Catholic Women Global Union Initiate Process “to give voice to women currently invisible”

Maria Lia Zervino . Credit: World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations (WUCWO)

The World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) have initiated the African Chapter of their World Women's Observatory (WWO) with an aim of giving women in Africa an opportunity to reflect on their lives, share their challenges, and dreams. 

Founded in 1910, WUCWO is the global Catholic women’s forum that brings together over 100 organizations of women who profess the Catholic faith.  

In an interview with ACI Africa, the President General of WUCWO said the initiative that was first launched in Latin America last year is part of the WWO, initiated to listen to women whose lives are “sometimes unknown.”

“We decided to give voice to the women that are currently invisible to the rest of the world. We need to give voice to the women that are like invisible women,” Maria Lia Zervino said during the Wednesday, May 11 interview.

Ms. Zervino added, “That's why we are starting this research to listen to the women, to pick up their experiences and to put it in an academic way so that we can show to the Church in each level, the government and the international agencies, the lives of these women that are vulnerable and that we need to work together with States and Church to seek for the solutions of their lives.”


Catholic women who will be referred to as “social correspondents” are to be equipped with skills to gather the experiences of other women.  

The WUCWO President General who was speaking on the sidelines of the training of the national social correspondents in the workshop for Africa WUCWO member organizations in Nairobi said women to be involved in collecting data about the experiences of their colleagues have a key role in the WWO initiative. 

“Social correspondents are very important. They are the key because they are the women who will look in each ethnic group, in each part of the country,” she told ACI Africa, adding that the national correspondents being trained in Nairobi are expected to train local women in the role. 

Findings from the WWO initiative in Africa that is to target women from all regions of the continent will be submitted to Church and government authorities, Ms. Zervino told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the five-day workshop that that has brought together Catholic women from 16 African countries set to conclude on May 14.

The decision to include all women was inspired by the Holy Father, she said, and explained, “When Pope Francis began his pontificate, he said that the Church must go forward and arrive to those who do not know Jesus.” 

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“So, if we open the doors, it means that each person, each woman, each child, husband, all of them are sons and daughters of God. We must dialogue with all of them,” the President General of WUCWO said. 

She added referencing Pope Francis' Encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli Tutti, “If we read, we will see that we must go and work with the people that have another religion to have friendship with them and to look for the solutions to the whole of humanity.”

“If we are Christians, if we are Catholics, we must be universal. We must be open. We must work with the others who have similar values such as value of life, the value of peace, the value of solidarity, the value of dignity," Ms. Zervino said, and added, "Each woman, Catholic or not Catholic, has her own dignity, human dignity." 

To foster fraternity in Africa, members of WUCWO need to have to be open to all women in the world’s second largest continent, she emphasized during the May 11 interview.

Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the workshop being held at Little Daughters of St. Joseph in Karen, Nairobi, the WUCWO representative in Kenya said the WWO initiative in Africa is to offer women a chance to voice their personal challenges. 


“It is difficult for people in different areas to imagine the challenges of others. Challenges are real only to those facing them. The only people who can tell about them are the people who are experiencing them,” Winnie Muthiga said during the May 11 interview.

Mrs. Muthiga added that said the WWO initiative in Africa "will create awareness and also focus on actual things that are happening." 

The WUCWO representative in Kenya who doubles as the Organizing Secretary of the Catholic Women Association (CWA) in Kenya said the challenges that women face vary, hence the need for WWO initiative in Africa to "cover the whole spectrum irrespective of social standing or level of education."

"We will not be offering solutions; we will be getting where the problems are then after compiling them, they may be addressed by the society, maybe through the government or the Church," Mrs. Muthiga who is WUCWO Board member said. 

On her part, WUCWO Regional Vice President Africa, Monique Faye Thiandom, told ACI Africa that it is important to have social correspondents who will have the skills to detect women's issues.

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Mrs. Faye underscored the “need to learn how to listen” to those who are suffering. After listening to them, “we … then to talk to them and collect the information and forward that feedback to the observatory," she said in reference to WWO initiative in Africa.

"Once we know what they are suffering from, we will be able to set a plan for the development of the women," the head of WUCWO in Africa told ACI Africa May 11, and added, "This observatory will permit us to have one information concerning Africa." 

The Senegalese WUCWO official said that the WWO initiative in Africa would go a long way in mobilizing resources to provide help to needy women. 

"We will be in a position to seek help from the church, from the political field and from any field because we will be having enough facts on the challenges of women," WUCWO Regional Vice President Africa told ACI Africa May 11.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.