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Women work in a garden and starter plants begin to grow in tiny pots

March 28, 2024, New York, New York – Dominican Sisters around the world continue to dedicate their lives to empowering women and work to eradicate poverty, especially in the areas of human trafficking, asylum, and the dangers that women and children face in combat areas.
Dominican Sisters from Brazil, Cameroon, and Ireland spoke of their work during a “Dominican Webinar: Our Commitment to Empowerment of Women and the Eradication of Poverty.” Hosted by Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations, the webinar was held March 19, 2024, during the second week of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 68, March 11-22, 2024. “We hope you will learn more about the Dominican commitment,” Sister Durstyne said in her introduction. 
“Human trafficking is the result of the misery of the economic system that commodifies people and doesn’t respect human rights,” said Sister Sandra Camilo Ede-Brasileira of the Cry for Life Network (Um Grito Pela Vita) in Brazil. The inter-congregational network works to combat and prevent human trafficking, which includes sexual exploitation of women and child labor. “Our network is a space for prophetic action and solidarity, linked to the religious conference of Brazil,” Sister Sandra said.
Survivors of human trafficking receive support from psychologists and by participating in handicraft and baking projects, Sister Sandra said. “We can fight for wounded people with a praxis that can free them,” she said. “Our network gives us the creativity to start from different points of view,” developing models that can address the issues of society.
Sister Sandra said the network also holds awareness campaigns. “A person who is aware of this reality can really open their eyes to the situation,” she said. 
Sister Marie Cleide Pires de Andrade, OP, also from Brazil, works with other Sisters to combat domestic violence and to accompany its victims. “This is the experience of many women in this social context marked by inequality,” she said. A member of the Dominican Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Cleide said the emphasis is on “encouraging self-knowledge and self-esteem” among the women through activities that enhance their daily lives.
Sister Cleide used the community garden where the women work as a metaphor for the Sisters’ ministry with the women. “The seeds have been sown, such as spaces for welcome, friendship, listening, and raising awareness,” she said. “We want to continue dreaming and sowing seeds of joy and hope.… We are bearers of light.”
Sister Linda Nkechi Korie, OP, a Dominican Sister of Blessed Imelda, helps women combat poverty through services such as childcare. The Sisters of Blessed Imelda have worked for women’s empowerment for the past 40 years and now have six communities in three regions, building schools wherever they are, she said. 
She focused on efforts to educate girls and women, noting that 129 million school-age girls are not attending classes. “Early marriage, poverty, low family income, large distance to schools, lack of school infrastructure – all these factors contribute to increasing the social gap in the region” because of lack of education, she said. 
The Dominican Sisters of Blessed Imelda strive to provide schooling for more girls by offering scholarships. “We have sent 600 to schools, but that’s not enough,” Sister Linda said. She added that the Sisters are also building more schools to make up for many that have been destroyed.
In addition, Sister Linda said that the Sisters train women through income-generating skills, such as producing soap, and have employed many women in their schools.
Also in Cameroon, Sister Joseph Ngo Ndezeba serves at the St. Dominic Multipurpose Center in Balikumbat, in a conflict zone. “The schools have been shut down for a very long time; therefore, the children have been deprived of education and feel abandoned,” she said. “Girls are prey to unwanted pregnancies and unwanted marriages.”
Sister Joseph said the St. Dominic Multi-purpose Center trains girls to care for themselves and their children through education and training in crafts, home management, and masonry to build a decent home for themselves. The center is also opening the first technical school in the region.
Sister Marie Williams, the Coordinator of the Dominican Justice and Peace Office of the Dominican Sisters of Cabra, Ireland, spoke of the Young Mothers’ Network. Sponsored by her office, the network serves young immigrant mothers who came to Ireland seeking asylum and are now living in Ireland’s Direct Provision System. This system of accommodation centers provides asylum seekers with room and board, food, and healthcare until they are allowed to live independently. 
Sister Marie spoke of the hardships of this system. “The average length of stay is three years, but some have stayed for nine years,” she said. “People don’t have a say in where they live. A person or family could be moved without warning.” In some cases, she said, people are moved into tents.
One particular aspect of the poverty faced by families in the Direct Provision System is shame. “The women speak of the humility of being known by a number and only being spoken of by their needs,” she said. “They want to be recognized and valued for themselves.”
Sister Marie said that the Young Mothers’ Network offers women and their children a sense of dignity and recognition. Mothers in Direct Provision are invited to monthly peer meetings, where they can listen to talks on topics such as their essential rights. 
“When the women in the group give us feedback, they speak to us about the sense of being accompanied and the friendship and support they have found in the group,” Sister Marie said. “They no longer feel alone. This humanizing experience with others helps them the most – simply being there with others.” 
The webinar concluded with concerns from young Dominican students. Maddie and Emily – a sophomore and a senior at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin – spoke of the small things that young people can do to make a difference in the world. Tatswana and Michelle spoke of aspects of life in their nation, Zimbabwe, that keep women from achieving their potential: the lack of access to finances, early marriage, and teen pregnancies. Erin, Eva, and Katilyn shared a statement by Dominican girls on the importance of education. 
The webinar was presented by the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC) in the United States and the Dominican Sisters International Confederation.

Poster showing the icons for each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

New York, New York, November 15, 2023 – Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the United Nations is a set of objectives that it’s been working on since 2015: its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). That’s one situation that Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative to the United Nations, hopes to rectify soon.

Originally called the Millennial Goals, the SDGs were established in 2015, with the objective of completing them by 2030 – a deadline that Sister Durstyne doesn’t believe will be met. The goals range from No Poverty, Zero Hunger, and Good Health and Well-being to Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions and Partnerships for the Goals. 

“In the United States, most people don’t know what the goals are, and they don’t realize how much we’re each impacted,” Sister Durstyne said. “They’re about us and about our environment, protecting the planet and us. We’re trying to protect the Earth and humanity, especially in peace and security.”

Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, a white woman with straight white hair smiling and wearing glasses and a blue patterned scarf and a blue denim button-up shirt
Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative to the United Nations

Sister Durstyne described the goals as “pathways to tackle the problems of hunger, environmental degradation, and so on.” She explained that each goal includes indicators: areas that need to be addressed for the goal to be accomplished.

“They’re for the benefit of the world, for all countries,” Sister Durstyne said. For example, she said that reaching the goal of Quality Education (No. 4) would ensure that women and girls in Afghanistan are permitted an education, thus helping support and build up their families and nation. But the goal also benefits local children, ensuring they can access quality education. “We have to keep educating girls because they are our future, our hope that this world will become more equal and that we will become more life-giving,” she said.

Sister Durstyne recommended that the worldwide Dominican family focus on Climate Action (No. 13) and Gender Equality (No. 5). “So many of our Dominican Sisters live in Africa, where [women] don’t have any equality,” she said.

She also related a few of the goals to the Enactments that Adrian Dominican Sisters adopted during its 2022 General Chapter. “Our Enactments are in tune with the SDGs,” she said. “Gender Equality is so much in tune with our Enactment on Women. We are trying to bring about gender equality for all women worldwide so that they can exercise their own decision-making and leadership skills.”
Three SDGs particularly in tune with the Congregation’s Sustainability Enactment are Clean Water and Sanitation (No. 6), Climate Action (13), and Life on Land (No. 15), which address environmental issues such as forest management, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. The Congregation lives out its Sustainability Enactment and makes progress on the above SDGs through efforts in its Permaculture garden, retired Sisters’ gardens, and recent installation of solar panel arrays. In addition, Brad Frank, Director of Sustainability, often challenges Sisters and Associates in responsible consumption and production (No. 12). 

The Sustainability Enactment calls on Adrian Dominican Sisters to join Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This seven-year global program invites Catholic individuals, families, and institutions to work together to build a sustainable future for the world. It builds on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical (letter), Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home, which addresses the ecological issues of our times. Sister Durstyne noted that the seven goals of the action platform correspond well with the SDGs.
The Sisters also exemplify Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals. “We have so many partners in the mission,” Sister Durstyne pointed out. “I think we can make people aware by sharing our own partnerships and showcasing what we’re doing.”

While delineating specific, distinct goals, the SDGs are also related to one another, Sister Durstyne said. “If I’m satisfied and not hungry, I’ll be a good student, and my well-being will be better,” she explained. “I’ll be able to work and bring in an income. I’ll be able to help bring about a better partnership. … That’s why we want to decrease hunger and poverty – all of these will help us move forward together.”

Sister Durstyne emphasized several ways that people can help move the SDGs forward. “The most important thing is to have our government get behind it and put in some money behind these goals,” she said. “It’s about financial commitment. Every one of these goals requires a financial commitment.” 

She noted the importance of more prosperous, developed countries such as the United States making a financial commitment to the SDGs so that less-wealthy countries can have some financial support in their work with the goals. That will be addressed at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, Conference of the Parties (COP) 28, planned for November 30-December 12, 2023, in the United Arab Emirates.

Sister Durstyne also spoke of more specific ways that individuals can work toward achieving the SDGs. 

• Commit the 17 SDGs to memory.

• Adopt one of the goals and investigate it to discover the related indicators and how to move the goal forward in your local area. 

The SDGs “are for the benefit of the world, for all countries,” Sister Durstyne said. “So when we do our part, we are helping other countries do their part."

Click on the image below to view a larger version in a new window.

UN poster showing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals



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