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Solidarity Reflection

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Courage of Women and Children
March 2017


Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice that says at the end of the day, “I will try again tomorrow.” Women contribute greatly to sustainable development, household food security, justice, and peace, etc. Rural women produce more than 60% of all food grown in developing countries, and, in most countries, women work approximately 40-50 minutes longer than men do for the same pay.

Each year, millions of girls suffer the practice of female genital mutilation, some drop out of school during their menstrual period due to stigma around menstruation, while some can’t afford to buy sanitary towels. Attacks on women and girls often result in emotional scarring, physical injury, disability, and death.

Call to prayer

God our Father and Mother, we marvel at your goodness to us and praise you in the wonder of your all-embracing love. Fill with your strength and courage women and children who in any way have lost their sense of self-worth. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.


As her family slept, Dambara, age 26, died alone in a tiny mud hut to which she had been banished, just meters away from her in-laws. This practice, based on the mistaken belief that menstruating women and girls are “unclean”, has led to many deaths. Some have died from wild animal attacks, others from fire and smoke inhalation as the women confined to the hut struggle to stay warm during Nepal’s harsh winters. Dambara’s death has forced Nepal’s government to examine the practices that isolate and stigmatize women and girls, pushing them out of education, and sometimes costing them their lives. (Western Nepal. Human Rights Watch) Menstruation is as normal a biological process as men growing facial hair. Yet in many societies taboo and stigma surround periods.

Dr. Josephine Odumakin has addressed numerous cases of government security agencies violating women’s rights, including negligence to assault and killings. As leader for the Campaign for Democracy, she has led protests, marches, lectures, and workshops to encourage the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria. She has been arrested and detained several times, but she has not compromised her courage in advocating for human rights, social justice, and women’s equality in Nigeria.

Mamie, age 11 from Sierra Leone was left at the age of 2 to her dad and grandfather who took care of her until November 2016. Her breasts grew massively to her thigh and affected her normal life as a young girl. She became ashamed and dropped out of school due to several comments from villagers and school mates. Later she was brought by a Good Samaritan lady to Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni, where she had free and successful surgery.

She became full of life and happy again. However, when the Ministry of Social Welfare / Gender and Children Affairs got to know about the surgery, the joy that filled Mamie turned into nightmare as she was forced at the command of the minister to let her biological mother be with her, since it is through her they gain access to Mamie. When I asked Mamie how she felt about staying with her mom from now on, her face suddenly changed, and she said, “I’m not happy because I don’t want to see my mother or live with her.” Mamie has no power or economic independence, but the courage to speak her mind even when her voice was shaking is admired. The complete story will be in the Province of Africa newsletter, April 2017.


Over the years, there have been many brave women whose actions have changed history and whose stories of courage have been a source of inspiration to millions. Relating their stories on World International Women’s Day reminds us that there is more we can do to foster the progress women continue to make, and to provide and protect the welfare, the health, the education, and rights of women and girls in our world.

The primary victims of today’s armed forces are civilian women and children. “We are primarily concerned with adopting every possible measure to guarantee the protection and safety of child migrants, because ‘these boys and girls often end up on the street abandoned to themselves and prey to unscrupulous exploiters who often transform them into the object of physical, moral and sexual violence’ (Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2008).” (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2017) The use of rape as a weapon of war against women and girls has become more evident. Scripture tells us, we did not receive the spirit of slavery, but the spirit that makes us daughters and sons of God. (Romans 8:15)

May we continue to ask God for wisdom, and the courage to address these divisions and crises with audacity and hope because Love Cannot Wait.

  • Help and encourage women and girls to understand their rights and be supported in claiming them.
  • Take time to study and reflect on the lives of courageous women in the Bible, whom God used to accomplish His work, and learn from their exceptional courage.
  • Make efforts to be part of campaigns that aim at shifting societies toward being inclusive and respectful of all.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, creator and inspirer, your gift of love and freedom flows to all of humanity, may people everywhere treat each other with equal dignity and respect for all. Free our feminine energy, and help us to spread it positively in our world, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prepared by Sr. Vera Owoh. Sierra Leone, AF for the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy
Graphic from a design by Gen Cassani, SSND; Watercolor map: Elena Romanova