INTERNATIONAL DAY OF RURAL WOMEN: Salesian Missions highlights programs that educate and empower rural women
This year’s theme is ‘Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19.’
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 15, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring International Day of Rural Women, which is celebrated each year on Oct. 15. This day, which was first established in 2008, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including Indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
This year’s theme is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19” to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society.
UN Women noted, “Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry.”
Salesian missionaries living and working in more than 130 countries around the globe are focused on achieving gender equality through programs targeted specifically for young women and girls. These programs strive to empower young women and girls by providing opportunities for education and training that lead to livable wage employment.
“Salesian missionaries around the globe empower rural women through education and ensuring that they have equal access to social programs and skills training,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Women who are able to access skills training and are supported are more often able to achieve financial independence and make better and healthier choices that affect not only themselves, but their families and communities as well.”
In honor of International Day of Rural Women, Salesian Missions is proud to share some Salesian programs that empower rural women.
The Salesian Tuwe Wafundi School of Trades, part of the Don Bosco Center in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), welcomed 21 girls and young women who asked to learn a profession traditionally reserved for males, such as bricklayer, carpenter, mechanic and welder. Recently, a conference was held for these students with Marie Claire, a woman entrepreneur who is responsible for a local carpentry workshop.
Irène Nabintu, an apprentice in automotive mechanics, said, “With her personal experiences, she told us that to live and be a female leader, we need to have some principles, some rules that we give ourselves.”
Claire said these rules included: avoiding always expecting help from others; working hard and showing that they can do it by themselves, alone; loving their profession; praying to God because it is he who comforts and gives confidence during the journey of work; and doing everything on schedule. She also cautioned the students to not envy what they don’t have.
Claire is a married, mother of nine children who are all well-educated thanks to her work. She told the students to continue their education. She said, “To qualify as boys do, intelligence and strength are needed, and to work with courage. Without disrespecting men, you can make yourself accepted as a true female leader.”
The Fishermen Community Development Program, part of the Salesian Province of Bangalore, has begun distributing electric automobiles to fisherwomen in Kollam, Kerala, India. The Fishermen Community Development Program was started in 1979 to assist people who make their living from fishing in the coastal area of Kollam.
The Fishermen Community Development Program has been working to empower women through the development of micro-enterprises, skills training and with production of goods so that they are able to make a living. The new initiative is providing the transportation the women need to help run their businesses.
The Honorable Prasanna Earnest, mayor of Kollam, said in her inaugural speech that this new initiative is yet another step in helping fisherwomen develop their businesses and have long-term financial sustainability.
Hundreds of women entrepreneurs in Dagoreti, Kenya, and other poor areas are benefiting from the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) project started by the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco three years ago, according to an article in the Global Sisters Report. The Salesian Sisters developed the microloan project after securing funds from Don Bosco Mondo in Germany.
The project was launched to help women start businesses of their own to alleviate poverty and improve the well-being of their children. Many of the women use the funds earned for their children’s school fees and other necessities.
Sister Gisele Mashauri explained that the groups consist of 15 to 25 members each. Members save at least 50 Kenyan shillings (50 cents) per day from their businesses and then lend this money to other members in the form of loans without collateral.
“Microloans enable the poor to engage in self-employment and income generating activities,” said Mashauri in the Global Sisters Report article. “Our main goal is for families to be self-sustained and every child to go to school. We have seen very many poor people living in slums become financially independent and better able to break out of poverty.”
Students attending the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Juba, South Sudan, have received scholarships to help afford their education and continue their studies thanks to funding from Salesian Missions donors. The scholarships, which are mainly focused on female students, cover 50 percent of the school’s tuition, making it much easier for young women to gain an education.
One student, Ayany Pamela, said, “This program has given me the courage to return to school after completing my secondary education. I had not been able to continue in school because of financial problems. After noticing that women were given this opportunity, I became motivated because it is now affordable for me. This program has contributed much in my personal life by allowing me to obtain knowledge and skills. Without it, I cannot imagine how I would have continued my education or found a good job.”
In South Sudan, due to lack of financial support, many families force their girls into early marriages. The program’s goal is to reduce the incidence of early marriage and allow young women to gain an education and independence in the workplace.
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