Strengthening Families Conference (SFC) 2024:Global leaders emphasise societal impact of family unity

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Dignitaries take a family photo on stage

Elder Alfred Kyungu (left) and Sister Lucie Kyungu (right) with their daughter Berniece

Elder Alfred Kyungu shaking Elder Tonga Jean Claude Sai with Elder Martin D. Goury (far left) and National Communications Director for The Gambia Sammy Owusu Amako (center) looking on

Dignitaries during the signing of the Ivorian National Anthem

Communique team during their presentation on Day 2. From left to right: Professor Diamoi Joachim Agboroffi, Agoa Akabla Epse Kouassi, Excellence Yaboudjro Henoc

For societies to attain their full potential, there is the need to strengthen the family unit, and this can only be achieved through strong marriages between men and women.

This was the unanimous declaration of all speakers and attendees at the just ended two-day Strengthening Families Conference 2024, organized by the Africa West Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which came off in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire.

The 2024 edition, themed ‘Strengthening Marriages’, brought together speakers from diverse religious backgrounds and countries across Africa and beyond. The gathering in Abidjan saw the largest audience in the annual conference’s history, with over 5,000 attendees, most of whom were members of the Church from all corners of Côte d’Ivoire.

Church leaders, Islamic scholars, and other religious figures, along with politicians and various stakeholders, agreed that without strong marriages between men and women, society as we know it could collapse, undermining God’s eternal plan for the earth.

According to the organizers, the main aim of the Strengthening Families Conference is to promote measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Elder Alfred Kyungu, Second Counselor, Africa West Area Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in his address said: “marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is also a strong husband-and-wife relationship. Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies, for they are the foundations of strong families. Within a family built on strong marriages, a child is much more likely to value their relationship with God, religion, and their communities.”

He emphasised that a marriage founded on love and respect requires effort from both spouses.

“The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that marriage is a partnership of equals and that partners should be thoughtful, respectful, and loyal to one another. The church teaches that if couples keep their lives centered on Jesus Christ, their love will grow.

I think it’s also important to remember that there is no perfect marriage.  That’s because there are no perfect people. We are all unique…and to think that there will not be disagreements and tension in a marriage would be neglecting the individuality of both partners.  But even though there may be disagreements, it’s important to agree on these things…agree to never give up, agree to never stop trying, agree to never forget God and the healing power and grace he offers to those who love him and rely on him,” he added.

Elder Kyungu believes that Africa – home to the world’s largest youth population with about 60 percent of its people under 25 years old – can achieve a better future through providing young people with the right tools, education, resources, and encouragement.

“The greatest gift that we can give them is a stable and loving family.  Strong families are the key to a flourishing society. Stable families lead to better outcomes for parents, children, and communities. And for our political leaders in attendance, policies that support marriage, parenthood, and family life will make it possible for all Africans to reap the benefits of a generation of youth motivated to make their communities and countries flourish.”

Madame Nasseneba Touré Diané, the Minister of Family, Women and Children for Côte D’Ivoire, in her address also stressed on the importance and role of the traditional family in sustaining society. “Without doubt, we need sustainable relationships for society to continue and that is our core focus at the Ministry. We ensure that the traditional family thrives for society to continue.”

She expressed the government’s appreciation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for hosting the 2024 Strengthening Families Conference in Abidjan and assured them of the perpetual, warm hospitality of the government and people of Côte d’Ivoire.

“This conference is so crucial to the future of families and society and we are very happy that we are the host of this year’s edition. The messages heard here, especially on the theme ‘Strengthening Marriages’ shall resonate with all and sundry for years to come. Marriages are under a lot of pressure in the 21st century and I am of the firm belief that all that have been discussed here shall go a long way to help build better marriages for stronger families to thrive,” she added.

The two-day conference boasted a diverse lineup of speakers and panelists, hailing from countries such as Gambia, Ghana, Togo, Kenya, Mali, the United States of America, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Benin, and others.

Day One

On the first day, remarks and speeches were delivered by Dr. Emmou Sylvestre, Mayor of Port Bouet; Elder Martin D. Goury, Church of Jesus Christ, General Authority 70; Dr. Spencer L. James, Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University; Maïmouma Sene, Customer Experience Director – Panelys, Côte D’Ivoire.

A panel that discussed family finances and developing mutual respect in marriage for an hour and a half had Salim Vayani, Secretary General, National Muslim Leaders Forum (NAMLEF), Kenya; Gomez Rabe Kipre, expert in family finances, Côte D’Ivoire; Karibi T. George, Chairman of Men’s Missionary Union, Rivers Baptist Conference of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; Her Worship Madam Rohey Malick Lowe, Major in the city of Banjul, The Gambia; Sheikh Waly Seck, President of the Council of Foundation to Support Initiatives for the Promotion of Islam (FAIPI), Senegal; and Elder Tonga Jean Claude Sai, Area Authority 70, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After the panel discussion, Elder Afred Kyungu presented the Family Value Awards to awardees who were selected based on alignment with SFC objectives and community impact.

The day ended with goodwill messages from Dr. Ibrahim Salieu, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Education in the Milton Margai Technical University of Goderich, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, Dean, Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCFC); Elise Kossoko, Deputy General Secretary of the Minister of Social Affairs and Microfinance, Benin.

Day Two

On the second day, speeches were delivered Chief Bawa, Chief of Port-Bouet, Côte D’Ivoire; Monseigneur Yao Kouadio, President of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops, Côte D’Ivoire; Aka-Anghui Francine, Association des Femmes Juriste; and most importantly His Eminence Aseid Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara, President of the High Islamic Council of Mali.

A panel discussion on finding balance in marriage and the family and technology had Marcelle Guei, Engineer – Société Ivorienne du Raffinage, Côte D’Ivoire; Imam Cisse Djiguiba, General Director, Radio-Al-Bayane, Côte D’Ivoire; Dr. Mrs. Imuwahen Anthonia Mbarie, Director of Health Services, University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria; Fiifi Buckman Philip, Family Lawyer, Ghana; Eugenia Abu, Broadcast Journalist and Compere, Nigeria; and Patricia Adopo, Area Organisational Advisor, Côte D’Ivoire.

Goodwill messages were delivered by Dr. Joseph Koffi Nutefé Tsigbe, Director of Information, External Relations, Services Department at the University of Lomé, Togo; Rt. Rev George Neequaye Kotei, Anglican Bishop of Tema Diocese, Ghana; and Très bien Révérend Jeremiah Ngumo, Moderator, Africa Christian Churches and Schools (ACC&S), Kenya.

At the end of the day, there was a presentation of the conference communiqué by the team and then a transition and handover to the next host of the annual conference which is Sierra Leone in June 2025. Eddie Mansaray, Ambassador of Sierra Leone to Côte D’Ivoire and Sheik Salim Feika, Chief of Staff, Office of the First Lady of Sierra Leone were on hand to receive the baton and deliver closing remarks.

Other activities, partners

It was not all talk and speeches. The conference had its fair share of entertainment in the form of comedy, music, drama and dance. Performers were KS Bloom, Morijah, Gballo Jonas, Agalawal, Josey, Sotheca, Doris and Urslar.

There was a major exhibition that had more than 40 corporate organizations, religious institutions, educational institutions and various sections and departments of the Church exhibiting. They include Family Services, Humanitarian Services, Family Search, Gathering Place, Self-Reliance, Seminary and Institute/Pathways, Missionary Department, Foundation Bloom, Family Watch International, ONG 1 Family, Shelem Construction Services, Jershon Construction, Nauvooland Technologies Et Applications, NSIA Insurance, and Grace Divine Education.

The rest are: Fondation Nouvelle Famille, WIT Emploi, Institut International Polytechnique Des Elites d’Abidjan (IIPEA), Université International d’Abidjan, Rifeval & Scoops Socopad, Edufin Club International, Elevate Côte D’Ivoire, Ministère de la Famile, Femme et de l’Enfant, KLA Construction, Association des Femmes Juristes de Côte D’Ivoire, AGROCI, COCOFCI, HATENE, Fédération des Jeunes Entrepreneurs de Côte D’Ivoire, Mousse Fort, Auto 24, MTN, Nostalgie et NCI, TIPS, Radio Abayane, Lena, Foundation DAMSARR, PUSH Côte D’Ivoire, OBLACK, Le Madona Travel, SIBM, and 100% Naturel.

Outlook and going forward

The Strengthening Families Conference aims to establish a continuous, collaborative, and impactful environment where actionable tools for real change are actively sought and integrated at all levels. It is not merely a platform for philosophical or social observation but rather a forum for focused action and tangible improvements.

As partner organisations, and every person within them, the is an invitation for a courageous commitment towards measurable and sustainable efforts to strengthen family structures within Côte D’Ivoire and throughout West Africa. The conference intends to educate all levels of society, highlighting the Family as the most effective catalyst for positive gains in social issues.

About Strengthening Families Conference

Families play an important role in creating and sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies indispensable for sustainable and inclusive development. Research reveals that children growing up in stable and supportive families develop positive cognitive, emotional, and social characters thus becoming stable and peaceful adults.

There are several important aspects of stable family environments ensuring children’s well-being and early socialization, such as secure attachment and the process of the transmission and acquisition of values. Research demonstrates that children who developed secure attachment relationships in their families are more self-reliant and empathetic adults.

There is therefore the need for stakeholders to reaffirm the critical importance of the family as a building block of the Society, and implement initiatives aimed at raising awareness of problems confronting families today.

The motivation of organizing the Strengthening Families Conference is to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society”. The family is the core unit of society. As we strengthen the foundation, we will be able to see the structure of the community develop unity with stronger morals and values.

The family is integral for growth and development at every level of society. As families are strengthened, the community is strengthened, and as the community is strengthened, the nations are strengthened. As we create an ongoing, cooperative, catalytic environment, we will see changes evolve that improve relationships within families and individuals that will strengthen our homes and our neighborhoods.  Working together, we can build a strong community that can serve those around us and support each other.

Protecting and strengthening our youth and families is the best way we can build a society that is peaceful.  Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities. These are all building blocks to strengthen us and bond us together.

Traditional families are important for all of us, but we must remember that we are all brothers and sisters. You are my brother/sister and I am your brother/sister.  Once we understand this fundamental principle, we can see and feel the importance of supporting and sustaining each other.  As families we are stronger than individuals, we have a support system that bonds us together, and the stronger the bond the more we can withstand during difficult times. The family is the glue that will hold society together.

Our extended families also include those who have passed on before us. We need to take the values and lessons they taught us to preserve the legacy of the future.  We learn how to progress and establish love within our homes that protect our children for the future.

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