From Violence to Hope: Empowering Young Women in Sierra Leone

Publication Date: 
February 12, 2014

In Sierra Leone, violence against women runs rampant -- while sadly, its perpetrators often remain above the law. Beaten, trafficked, forced into marriage (or worse), girls as young as 13 regularly fall victim to what becomes a lifetime of torment and despair -- with no hope of protection. The Salesian-run Don Bosco Fambul Girls Shelter in Freetown aims to change this, one girl at a time

In just three years since its opening, more than 500 girls and young women have sought help here. Open 24 hours a day and staffed by professional social and pastoral workers, the shelter provides crisis intervention, emotional support, and follow-up care to victims of assault and abuse. When willing, girls are encouraged to participate in a variety of educational programs offered through the broader Don Bosco Fambul network.

“Education helps break the cycle of violence and poverty,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “These young women have been so courageous in their fight against oppression, and now they are able to live safely while pursuing the training that will help them live independently.”

Recently, 60 young women completed an intensive 18-month skills training program in the areas of hospitality and hotel management, hairdressing, and tailoring. This program -- integrated into the girls’ rehabilitation process -- culminated with a public presentation highlighting their new skills. Organizing and preparing for the exhibit was also part of the process, and served to foster confidence in and appreciation for what the young women had learned.

“After having suffered tremendous disadvantages and violence, these young women have been empowered -- to overcome discrimination, to better understand their rights, and to make choices that directly impact their lives, health and work prospects,” says Fr. Hyde. “Their opportunities for a brighter and more stable future are at hand.”

Our mission empowers vulnerable girls and young women in some of the poorest places on the planet, helping them escape the chains of poverty and oppression. What’s your mission?

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