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.



4The United Nations General Assembly through the 2010 UN General Assembly Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons mandated the UN Office on Drug and Crimes (UNDOC) to conduct and present regular global report on trafficking in persons. The UNODC 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons puts a spotlight on trafficking in persons in conflict zones. The report covers 142 countries and provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at the global, regional and national levels, based primarily on trafficking cases detected between 2014 and 2016.

The 2018 report revealed that overall, the number of people being trafficked around the world has increased. But it was noted that this trend could mean that more people are being trafficked, or that national capacities to detect this crime and identify victims are improving in some countries. Whatever the case, the tragedy of human trafficking is still very much present and thriving in most parts of the world.  Women and girls continue to be the most targeted by traffickers, according the 2018 report. Nearly three-quarters of detected female victims of trafficking are exploited for sexual purposes, while 35 per cent are trafficked for forced labour. The report also pointed out that while progress has been made in the past 15 years since the UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons came into force, so much more still needs to be done to bring perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. The fight to end trafficking in persons must continue until the evil cease to exist!

Read more:

2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons in the context of armed conflict:

2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons:


4The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of WWII in 1945. Some of the principal objectives for founding the organization as outlined in the preamble of the UN Charter were; “to prevent the occurrence of future atrocities by affirming faith in fundamental human rights, in dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small and the commitment to promote better standard of life in larger freedom.” These fundamental human rights are all captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10th December 1948. This day is observed every year as the International Human Rights Day. The UN will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December 2018.

Seventy years on, the principles enshrined in the UDHR are still as relevant as they were in 1948. The UDHR has been translated into 513 languages, making it the most translated document in history.

Learn more:

Video: History of the UDHR:

Short articles on each of the 30 Articles of the UDHR:


1“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence, and insecurity, the world cannot pride itself on being fair and equal.” These were the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, at an event to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day is observed every year on November 25 to raise awareness on gender-based violence. The theme for the 2018 celebration is Orange the World: #HearMeToo. The color orange is used to draw global attention to the pandemic issue of violence against women, while the hashtag is encouraged to amplify the message of survivors and activists and to put them at the centre of the conversation.

Below are some alarming figures from the UN, highlighting the prevalence of violence against women and girls:

  • 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner
  • Only 52% of women married or in a union freely make their own decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care
  • Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances
  • 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 42 of these women and girls are sexually exploited
  • Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.

Are you aware of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign which begins every year on 25th November and ends on 10th December (International Human Rights Day)? According to the UN Women, 16 Days of Activism is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.  The theme of the 2018 campaign is “End Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work.”

What can you do from where you are to contribute to ending violence against women and girls?

Read more:

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:



#1International Day for Peace is marked on the 21st   day of September every year around the world. This day, according to the United Nations General Assembly, is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.  Peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict. A truly peaceful society can only be achieved where the human rights of individuals in a society, irrespective of ethnicity, sex or creed are upheld and respected, and their basic needs are met. The theme for the 2018 Peace Day is; “The Right to Peace: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.” This theme was deliberately chosen to correspond with the event of the 70th anniversary celebration of the adoption (10 December 1948) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “a milestone document in the history of human rights.”

The 2018 International Peace Day ceremony, marked by the traditional ringing of the Peace Bell, was led by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, at the UN Peace Garden in New York.



Mr. Guterres rings the Peace Bell

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ 2018 Peace Day message:

“This year we mark the International Day of Peace as we prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This foundational document is a reminder that peace takes root when people are free from hunger, poverty and oppression and can thrive and prosper.  With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide, we must ensure the achievement of the Sustainable     Development Goals. I encourage you to speak up. For gender equality.  For inclusive societies.  For climate action.  Do your part at school, at work, at home. Every step counts. Let us act together to promote and defend human rights for all, in the name of lasting peace for all.”

 Learn more: International Day of Peace:

Watch the UN Peace Day ceremony: