Missionary sister receives International Women of Courage award

An Irish Loreto sister is one of this year’s International Women of Courage awards’ recipients.

In announcing the awards last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sr Orla Treacy’s work “has become a beacon of hope for girls who might otherwise be denied education and forced to enter early marriages”.

Treacy received the award at the State Department in Washington, along with nine others from Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Peru, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

At the awards, Treacy was commended for working to empower young women and girls in South Sudan “at great personal risk and sacrifice”.

She joined other Loreto Sisters in 2006 when they were starting a new mission in Sudan.

The country was besieged by civil war, inter-clan conflict, insecurity and starvation.

They found women and girls were particularly vulnerable.

Treacy and the other Loreto Sisters started a girls’ boarding school with 35 students. Within the past 10 years over 1,200 students from across the country, representing more than 64 ethnic groups, have attended the school.

Today, as the head administrator of the Loreto Rumbek Mission in Maker Kuei, Treacy oversees the girls’ boarding secondary school, plus a co-educational primary school and a primary health care facility for women and children.

Treacy and her sisters have also saved many young women from forced or early marriages. They are part of a diverse multinational team of religious sisters, educators, nurses and others who share a vision for improving the lives of women and girls in the community.

Another of Treacy’s achievements was to help establish a medical clinic at the boarding school to feed the students, employees and their families.

She found providing food directly affected the school’s attendance rates, which improved by 95 percent.

In addition, Treacy works hard to ensure the provision of 12,000 meals per week (over 700,000 per year). This involves her and other Loreto sisters working with community members willing to risk their lives to source and transport food provisions through South Sudan’s conflict areas.

These efforts, coupled with a nutrition programme for malnourished infants, have dramatically improved children’s health in the region.



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