After great anticipation, on the 23rd and 24th of June 2021, the Africa West Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in collaboration with the Ghana Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Ghana Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs; Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU); Ghana National Commission on Culture; and other Partners, held the third annual “Strengthening Families Conference”. The Conference was held each day at the Christiansborg Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Headquarters, located in Accra, Ghana.
Participants and speakers were welcomed by music and drummers exhibiting local cultural traditions as they entered the conference. This established the mood for the conference. Participants were energized as they anticipated the opportunities the conference offered.
The theme of the 2021 Strengthening Families Conference was “Strengthening the Rising Generation”.
This year, the conference was held both virtually and in-person. The conference utilized Zoom, YouTube and Facebook Live for the virtual participants. The Church also identified 47 Church Stake Centers across the Africa West Area, along with 16 seminary and institute centers to be used as gathering places for people to view and participate in the conference.
On Wednesday the 23rd, the conference began with booths and workshops. The booths included exhibits from the National Commission on Culture, DOVVSU, the African Business Center for Developing Education, BYU Pathways, Latter-Day Saints Charities and Humanitarian Services, Children and Youth Development, Self-Reliance, Family Search, Human Rights, and Seminary and Institute. There were also focused booths for the rising generation of Young Single Adults (YSA) that included Africa People Grove (a connection for people, job opportunities, and mentoring), RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) Servers, and Gathering Places.
Prior to the workshops, Elder Hugo E. Martinez, President of the Africa West Area of the Church greeted everyone and spoke on the importance of family and spending time together which strengthens the family. Workshops focused on a more in-depth discussion and participation on the Gathering Places, Children and Youth Development, Self-Reliance, and Family Search. These concurrent workshops had two sessions so participants could go to two of the workshops. Online participants were able to choose which workshop they wanted to attend also.
The workshops were followed by a plenary session that included a discussion on Family-Based Income Generation. How family values fill nation values was presented by Madame Die Fatou Faye, from Senegal.
On Thursday, the event began with the arrival of the chairman of the conference, His Royal Majesty, King Dr Tackie Teiko Tsuru II. He later stated we need to “develop proper programs to help children try. These are challenges we have to overcome”
The Keynote speaker was the Honorable Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, who stated “the best place to prepare for eternal life is in the family… we are all the family of God” He also said, ”we need to teach by mentoring young people”. There were also prestigious speakers from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United States of America. These included Ahimin Yokou Sylvie Rosebelle, the Deputy Director of Family Promotion Department in the Ministry of Family, Women and Children in Cote d’Ivoire; Kelia Olughu, a Medical Doctor from Nigeria; Madame Dwede Dee Hoto, the Director of Admissions to Harbel College in Liberia. Also Ms Sia Fasuluku, Director of Research, Planning and Development in the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education in Sierra Leone; Fr. Raymond Osei-Tutu the Chancellor for the Catholic Archdiocese in Accra; Gloria Odimba, an author, a Human Rights Advocate and Child Protection Specialist from Nigeria
Sister Joy D Jones, former Primary President of the Church also stressed the importance of family and listening to the children. “We need to bring the Spirit into the lives of our children… the most important thing we can do for our children is to love them in a Christ-like manner”.
Elder Larry S. Kacher, First Counselor of the Africa West Area Presidency discussed that our children need PRIDE: Purpose, Resilience, Inspiration, Determination, and Encouragement. He also challenged the participants to determine how they were going to go forward with what was learned at the conference and report back what has occurred in families and communities.
The conference was buzzing with energy and excitement about what can happen if we only act on what was taught and learned.
The conference was successful in:
- Bringing together stakeholders to discuss some of the critical issues confronting the Rising Generation in areas of Education, Employment/Self Reliance, Values, Motivation/Empowerment and Health/Mental issues.
- Educating and creating awareness on these critical issues,
- Discussing sustainable solutions to address the critical issues,
- Inviting stakeholders to share knowledge and principles with their communities.
- Challenging everyone to determine what they would do to implement what they learned in this conference and then report back.
If the lessons that were learned are put into practice, Lives and Families will be changed for the better.