6Designated by the United Nations, 30 July is observed as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This day is intended to raise awareness and educate people on the evil of human trafficking. Human trafficking is among the most heinous crimes in the history of humanity. It strips victims of their inherent human dignity and human rights. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes human trafficking as the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud, or deception to exploit them. The critical role that first responders play in times of crisis is being acknowledged and appreciated globally in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN also chose to highlight the role of first responders such as social workers, law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, NGO staff, and many others, in the fight against human trafficking as the theme for the 2020 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The coronavirus pandemic, with the resulting economic and social impacts, has exacerbated incidences of human trafficking around the world.

On another note, the US Department of State on 25th June launched the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). This was also the 20th annual TIP report. The TIP report, according to the Department of State, is the government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. The US 2019 TIP report focused primarily on human trafficking that happens within the borders of countries. Below is an excerpt from the report:

Each instance of human trafficking takes a common toll; each crime is an affront to the 7basic ideals of human dignity, inflicting grievous harm on individuals, as well as on their families and communities. Yet, if it were possible to hold human trafficking up to a light like a prism, each facet would reflect a different version of the crime, distinct in context but the same in essence. Together they would show the vast and varied array of methods traffickers use to compel adults and children of all genders, education levels, nationalities, and immigration statuses into service in both licit and illicit sectors. Traffickers may be family members, recruiters, employers, or strangers who exploit vulnerability and circumstance to coerce victims to engage in commercial sex or deceive them into forced labor. They commit these crimes through schemes that take victims hundreds of miles away from their homes or in the same neighborhoods where they were born. – US 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Lastly, the UN celebrates 20 years since the adoption of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  This is one out of the three protocols to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes. The Convention is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crimes. The protocol on trafficking was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 15 November, 2000.

Here are some facts and figures on human trafficking from the International Labour Organization;

  •  An estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. This means that out of every 1,000 people in the world, 5.4 are victims of modern-day slavery; 1 in 4 of victims of modern-day slavery are children. Out
  • Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture, 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors


Read more:

2019 US Trafficking in Persons Report (PDF):

UN World Day Against Human Trafficking:

UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes:



Each year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to escape violent conflict, 6persecution, or natural disaster. Some of the people cross the borders of their countries, while many end up in camps within their countries. Whether displaced within or outside one’s country, people on the move face untold hardships.

The United Nations observes 20 June as World Day for Refugees. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. It is also an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. The UNHCR estimates the number of refugees globally to be 79.5 million in 2019, with about 10 million people fleeing in the past one year.

While acknowledging refugees to be among the most vulnerable population around the world, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, also commended the efforts of refugees in stepping up on the frontlines of response to the coronavirus pandemic in their host communities.  In his video message to mark the 2020 World Refugee Day, Mr. Guterres noted that from camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers, and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to their communities.

7The Office of the UNHCR was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. And in 1951, the UN Member States adopted the Convention on Refugees. The Convention is the key legal document that informs the work of the UNHCR. The core principle of the Convention on Refugees is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

 ***Some basic rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:

  • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions;
  • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State;
  • The right to work;
  • The right to housing;
  • The right to education;
  • The right to public relief and assistance;
  • The right to freedom of religion;
  • The right to access the courts;
  • The right to freedom of movement within the territory;
  • The right to be issued identity and travel documents.

Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights, the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need.  (The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees)

Read more:

UN World Refugee Day:

The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol:





1The coronavirus pandemic has unmasked the entrenched systemic inequalities that exist within many countries. In the early weeks of the pandemic, it was said that the COVID-19 disease is an equalizer. But this has proven not to be entirely the case. Stories emerging from different countries has revealed that rather than being an equalizer, the pandemic has unmasked the structural socio-economic inequalities that exist in many countries.  In countries like the US, UK, France, to mention a few, the so-called minority ethnic groups (Blacks, Indigenous Peoples, Asians, Latinos, migrant population, and older persons in nursing homes) have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

The painful experience from the devastating economic and social impacts of the coronavirus, in addition to the brutal murder of Mr. George Floyd, an African-American man by a White police officer in the US city of Minneapolis, sparked off global protests against police brutality and conversations about an age-old demon – racism. People of African descent have suffered centuries of human rights abuses and systemic racism resulting from the long history of transatlantic slave trade, enslavement, and colonialization in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean.

The cry of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” found resonance in the streets of Minneapolis,2 New York City, Washington DC, London, … among a people who have been denied justice and unleased anger, sadness and rage. The protests we have witnessed across the globe are the cries of the unheard, “the public processing of pain…, and an intentional and communal act of expressing grievance by the victims.” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Now is that time. It is no longer just enough to claim not to be a racist, an ethnic bigot, or a homophobe. But we must act and speak out against all forms of bigotry, and become “anti” to everything that promotes the exaltation or supremacy of a group over another. Racism and all forms of discrimination are the sins of humanity. Consequently, the work of truth, reconciliation, and justice awaits all of us.

After a three-month COVID-19 enforced break, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva reconvened its 43rd session on Monday, 15 June, with a rare and urgent debate on racism and police brutality in response to the murder of George Floyd. The debate was sponsored by the African Group.



2The 58th United Nations Commission on Social Development with the theme, “Affordable housing and social protection systems for all to address homelessness,” was unique because it was the first time that the UN in its 75-year history explicitly addressed the issue of homelessness. A home is one of the basic human needs, without which an individual or, in some cases, an entire family lives in a very precarious situation, making the individual vulnerable to violence and abuse.  Homelessness has become a global challenge as increasingly, many people have no longer a place to call home. Violent conflict, natural disasters resulting from climate change, and migration are some of the factors for homelessness. Some people also lose their homes because of economic misfortune, mental or physical illness, and so on. But for whatever reason, a home is a human right as affirmed by two distinct UN human rights instruments; the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  Each of these UN human rights mechanisms clearly articulates the right of individuals to adequate housing, yet, the UN-Habitat in 2015 estimates that over 1.6 billion people worldwide are homeless or live in inadequate housing.

During the 2020 Commission on Social Development which took place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 9-20 February, Member States representatives, civil 3society organization representatives, and other stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness deliberated and proffered solutions on how to end, or at least reduce incidences of homelessness. One concrete solution for states to end homelessness is to ensure social protection for every individual within its territory. All Member States unanimously adopted resolution on the priority theme on “affordable housing and social protection system for all to address homelessness” at the end of the Commission. Click HERE to read the resolution.



Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

12 February 2020 marked 15 years since the brutal murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN. Sr. Dorothy was assassinated for her solidarity with the people of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil in their struggle to protect their ancestral lands from exploitation by commercial farmers and loggers. Fifteen years on, the battle for the Amazonians and many indigenous communities around the world to defend their ancestral lands from the destructive impacts of extractivism by national and transnational corporations’ is far from over. Hundreds of environmental and human rights defenders around the world continue to suffer grave injustices, and some pay the ultimate prize for standing up for and defending their ancestral heritage.

According to the 2019 report by Front Line Defenders, more than 300 human rights defenders were assassinated in 31 countries in 2019. Forty percent of them were working on the land, indigenous peoples’ rights, and environmental rights.  States and politicians often use economic and/or development to justify the devastating impacts of extractivism on the human rights of indigenous peoples and the environment. However, as noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, “extractive activities within indigenous peoples’ lands and territories undertaken without adequate consultation or consent is the main source of serious violations of their human rights, including violence, criminalization, and forced displacement.” Nothing justifies the violation of people’s human rights, especially the right to life.

Read the full REPORT by Front Line Defenders

Watch the video commemorating Sr. Dorothy Stang’s 15th Anniversary:






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.


5The World Day Against Child Labour, which is celebrated on 12 June every year, was launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to raise awareness and inspire actions to end child labour. The theme for the 2019 World Day Against Child Labour is; Children should not work in fields but on dreams. This assertion, sadly, is not the experience for the millions of children who are forced to work every day to support themselves and their families, sometimes under very hazardous conditions. The ILO data indicates that over 218 million children around the world are forced to work full-time. Child labour robs children of their childhood. It exposes them to situations of abuse, deprives them of leisure and fundamental freedoms, adequate education, and healthcare. Child labour endangers the lives of children and violates their human rights.

States must ensure the protection of the human rights of children as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments. As Nelson Mandela rightly noted, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Below are some facts and figures from the UN website, illustrating the prevalence of child labour in the different regions of the globe.

  • Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
    Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.
  • In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
  • In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3% and 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14).
  • Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years. 6
    Forty-two million (28%) are 12-14 years old, and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.
  • Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless, up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.
  • Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys, and 64 million are girls.
  • 58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
  • Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding, and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including

Read more:

Convention Concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment:

Learn about the Convention on the Rights of the Child:




By Sister Ijeoma Okoye, SNDdeN, Nigeria: Governments must provide essential social services such as quality education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation for their citizens. Governments also have the primary responsibility to safeguard the human rights and security of all who live within their borders.  The above, unfortunately, is not the reality in many African countries, especially in countries within the sub Saharan region of the continent where Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have a presence.  While some of the governments have only made half-hearted efforts, others have out-rightly neglected to provide these much-needed services for the people.


Standing from L:  Srs. Marie-Therese Mbongi, Rosita Ignatius, Priscilla Aliu, Margaret Inziani, Chantel Kisimbila, Majella Anyanwu, Elizabeth Chinamo, Fr. Emedo Obiezu.  2nd. Row L:  Srs. Isabelle Izika, Ijeoma Okoye, Theresa Anikwata, Maximila Matub

The failure of governments in many sub-Saharan African countries to fulfill the state’s obligations to their citizens has contributed to an escalation in the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region. For over a century, Catholic Religious Institutes of women and men, and other humanitarian organizations have endeavored to fill the gap created by government’s negligence or failure to provide education, healthcare, and others services.  Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been outstanding in their efforts to offer quality education, healthcare, and other social services for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for over a century. Nevertheless, it is increasingly becoming evident that despite years of efforts by so many faith-based and other humanitarian organizations, the gaps in accessibility of these services continues to widen. This may suggest that our efforts are no longer enough, probably because we are only tackling the symptoms of the problems.

Therefore, while applauding the efforts of Religious Congregations in providing these services to people living in poverty, we must also begin to challenge the systemic roots of


Theresa Anikwata & Sr. Margaret Inziani

the social problems that keep people in poverty, such as poor governance and corruption. A deeper consciousness of social justice moves us to question those systemic structures which create the gaping inequalities among peoples in our society. Since social action involves working with social institutions so that they become more responsive to the needs of individuals, Institutes of Religious Life are called to “MOVE FROM CHARITY TO JUSTICE.” This broadening of focus is necessary if we must remain relevant in the 21st Century. Our prophetic mission as Catholic Religious women in the present age requires us to make a paradigm shift in the way we perceive our roles in society. Thus, rather than just filling the gaps created as the result of the state’s failure to fulfill its obligations to the people, we must also begin to collaborate with others to seek creative ways to advocate for change in those unjust structures that strip millions of our people of their human dignity.



Sisters show off their certificate of participation at the end of the workshop

In an effort to respond to these needs, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, working as an NGO at the United Nations recently organized a training workshop (30 April – 4 May 2019) for the Sisters of Notre Dame Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Animators from the African units.  The aim of the workshop titled, From Charity to Justice,” was to strengthen the Sisters grassroots advocacy for systemic change, and the commitment to social justice as called for by the “2014 Chapter Calls” of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The venue was the SMA Center in Abuja, Nigeria.

Fr. Emeka Xris Obiezu, an Augustinian priest from Nigeria, and the former United Nations representative for the Augustinians International facilitated the workshop. Sr. Majella Anyanwu, SNDdeN -Nigeria, (Lawyer), gave an input on human rights, and Sr. Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, the SNDatUN representative and the organizer of the workshop gave her presentation (virtually from New York). Participants at the workshop were Sisters from Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. At the end of the workshop, the participants shared testimonies of being empowered by the experience of the three days. They drafted a proposal to be presented to the 18th General Chapter of the Congregation taking place in July 2020.



Indigenous People.  UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples from across the globe gathered at the UN Headquarters, New York, for the Eighteenth Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held from 25 April to 2 May. The theme for the 2019 UNPFII is “traditional knowledge: generation, transmission, protection.” The UN describes the indigenous peoples as the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people          Indigenous People. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas              social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of dominant societies in which they live. The UNPFII was established in the year 2000, by a UN resolution with the mandate to deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights.

According to a report by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the 2estimated 370 million indigenous peoples who reside in approximately 90 countries are among the most marginalized peoples in the world. The report noted that indigenous peoples are often isolated politically and socially within the countries where they reside by the geographical location of their communities, their separate histories, cultures, languages, and traditions.

To safeguard the human rights of the indigenous peoples, therefore, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the resolution in 2007 on the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration provides a comprehensive framework of minimum standards of economic, social, and cultural well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. Again, in 2016, the UNGA adopted a resolution declaring 2019 a Year of Indigenous Languages.

Read more:


International Year of Indigenous Languages: Reports on Indigenous Peoples Rights:


4By Salma Sahnoun, Student, University of Central Missouri, USA: My name is Salma Sahnoun from Tunisia, North Africa. I am a senior at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, majoring in Political Science. I am passionate about Human Rights and Humanitarian Development. I believe that resource scarcity and unequal access to resources should not destroy dreams.  To this end, I want to devote my life to people in need – especially women and children – to improve their conditions.

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is an accredited non-governmental organization at the United Nations. I had the pleasure to represent the organization at the Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) in Boston, MA from February 14 -17, 2019. HNMUN is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious United Nations simulation that brings together over 3,000 college students and faculty advisors from colleges and universities across the globe.  Delegations from 61 countries were present at this year’s conference that provided students the unique opportunity to experience the challenges of international negotiation.  To be a good representative of the Sisters of Notre Dame, I spent considerable time researching the organization’s work and perspectives on various issues. With the help of Sr. Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, I gathered valuable information on various issues facing young women around the world that enabled me to play a vital role at the conference.

As the representative of the Sisters of Notre Dame, I worked with delegates serving on 5the Commission on the Status of Women to address the “the modern-day evil” of human trafficking.  At the end of my presentation, I was approached by many of the delegations to explain how education can be a solution to women and child trafficking.

Representing the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was a real honor. The work and noble causes of your organization match my views and goals in life. Investing in education and making education accessible to young girls around the world, is I believe the best way to inspire change and make the world a better place!

Thank you for inspiring me and showing me how much women can do.