both worried and hopeful about the next generation. These include; the devastating impacts of climate change, violent conflicts and wars, mental health, migration, and so on. Read the full letter HERE.

While significant progress has been made in child rights since the adoption of the CRC 30 years ago, a lot more still needs to be done. For millions of children around the world, childhood is still a time of misery and deprivation. Every society has a moral obligation to protect her children from all forms of abuse. Governments have a responsibility to provide healthcare, education, and other social services for children.  The future belongs to children, but unless we act now, many children will face a decidedly bleak future.

Read more :

State of the World’s Children 2019 Report: https://uni.cf/34n45nU




Mary Johnson, SNDdeN

By Mary Johnson, SNDdeN; Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Trinity University in Washington, D.C: During the week of November 18, 2019, I had the privilege of visiting our SNDdeN NGO office across the street from the United Nations and accompanying Sr. Amarachi to several events at the UN.  I also had the opportunity to attend events sponsored by UNICEF to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other activities of concern to NGOs. Sr. Amarachi also introduced me to several sisters who serve in their congregational NGOs in order to gain their perspective on the relationship of Catholic Social Teaching to the work of NGOs of women religious at the UN, part of my research project during my sabbatical.


 I was so inspired by the work of so many NGOs– secular, religious, Catholic, and those staffed by women and men religious–all representing the thought and experience of civil society.  I was also so proud to observe the hard work and obvious influence of the NGO of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the UN.  I will concentrate here on just a few points.

First, the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN seem to run as life-giving, Gospel-oriented stream through the analysis of the agenda of faith-based NGOs.  Global homelessness is now being discussed through the lenses of the SNGs.


Sisters Mary Johnson and Amarachi Ezeonu

Second, the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was marked by several events that included the voices of children and teens, as well as teachers and social workers. While it was very disheartening to be reminded that the United States is the only nation in the world that has not ratified the CRC, several speakers did comment that progress has been made toward the protection of the rights of children worldwide over the last three decades, but much progress remains to be made.

3Third, Sr. Amarachi introduced me to Teresa Blumenstein, the Coordinator of the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR), a coalition of 18 Catholic organizations which are accredited to the UN. The majority of the organizational members of the coalition are NGOs of religious congregations of women, including the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  The primary aim of JCoR, according to their publications, is “to enhance collaboration among our members, at UN headquarters, and around the world, in our work to address the root causes of poverty, destruction of the natural environment, and unsustainable development.” One method for the Coalition to meet its shared goal is through a series of workshops in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Africa, and India. The workshops include dialogues among the various congregations involving social, political, and economic analyses of regional injustices, with plans for collective action on the local and regional levels, in partnership with their representatives at the UN who work on those issues on the international level.

Finally, Sr. Amarachi and I were surprised to encounter another SNDdeN connection at the UN.  One day as we walked through the UN building, we passed an exhibit entitled “Irish Educators Abroad.”  Several panels highlighted the work of numerous people born in Ireland who served as educators all over the world.  As we viewed the panels, we came upon one on which an SNDdeN was pictured, Sr. Julia McGroarty, who was born in Ireland in 1827 and immigrated with her family to Cincinnati at the age of four.  She is described in the exhibit as a “pioneer in education” for standardizing curriculum in the SNDdeN schools in the US, and for her founding of schools, as well as Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University.




Girls from India, UNICEF Photo/Soumi Das

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, designating October 11 as the  International Day of the Girl Child. The purpose is to focus attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The theme for the 2019 International Day of the Girl Child is, Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable.” 

Nearly 25 years since the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, which culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (“the most comprehensive policy agenda for the empowerment of women”),  the fight for the empowerment of women and girls is far from being won. Women and girls in many parts of the world are still denied their fundamental human rights based on their gender. While among many cultures and some of the world’s major religious communities women and girls are not considered equal to their male counterparts.

As part of our advocacy efforts for gender equality, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur,


Girls from NDA, Hingham, MA  visit with Sr. Amarachi at SNDatUN Office

Loretto Community, Augustinians International and the Society of the Sacred Heart, led the Day 2 of 11 Days of Action twitter chat campaign to highlight what girls’ education for non-violence and gender equality means, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child. Below are a few of the verified facts on violence against girls  that we twitted:

“Worldwide, up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against GIRLS UNDER 16.”

“80% of the 2.5 million people trafficked annually are women and girls. They are trafficked into prostitution, forced labour, slavery, and servitude. Indigenous girls are disproportionately affected.”

“In countries affected by conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys and are more likely to become victims of sexual and gender-based violence.”

“Violence is gender-based and systemic. Girls suffer several injustices such as having to drop out of school, being forced into early marriages, and becoming pregnant while still a child.”








Sr. Isabelle Izika

By Isabelle Izika, SNDdeN, Congo Province JPIC Animator – Working for justice and peace is sometimes risky because it upsets the perpetrators of injustice and those who benefit from it. We hear about men and women around the world, sacrificing their lives for the sake of their brothers and sisters who are treated unjustly. Social justice advocates need courage and the willingness to work in collaboration with like-mind individuals or groups to achieve sustained systemic change. Collaboration is vital for mutual support. Training is also crucial for acquiring skills for social analysis and the strategies for effective advocacy.



As the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) animator for the Congo-Kinshasa


SNDdeN Congo Province JPIC Team Workshop

province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, my wish has always been for my unit JPIC team to collaborate with the Justice and Peace Office of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO), because it is the most influential social justice pressure group  currently with the government of the country. This dream came true when, on August 14, 2019, CENCO granted our request for a training workshop for the province JPIC team.  Training offered by CENCO personnel is usually a prerequisite for any organization wishing to become a member of the CENCO justice and peace network. So, two justice and peace mentors from CENCO came to our community in Kimwenza to provide basic training in social analysis for the members of our newly inaugurated province JPIC committee.  Eight members of the committee and fifteen other interested sisters attended the training. Every community in the unit was represented.  The idea was for the participants to return to their respective communities to inform and engage with members of their communities in the promotion of justice and peace.   



SNDdeN Congo Province JPIC Team

The training consisted of the social analysis of our local and national contexts, the history and work of CENCO, and reflecting on some cases of injustice in the Scriptures.  We reflected on the story of Suzanne in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 13, and the story of the woman caught in adultery in St. John’s Gospel.  We also identified and examined some cases of injustice in our individual lives, communities, places of work, and in our country. Then as a group, we reflected on ways we can denounce and encourage others to condemn these injustices, following the examples of the people in the Bible and the Catholic Church in the DRC.


I am glad that our unit JPIC Committee has officially become a member of the Justice and Peace Network of the Episcopal Conference of the DRC. Our Sisters are very enthusiastic and ready to continue to be in solidarity with our people in the DRC as we struggle for a just and equitable society. They have also expressed the desire to be part of the justice and peace commissions that exist in their respective parishes.




17 October is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The theme for this year’s commemoration, “Acting together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty,”  was deliberately chosen to put a focus on childhood poverty as the United Nations marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a landmark international human rights treaty that sets out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion, or abilities. The Convention recognizes the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.  Sadly, for millions of children around the world, a lot of the rights outlined in the CRC are far from becoming a reality.

According to the 2019 UNICEF report on “The State of the World’s Children,” one-third of2 children under age 5 are malnourished – stunted, wasted, or overweight – while two-thirds are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets. This situation is unacceptable. If governments can spend trillions of dollars acquiring weapons of misery and death, as well as investing billions in advancing technologies that can take people to other planets, why are we not able to feed our children? As the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, rightly noted, “Ending extreme poverty is not a matter of charity. It is a question of justice.” Poverty is not inevitable. … It is often the outcome of choices that society makes.”

Governments must deliver on the 2030 Global Agenda to lift families out of poverty. Access to Social Protection for all is an effective and efficient way to end childhood poverty. Every individual has the right to a life of dignity. According to Eli Khamarove, “poverty is like punishment for a crime you did not commit.”

Read more: UNICEF 2019 Report on the State of the World’s Children: https://uni.cf/2OPQwsm