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Living the Pandemic - CWO Nigeria, Nwanneka Cecilia Okolo

The Nat President of CWON Barr Mrs Nwanneka Okolo with the Depty Govr of Enugu State Cecilia Ezeilo after receiving the parliativeIn Nigeria, the extended family system impacts so much on communal life. With the advent of COVID-19 a lot of hardship is being experienced by families. People most affected by the lockdowns are the poor and the needy together with workers who live on daily wages.

In most places in Nigeria, only markets and shops selling food items were allowed to open initially thereby leaving the generality of the people working/doing business in other sectors of the economy vulnerable.

However in the last few days some States in Nigeria have partially lifted the ban and people selling non food items are being allotted some days in the week to open shop.

The Government distributes food items now and then. Their efforts amount to little. It is like a drop of water in the ocean.

However churches, organisations and some public spirited individuals donate funds to purchase staple food items to share to the poor and needy in the South.

The Catholic Women Organisation Nigeria (CWON) is not left out in this exercise. 1. All our 56 dioceses contribute and source monies from organizations and philanthropists to buy foodstuff and share to the vulnerable and needy. In some areas cash is also distributed.

2. We communicate with our women through town criers/telephone, whatsapp/email/zoom as the case may be and advise them to use this opportunity of lockdown to “to get to know” their children and their husbands better. They are advised to teach catechesis to their children, say the rosary together and pray together as a family, attend mass on Television or radio and while at it, ensure that members of the family dress well as if they were going to church for mass. Mothers are also encouraged to develop themselves and where possible get their adult children to help them become more proficient in ICT and in that way, they are better equipped to relate better with their children and monitor their cyber activities. It is really quite interesting how our women have taken to participating in virtual meetings.

3. More and more of our women attend mini Retreats, Recollection, Doctrinal Classes and Seminar via zoom. Some of them are people who always claimed not to have time to attend these formation and spiritual activities before Covid-19 outbreak.

4. They are encouraged to teach the girl child and the boy child how to do house chores including cooking) cook and to speak our native languages. Above all our women are exhorted to be a shining example to the family and harbingers of peace. Given that members of the family are forced to be together day in day out, we plead with our women to be humble, patient (with others and with themselves) and more discerning especially now that local NGOs in Nigeria are reporting increase in domestic violence against women because of the lockdown. The UN Secretary General recently made a statement to that effect too. We educate them on what to do if they experience or know somebody experiencing domestic violence.

5. While distributing food items and cash, disinfectants, sanitizers and facemasks are also given out and we use the opportunity to also remind the recipients of the basic requirements of the COVID-19 hygiene and inform them that the pandemic is real and has now come into the communities.

6. One big problem we have is convincing people (including the so called elites) that COVID-19 is not a disease for foreigners and the rich alone. Unfortunately most of the people around us also believe that God will take care of them and are therefore lax in observing the basic requirements of social distancing. We try to make them understand that while we believe in God to see us through this difficult period we must do our bit to try and prevent the spread of the virus. We encourage them to be joyful and hopeful.

7. CWON has also embarked on sensitization of the public on COVID-19 through radio jingles translated in different languages and dialects running in all the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja Capital Territory.

Attached are some pictures and videos from some of our dioceses.

United in prayer in seeking God’s mercy, COVID-19 will soon be a thing of the past.

Through Mary Our Mother, we succeed!

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