Obituary: Sister Joan McManus

AkiDwA is mourning the loss of a phenomenal supporter and a true friend

Sister Joan with the Kenyan Ambassador Catherine Muigai  and Embassy Development Officer Amaka at AkiDwA’s 10th Anniversary Celebration on 23 September 2011 at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin   © Brian MacCormaic/Photo-Image

Sister Joan McManus, of the Sisters of Mercy, who died last Sunday, played a key role the early development of AkiDwA. Sister Joan helped AkiDwA to get started back in 1999, at a time when migrant women in Ireland had no proper place to meet  and many of us found to difficult  to find anyone we could  turn to for support and guidance.
Sister Joan opened doors for us at the Catherine McAuley Centre, that allowed  us to take the very first stages on  the AkiDwA journey.

The Catherine McAuley Centre in Herbert Street, Dublin 2 is a  Sisters of Mercy Centre dedicated to the development, education and well-being of women in need. Sister Joan guided us in how to accomplish practical matters like opening a bank account and finding a lawyer who helped us  to sign important documents. She also introduced us to funders and to influential people who helped AkiDwA to make amazing progress.

Sister Joan held our hands when times were tough and she remained supportive over the years.
The photo  above shows Sister Joan attending AkiDwA’s tenth anniversary celebrations in 2011, when we were proud to present her with an award acknowledging the tremendous support that she had given AkiDwA over the previous decade.

Sister Joan’s help and support enabled  AkiDwA to build a vibrant network that represents the interests of  women from a huge  variety of  migrant backgrounds  who are living in  all corners of Ireland. Her love, persistence and humour helped AkiDwA to keep going in the early days.

The organisation of migrant women that she helped to start more than two decades ago has gone from strength since and AkiDwA is still   providing hundreds of women in places all across Ireland with advice, support and training.

Sister Joan withfounder Salome

Sister Joan with Salome Mbugua in 2017

Sister Joan  was always available to provide support for major AkiDwA activities.  The second photograph shows Sister Joan in 2017, with our founder Salome Mbugua.

Salome says: “Without her support and inspiration Akidwa wouldn’t be where we are today.  
We will dearly miss her physical presence.
May her soul rest in perfect peace”.




Categories: Obituaries, Uncategorized

About AkiDwA

AkiDwA as an organisation emerged from regular meetings held amongst fellow migrant women, from 1999 to 2001, initiated by Salome Mbugua, a Kenyan migrant woman who had arrived in Ireland in 1994. The first meeting was held in city centre Dublin, in Temple Bar, in 1999. In 2001, through the support of the Catherine McAuley Centre, Salome mobilised a group of African women to come together to SHARE their experiences of living in Ireland. What emerged from this meeting were feelings of exclusion, isolation, racial abuse and discrimination, issues related to gender based violence were also raised. The group went on to meet regularly and were supported and offered facilitation from outside. AkiDwA sought and obtained funding from the Combat Poverty Agency in 2002 to carry out a pilot needs assessment with African women living in Ireland. The survey elicited over two hundred female participants from seventeen counties. Formal structures were put into place when AkiDwa was registered as a company with guarantee but without capital SHARE in 2003. However, limited funding meant that most work continued to be carried out on a voluntary basis. With a view towards enhancing the integration of migrant women and indigenous women, training modules were developed including programmes on capacity building, cultural diversity, racism and its effects on society. In addition, ‘Train the trainers modules were also developed’. Over the years, the organisation has gained recognition as a leading NGO in Ireland, reviewing key legislation, policy and practice as well as proposing reforms specifically to do with the issues faced by migrant women. AkiDwA consulted with migrant women and other key stakeholders, identifying gender and racially discriminatory practices, to develop evidence based and representative solutions for migrant women in the key identified areas of gender-based violence, gender discrimination. AkiDwA employs the following key strategies to achieve its objectives: networking, policy work and individual and organisational capacity building/development. AkiDwA’s networking strategy is aimed at individual and organisational levels. Policy work is developed from migrant women, identifying their needs in the areas of gender discrimination, gender-based violence and employment. AkiDwA develops legislative, policy and practice reforms to address these priority issues with government and sectoral stakeholders, as well as capacity-building programmes to deliver the on the ground practical support that women require. AkiDwA has developed the capacity of hundreds of migrant women and their communities living in Ireland over the course of its lifetime. Their capacity building was supported through our network, resource centre, outreach and training programmes aimed at promoting participation in their local communities, in civic and political structures and in sectoral and government consultations and decision making processes. Training programmes delivered over the years including targeted capacity building in multiple regions, sexual health workshops, access to education and employment, integration, leadership and political/civic participation sessions.