INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL: Salesian Missions highlights programs that empower young girls through education and social support
Programs in El Salvador, India, Myanmar, South Sudan, illustrate the work of Salesians that support this year’s theme of giving girls a voice in creating their futures.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 11, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring the International Day of the Girl. The day has been celebrated annually on Oct. 11 since its inception in 2012. It was established to promote equal treatment and opportunities for girls and is an acknowledgment by the world that there is a disparity in the way the rights of girls and boys are protected and promoted.
International Day of the Girl was established by a vote of the United Nations General Assembly to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This year, under the theme, “My voice, our equal future,” the focus is on “reimagining a better world inspired by adolescent girls—energized and recognized, counted and invested in.”
UNICEF notes that this International Day of the Girl will focus on several demands that girls have made, including to live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS; to learn new skills toward the futures they choose; and to lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.
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.
“Around the globe Salesian missionaries empower young girls through education and by ensuring that they have equal access to schools and skills training for later employment,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential. Those who are able to access education are more often able to achieve financial independence and make better and healthier choices.”
To mark International Day of the Girl, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight some of its programs around the globe that empower girls through education.
Don Bosco University in Soyapango, El Salvador, organized the Science Challenge for the second consecutive year. The event was organized by Don Bosco University’s Women’s Empowerment Program “Promueve” and aims to empower women interested in science fields. At its core, the Science Challenge is a knowledge exchange between high school and university students in various scientific specialties. Workshops and experiences led by specialists are held for students to take part in and engage with each other.
In addition, the Science Challenge featured an exhibition of projects by students who are taking courses under the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Don Bosco University and entrepreneurs from the Avalon company who are engaged with the university. There were 350 people in attendance, all intent on expanding their scientific knowledge to help find job opportunities or further study in the sector.
Don Bosco Seva Kendra, in Hyderabad, India, hosted a program for girls facilitated by the Kiran Anjali Project, which has a mission to provide guidance and financial support to institutions providing education to disadvantaged children, especially girls, in India. The program brought together girls and their parents, along with Salesian staff and Father Bellamkonda Sudhakar, executive director of the Don Bosco organization.
At the program, Fr. Sudhakar made a presentation on “The Four Candles,” which focuses on peace, faith, hope and love. Later, the girls played games and drew pictures. They also participated in English and IQ tests. Salesian staff took the time to interview all of the girls about their experiences with Don Bosco Seva Kendra, what they have been learning and its impact. Lunch provided a time for girls and their parents to interact informally with each other and the Salesian staff.
The afternoon session included a self-defense class taught by Sonia, a 16-year-old girl with the Kiran Anjali Project. The girls were able to learn and demonstrate some simple techniques in self-defense and learn useful tips in self-protection. Girls were motivated to meet Sonia, who had shared a lot of important information and encouraged them.
The Opera Don Bosco Foundation, located in Milan, Italy, has been active in Myanmar for several years supporting youth through education and social development programs. To help aid youth in need, the foundation operates several Salesian centers across the country.
The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in the city of Myitkyina is one such center. It offers carpentry, welding, electricity, automotive, tailoring, dressmaking and beautician programs. Over the last 11 years, more than 500 young men and women, aged 18-25 years, have graduated from its programs. The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center provides room and board to its students and instructors.
Because the school is located in the northernmost part of Myanmar within the Kachin State, which has a long history of armed conflict, some of the graduates are orphans or come from broken families. The school is operated by a small Salesian community with four Salesian priests, four sisters of St. Paul and eight volunteer part-time teachers/instructors. The volunteers come from various religious faiths including Catholicism and Buddhism and work together to educate the students.
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 much 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.
### Contact: [email protected]