Trócaire Blogs


December 07, 2015

Hope for GBV survivors in Sierra Leone

By Ella Syl-MacFoy, Gender Programme Officer, Trócaire Sierra Leone

“I will just drop my kids off at a friend’s place, get some rat poison, lock myself in my room, just take the poison and end this misery”. 

These words hit me like 1000 volts of electricity. 

As I sat with this woman in the office of our partner Access to Justice Law Centre (AJLC) in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, it became apparent to me that she was not bluffing. 

There she sat on the floor with a seriously ill child and another a year or two older clinging to her “lappa” (a piece of cloth tied around the waist that comes down to the ankle).

The woman herself did not look well either, she looked emaciated. 

She had some medication in a small plastic bag. She explained to us that she had to sell some of her pans and some lappas to raise the money to take this child to the hospital. Her husband had abandoned her with three kids. Their relationship had been one dominated by violence and fear.

Through its work, AJLC had managed to locate him and hold him to account, and he had started paying a very minimal amount of child support. Unfortunately, he had disappeared again, and this time he could not be traced.

Looking into her eyes – I knew that something had to be done for women like this. 

Caption: Ella Syl-MacFoy

Trócaire has just included a livelihoods component, in its gender programme in Sierra Leone.

This programme will support the most vulnerable survivors of gender based violence (GBV)―who will receive immediate livelihoods support to bring them back on their feet. 

This could later be followed by some form of skills training. A total of 60 women in three districts in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone were targeted with support to engage them in small scale businesses and to train others in tie-dyeing, soap-making, catering and hairdressing. 

In May this year, four months into the project, I went on a monitoring trip to see how these beneficiaries were faring and to get their feedback on the project. 

In one household, I met a woman who sat behind a large table loaded with sugar, salt, tinned tomatoes, onions, boxes of matches, biscuits, soap and other goods. 

Upon seeing us arrive the woman rushed towards us beaming.  “Aunty Ella, good afternoon!” she said. I was a bit taken aback that she knew my name and apparently it showed because she asked, “Don’t you remember me?” 

It suddenly dawned on me that this was the very same woman who had told me she was going to commit suicide only a few months earlier! The transformation was incredible; she was so full of life and looked so much younger and healthier. 

She went on to explain the changes the project had brought to her life. She had moved from her parents' house into a two-roomed home that she continues to share with her younger sister. 

She now takes care of her family. “I give my younger sister ‘chop money’ every day to cook”, she told me. Her eldest child, who was five, would be starting school that year. 

“I’ve bought all his books, his uniforms and shoes. I’m just waiting for schools to reopen. He already has everything!”  She went on to tell us she was now both ’Mama’ and ‘Papa’ to her kids and wasn’t ready to get into a new relationship any time soon. 

She wanted to focus on growing the business and taking care of her family.  

“My husband made me feel lower than a dog but today I am happy. I now have respect in my family and the community. I no longer have to beg from people, pawn or sell my property to take care of my kids. In fact, people now come to borrow money from me!  Thank you, Trócaire!” 

I was amazed at her attitude. This really was one confident woman. 

This for me is one of the high points of my work with Trócaire. To see this woman rise from a position of hopelessness, rise from the ashes of a very dire situation to become a strong and independent woman. 

We might not get up close and personal with every one of  the people we work with, but as the change takes place in the lives of these women, we know it will continue to resonate within their families, onto their communities, and in their nations. 

December 04, 2015

Finding hope amidst the chaos and devastation in South Sudan

Report from Trócaire’s Head of Humanitarian, Noreen Gumbo, South Sudan

On Wednesday 25th November, I set out from Juba to Yirol with colleagues from our joint CAFOD and Trócaire Office in South Sudan.  The purpose of the trip was to launch a new humanitarian project supporting the needs of people who have been displaced as a result of ongoing conflict.   

We travelled first by UN helicopter from Juba to Minkemon and from there we proceeded onwards by road to Yirol.  Although just a distance of 130km away, it took 5 hours on a bumpy road.  

The territory between Minkemon and Yirol seemed very sparsely populated, we saw some cattle herding communities but vast stretches of land were empty, just searing heat of 36 degrees. 

En route I read a new report from the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan.  

The report detailed the abuses on civilian populations and particularly women, since conflict broke out again in December 2013.  

It exposes extreme depths of cruelty against civilians and particularly women with widespread evidence of sexual and gender based violence (GBV). 

It is unflinching in its detail, highlighting “mutilation and burning of bodies [and of] people being beaten then forced to jump into fires, draining human blood from people who had just been killed, and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink blood or eat burnt human flesh”. 

You can therefore imagine my surprise when on arriving into Yirol we met a large group of women marching through the town, dressed in traditional attire, highly ornamented, with painted faces, chanting messages and holding banners denouncing violence against women!  

It was a moment of joy… knowing the depths of suffering that women and girls in South Sudan have endured, to witness this statement from women, that violence against women is not acceptable and that despite the militarisation of their environment, the constant threats they face, women will stand up and denounce GBV and cling to hope of a peaceful society in which women and girls are protected.  

December 03, 2015

Climate legislation must be followed by a national action plan

Today’s passing of the Climate Bill into law is a welcome step on the road towards ending government inaction on climate change but must be followed by the urgent development of a national plan to fulfil national and international commitments, said Trócaire.

While the passing of the Bill has been welcomed, with the inclusion of the principle of climate justice a particularly positive development, the agency warned that the 18-month timeframe outlined for the production of the first national mitigation plan was too long. The absence of the plan to ensure action across all sectors will put Ireland further off track to meet its 2020 and 2030 emission reduction objectives. Ireland is one of only four EU member states not on course to meet its 2020 obligations.

Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan says that the worrying comments from the Taoiseach at the UN Climate Summit in Paris earlier this week regarding Ireland’s commitment to EU emission reductions highlighted the importance of this plan being produced without delay.

“Climate change is having a devastating impact on the world’s poorest people and so we welcome the introduction of climate legislation that can pave the way for Ireland to do its fair share in tackling this global crisis,” he said.

“The importance of a national mitigation plan being developed was highlighted this week by the Taoiseach’s confusing performance at the UN Climate Summit, where he appeared to tell world leaders one thing and Irish media another. Having confirmed in his speech that Ireland is determined to play its part in reaching EU emission reduction commitments, he told Irish journalists that these commitments are unrealistic.”

Trócaire today met with Ireland's Environment Minister Alan Kelly to hand over a global petition signed by over 840,000 people, including several thousand Irish people, calling for strong global action on climate at the UN Climate Summit. The petition was organised by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Trócaire's Joanne McGarry and John Smith hand the Global Catholic Climate Movement petition to Environment Minister Alan Kelly 

Trócaire's Joanne McGarry and John Smith hand the Global Catholic Climate Movement petition to Environment Minister Alan Kelly.


Trócaire has been calling for strong climate legislation for several years. Éamonn Meehan said that the policy vacuum over recent years has hindered Ireland’s ability to contribute to the global effort to reduce the impacts of climate change.

“The reason Ireland is lagging behind on its commitments is because of the absence of concrete action on climate due to the absence of any climate policy since 2012,” he said. “This policy vacuum has meant that key policies for economic recovery have been developed in the absence of any real consideration of our climate emissions. This situation must now be reversed. If we do not agree a national plan until 2017, as envisaged by this legislation, we will have less than three years to meet our commitments. The production of this national plan must now be prioritised.

“The introduction of climate legislation is welcome but there is much more we need to do to ensure Ireland takes an approach based on climate justice so that we meet our international obligations and support the world’s poorest people. The urgent development of a national plan to meet EU emission reduction targets by 2020 has to be a priority.”

Read about Trócaire's seven-year campaign for this Irish climate law.

December 01, 2015

Innovative HIV pilot in Zimbabwe combats stigma

By Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh and Deirdre Lomasney

People living with HIV can often find themselves stigmatised in their communities. But ‘self-stigma’ is also a huge problem.

Self-stigma is negative self-judgment resulting in shame, worthlessness and blame and represents an important but neglected aspect of living with HIV.

It can limit meaningful self-agency, quality of life, adherence to treatment and access to health services.

The People Living with HIV Stigma Index tells us that self-stigma is up to three times higher than other forms of stigma, but there are few interventions to specifically tackle this issue.

In response to the problem of self-stigma, Trócaire in partnership with the Zimbabwe Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) and Connect, have piloted a new initiative “We Are the Change: Dealing with HIV Related Self Stigma in Zimbabwe” using a method called ‘Inquiry Based Stress Reduction’ (IBSR).

IBSR aims to support participants to work through self-stigmatising beliefs including self-abasement, shame, guilt and hopelessness.

Based on 'The Work' of Byron Katie, the 12-week pilot programme was undertaken by two groups of 11 participants.

Results at the three-month follow-up show positive impact.  Qualitatively, participants report profound shifts in their lives around living positively with HIV, improved communication with their families, lessened fears about disclosure, not feeling limited by HIV and increased peacefulness.

Quantitatively, results show statistically significant improvements in a number of areas (% improved): self-stigma (61%), depression (78%), life satisfaction (52%), fears around disclosure (52%) and daily activity (70%).

The pilot model and impact will be carefully measured and evaluated, and based on that, the programme will be scaled up across Zimbabwe.

A Resource Centre was launched on 16th October 2015, as the next phase of the programme. The Resource Centre is at Connect, a well-established psychological and educational organisation in Zimbabwe.

Nyasha Tugwete from The Community of The Work in Zimbabwe spoke at the launch about her own personal experience living with HIV and dealing with self-stigma, she said: “From the day I knew my status, I saw myself as unfit, as one who couldn’t continue with my work, as somebody who is in the grave, as one who couldn’t see her sons grow.”

She continued by talking about the positive impact of IBSR on her own life and of her current work using the tool to help other people living with HIV. She hopes the programme will expand beyond Zimbabwe stating: “As a trainee facilitator of IBSR, I would love to see this tool or this intervention being taken to the whole of Zimbabwe, the ten provinces, into southern Africa, into Africa as a region.”

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister for Health and Child Care, Aldrin Musiiwa attended the launch and praised the programme saying: “I believe that we in Zimbabwe have devised an innovative and effective response to self-stigma, and that we can be leaders in this area, not only here at home but globally.”

World AIDS Day, 1 December

Trócaire will present “We Are the Change: Dealing with HIV Related Self Stigma in Zimbabwe” as part of the panel on Stigma, Self-Stigma and Disclosure at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2015) on 1 December, World AIDS Day.

This is the 18th ICASA and will take place in Harare, Zimbabwe from 29th November to 4th December. For more details visit the ICASA website.

Note: The Internalized-AIDS Stigma Scale and the Quality of Life scale were used and research was supported by Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Ethics approval was secured from the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe with a local research institution Impact Research International.

November 30, 2015

Thousands join climate marches across Ireland

Thousands of people took to the streets of Ireland on Sunday to call for a global deal on climate to be agreed at the UN Climate Summit in Paris. 

Approximately 4,500 people marched through the streets of Dublin, while 1,000 turned out in Cork. Hundreds more attended rallies in Galway and Belfast on the eve of the summit beginning in Paris. 

The marchers came from a wide range of organisations and backgrounds, including environmentalists, overseas development agencies, faith groups, cycling groups and trade unions, as well as many people unalligned with any group but simply wanting to voice their concern about the danger posed by climate change to people around the world. 


Marchers taking part in the Dublin Climate March

People march through Dublin to call for a global agreement on climate to be reached at the UN Climate Summit.


The events were organised by the Stop Climate Chaos network, which includes organisations such as Trócaire, Friends of the Earth and the People’s Climate. 

The marches were the largest climate demonstrations seen in Ireland, showing the growing concern felt by Irish people about the impact of environmental degradation on people’s lives. Similar marches were held in over 150 cities around the world. 

Trócaire campaigner Amy Colgan addresses the crowd in Dublin

Trócaire campaigner Amy Colgan addresses the crowd in Dublin. 


Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to address the opening stages of the summit today. Trócaire has called on the Taoiseach to show leadership by signalling Ireland’s intention to sign-up to an ambitious and legally-binding deal that would phase-out fossil fuels by mid-century.

“The fact that these talks are being held at a time when millions of people all along the eastern seaboard of Africa are experiencing chronic food shortages due to drought highlights exactly what is at stake,” said Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan. “If millions of people experiencing hunger due to drought can’t motivate political leaders to take action, one wonders what can.”

Trócaire volunteers at the Climate March in Dublin

Young people taking part in Sunday's huge climate march in Dublin, which saw approximately 4,500 people take to the streets.


Trócaire campaigns on climate change due to the impacts being felt in the developing world. Climate change is one of the biggest drivers of poverty and hunger in the world, and that will only intensify as long as political leaders fail to take action to reduce its impacts.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue of justice and equality,” said Éamonn Meehan. “Fundamentally, it is eroding people’s human rights, including the right to food. It is estimated that 2.5 billion smallholder farmers provide 80 per cent of the food consumed in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of them are dependent on rain to grow their crops but climate change is altering rain patterns and extending droughts.”