“We need to listen to women at the grassroots”: Catholic Marriage Expert on Why African Marriages are Breaking

Mrs. Bridget Itsueli, the Founder and Chairperson of Relate Africa Organization for Marriage and Family. Credit: Relate Africa Organization for Marriage and Family

Many African marriages are breaking because women are no longer comfortable with their roles in the family, a Nigerian Catholic expert on marriage and family has said.

In her presentation at the fifth session of the weekly conversations that African theologians and experts, who seek to deepen the understanding of the Synthesis Report of the 4-29 October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality organized, the Founder and Chairperson of Relate Africa Organization for Marriage and Family, called on the church on the continent to pay heed to the needs of women in the ongoing synodal process.

Bridget Itsueli said, “A lot of marriages are breaking down because the women are rejecting the concept of the woman in an African family.”

“Where is the respect and the human dignity for the woman in an African situation? Why are many African women rejecting a lot of the parameters that the African family has come with?” Bridget posed during the July 5 event that the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) organized in collaboration with the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM).

The Nigerian marriage expert continued, “We need to listen to women at the grassroots; we need to listen to professional women, and we need to listen to women who are young people.” 


Participants at the fifth session of PACTPAN’s weekly palavers discussed broadly on the theme, “How to be a synodal Church in Mission in Africa”.

Invited as one of the main speakers at the July 5 session, Bridget made a presentation on the topic, “How can the Church in Africa be a synodal Church modelled after the First African Synod’s model of the Church as the Family of God in Africa?”

She underscored the need for participation in families, noting that every member of the family needs to be listened to, including women and children.

“How do we treat children? Children are valued, yes. But more children are seen rather than heard,” she lamented, and faulted what she termed as an African concept that children should be seen and not heard.

The Nigerian marriage and family expert argued that even Jesus reproached his parents at age 12, adding that one of the strong senses of growing in holiness is the capacity to ask questions.

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She noted that “like every family in the world”, the African family is “ravaged” by a lot of things, including traumas, wars, fights, and poverty.

“The African family is not about sainthood. It has its weaknesses, and it has its evils. And so, when we're looking at the African family, we need to see to what extent we need to work on it so that it can beautifully represent for us in concrete reality the family of God that we want it to be,” she said.

“This is where I see the concept of synod as being useful,” Bridget further said, and continued, “We need to look at the issue. What is it that spoils the African family? Even the way the African family looks at the young people and children. It is not understood that they see children as made in the image and likeness of God. Children are pretty much seen as tools.”

She challenged African fathers to reclaim their position as leaders of their families, rather than seeing themselves as bosses.

“The African father sees himself as a boss. It doesn't matter that Jesus has said the leader must be the one that washes the feet of the others,” she said, and posed, “How can we talk to the African father, the African leader of the household, as to his role as in affectivity and his role in the management and leadership of his family?”


Bridget warned of the gap that exists in raising children who she said have found an alternative trainer on social media.

“In the family in the Catholic Church and everywhere, children no longer listen to their parents because there's an alternative trainer on social media,” she said.

“It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Yes, the village is raising the children now. But the village that is raising the child is the global village of materialistic celebrities,” the Nigerian Catholic expert on marriage and family said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.