International Women's Day 2018


OLA Sisters 'press for progress' in mission areas across African continent.


Flora with her child in Bugisi, Tanzania. Flora recently started a small business, thanks to the help of the OLA Sisters. Image courtesy of Sr Kathleen Costigan.


Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day. The first celebration took place in 1909. Thirty three years earlier a significant event took place in Lyon, France. Fr Augustine Planque, SMA founded the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles [OLA] in 1876. Fr Planque and Mgr Bresillac, co-founders of the Society of African Missions [SMA], had appreciated the significant role that women would have in the mission fields of Africa from the early SMA days in the 1850's.

The OLA Sisters were founded with a clear goal: the betterment of the life of the African woman and girl child. This objective has remained at the centre of the OLA mission over the past 142 years principally through the education of women and provision of healthcare.


An undated image possibly from the late 1800's or early 1900's during an OLA medical outreach mission in West Africa. Image courtesy of the OLA Provincial Archive.


Over the years, hundreds of Irish OLA Sisters have helped 'lift up' the African woman and girl child. Women helping their fellow counterparts in far away lands. Notable achievements included the establishment of the first all-female schools and teacher training colleges. The power of education has had a domino effect, according to Sr Mary Rita O'Mahony in Ghana.

"By educating a woman, the living standards of a family would rise. What would that educated woman do? She would ensure her daughter would be educated and then her daughter would educate the next generation. In fact, there would have been some young girls in class and I would have taught their grannies many years ago."

In his International Women's Day message, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Antionio Guterres, made refererence to the critical role that women play in making the world a better, more preaceful place.

"There is ample evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies, and even countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous. 

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is 'Press for Progress'. From rural maternal health clinics to skills training initiatives, OLA Sisters continue to develop facilities and projects in order to reach out to more women and children. 



- Click here for more on the early years of the Nigeria mission

- Click here for more on the early years of the Ghana mission

- Click here for more on Fr Augustine Planque

- Click here to visit the International Women's Day website


A family from Bugisi who benefit from the farming project in Bugisi. Image courtesy of Sr Kathleen Costigan.