PROVIDENCE — Families in Africa need food, water, education and employment — but they also need their voices to be heard and their culture respected. But what they do not need, according to Obianuju “Uju” Ekeocha, is contraception and abortion forced upon them and Western nations disconnected from those values imposing upon them their idea of what is best for Africa.
Ekeocha, an internationally acclaimed pro-life speaker, strategist and scientist, will speak to Rhode Islanders on Monday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m., at St. Patrick Church, Providence, on the topic of “Ideological Neocolonialism.” Pope Francis has often shared his views on this subject, which he sees as a form of oppression of poor societies by prosperous nations who impose their foreign philosophies in the disguise of humanitarian aid.
As part of a mini-tour visit to Rhode Island, Arizona and Minneapolis, she will passionately share the voice and perspective of African women — a voice that often gets stifled.
Her visit is an incredible blessing, explained Father James Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick Church.
“She is an internationally known woman who speaks on this topic with authority,” said Father Ruggieri. “Someone recently described Uju to me as a pro-life warrior. She is so courageous to defend life and her African brothers and sisters from our Western attempts to distort African traditional views that embrace life, family and marriage as a procreative union of husband and wife.”
Originally from southeast Nigeria, the lifelong Catholic has worked and resided in the United Kingdom since 2006. She is the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion and defense of the African values of the sanctity of life, beauty of marriage, blessings of motherhood and the dignity of family life.
In 2012, Ekeocha first became involved in the pro-life movement after writing a viral open letter to Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates, following a CNN interview. In the interview, Gates discussed her goal of introducing modern contraception to 120 million additional women and girls in the world’s 69 poorest countries by 2020. Gates shared her view that what African women need more than anything else was contraception, and for Ekeocha that did not reflect the real values of African women that she encountered.
“This is the one thing I have made clear. I am not just speaking anecdotally, I am speaking about something that is real,” Ekeocha said, in a telephone interview with Rhode Island Catholic from her home in London.
“I have spoken to thousands of people with various backgrounds, educated and less educated, and what keeps coming out is the shared values that we have for family, for the sanctity of human life and that Africans want parental rights of their children. That they get to choose what is best for their child, especially when it comes to education.”
Africans need computers, not contraception, explained Ekeocha, who feels that African parents are not being heard.
“They are consistently silenced,” she said.
“One thing that is undeniable when you go into these communities, is that food is lacking, water is lacking, and yet, they want to give us ways to access abortion. Not only is it a terrible thing, it’s an immoral thing when what they are saying is that they want to ‘give us food, give us water, help our children go to school.’ I have never heard anyone say ‘I wish we had abortion.’ Nobody is asking for those things. What they really demand are basic human needs. Nobody is talking about this in the donor community.”
Ideological neocolonialism is a phenomenon that is more visible than ever before, explained Ekeocha. It is a situation where donor nations put pressure upon developing countries, within their financial relationship, to accept the donor nation’s values and to let go of their own. She feels that donors are exploiting the challenges that Africa faces and put many nations in the vulnerable position of receiving funding tied firmly to ideological solutions that are opposed to the cultural views of the people.
“The donor is trying to dictate within society in the poorer countries, simply because they are donating aid. This is taking advantage of people by pushing things that are very much against their culture,” she said.
Ekeocha explained that most African countries do not have legalized abortion. Eighty percent of African countries have serious restrictions on abortion.
“The way the U.N. is presenting it now, countries who do have legalized abortion are failing, that they are inadequate with health care. That is a lie and a great deception.”
But for Rhode Islanders who may feel far removed, Ekeocha explained they are very much involved through their connection to the U.S. Agency for International Development. On behalf of the American people, USAID “leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance,” according to the independent agency of the federal government’s mission.
“Everybody who is a tax payer is involved. You’re part of it without knowing it. USAID, a U.S. government agency that goes into all these countries — they are key players and biggest contributors as far as nations are concerned. They give money to whatever people are asking for. The USAID in the past has been part of very good projects, but also very bad projects. The ordinary American in Providence needs to know how they are part of a project that’s in Uganda.”
Ekeocha explained that what people can do is write their senators, continue to get educated and support organizations who are doing the right thing.
“People can reject these projects from a point of view as a taxpayer. Some think that their money goes to kids for scholarships. That’s what your money should be used for, not for ideological projects.”
As she continues to advocate for Africans and share a devoted pro-life message, Ekeocha stays close to the Church and focused on the grace of God.
“This all happened in a miraculous and shocking way. To see God’s vocation for me, this is what he wants me to do with a lot of my time,” she said. “I stand very firmly on speaking up for the African people and getting their voices heard.”
She holds Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s words close to her heart, “God did not call me to be successful; he called me to be faithful.”
“Every day I go about it like a mission — whether it fails or not. It is all done for God and for the love of the African people. We see some really good results and influence of the work we do. People genuinely want to help Africa and I am very encouraged by what I see. All of it I put in the hands of God.”
Obianuju Ekeocha is the author of “Target Africa: Ideological Neocolonialism of the Twenty-First Century,” and is the executive producer of the new documentary “Strings Attached.” In the last six years, she has spoken and worked in more than 60 cities in 24 different countries around the world. She has been welcomed as a guest speaker at the White House, the U.S. State Department, the European Parliament and a number of Parliaments in Africa, Europe and North America. She has been featured by numerous broadcast networks, including BBC television and radio. Her passion and privilege are to continue to work in defense of the sanctity and dignity of life within culture.
The event at St. Patrick Church, 244 Smith St., is free and open to the public. A free-will offering will be taken up at the end of the evening. Call the parish for more information on this special event at 401-421-7070.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here