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IADC Alumni Profile: Sister Matilda

N.B. As Sr. Matilda spoke very candidly about the phenomenon of abuse in her country and the reality that the judicial system does not support victims of abuse, we have chosen to keep her last name private.

Sr. Matilda dedicates her life to religious duties and contemplation, where she currently serves as a member of the leadership team of the East and Central African Entity of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. While working toward completing her Diploma in Safeguarding at the IADC in 2018, her courses allowed her to study specific ways she could make a difference in child protection through her professional leadership role. She used this experience to center her work on children in need of protection and devise methods that address violence against vulnerable people.

In her prior role as Project Coordinator in the Diocese of Malindi, Sr. Matilda played a pivotal role in the Child Protection and Safeguarding Partnership Project, the Pope Francis Rescue Home, where she ensured the safety and well-being of children through providing services of caregiver support. This project granted Sr. Matilda the opportunity to rescue several survivors of sexual abuse through efforts of psychological help and psycho-social interventions.

In describing the transformation of the children survivors in the rescue center, she says: 
“After staying at the center for a while, they start to behave more like children again, smiling and playing. They re-learn what it means to behave like a kid their age.”

From 2015-2023, the Pope Francis Rescue Home took in 747 boys and girls, all survivors of sexual abuse. This striking figure also includes the babies born to young girls as a result of rape. The home aided them in the process of re-integrating into their communities when they were ready. Their efforts to provide ongoing psychological support for these children was vital to this integration.

Her safeguarding education taught Sr. Matilda how to properly handle the issue of child sexual abuse, while keeping the child at the center of her efforts. Her networking with stakeholders from Catholic Relief Services, Charitable Children Institutions, Children Departments Offices, and other faith denominations led to coordinated interventions and partnerships that enhanced child protection programs in the region. 

Sr. Matilda tackles challenges instilled by the culture of silence, supported by local “kangaroo courts,” in which the voice of a child survivor is completely ignored. The elongated process of attaining justice through the juridical system often discourages actively reporting cases of sexual abuse. Thus, Sr. Matilda stresses the need for a change in social, cultural, and religious norms. Through the mission policy of Pope Francis Rescue Home, there is a distinct protocol as to how the Home can respond to children who are survivors of sexual abuse. Sr. Matilda rallies support for intense awareness training in her country where she continues to cultivate a strong, inclusive environment through connecting with individuals from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and genders. 

Sr. Matilda’s success in every aspect of her work is rooted in her adept networking skills. Collaborating across diverse networks – national, regional, diocesan, local – is essential for making a lasting impact, promoting synergy, and driving true global change. Sr. Matilda has leveraged her education at the IADC to successfully navigate the complex and unpredictable nature of the world. Thanks to her safeguarding initiatives, the hidden facets of fragmented socio-economic, cultural, political, and religious systems are revealed, shedding light on the silenced voices of abused survivors who have long-struggled to be heard.