INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL: Salesian Missions highlights programs that empower young girls through education
Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 11, 2021) 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, the theme “Digital generation. Our generation.” focuses on the needs for improvement in digital access for young girls.
UNICEF reported that in 2021, the Generation Equality Forum launched five-year commitments for bolder solutions to gender inequality. Some 2.2 billion people under the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home, something that has complicated a move to digital-based learning during the pandemic. Girls are more at risk of not having access to internet connection.
UNICEF noted, “The gender digital divide is about more than connectivity. Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices, and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all.”
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, skills training and technology,” said 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. Salesians around the globe are working to ensure that young girls have equal access to education and the tools needed for learning.”
To mark International Day of the Girl, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that empower girls through education.
Graduates from the 1997 class of Don Bosco Egmore have rallied together to launch the Min Siragugal (Digital Wings) initiative to provide laptops to female students to help ensure that they aren’t forced to drop out of school during the pandemic. The goal is to provide 50 laptops to poor students from two Adi Dravidar Welfare Schools on the outskirts of Chennai, India.
One of the graduates, Deepu Antony, noted, “There are multiple reports from India and beyond, including reports prepared by the United Nations about children dropping out of the school system due to economic pressure brought on by the pandemic. In India, the girl child is at a greater disadvantage in this situation.”
After discussion with principals of two schools, 50 students from grade 10 were identified. The group wanted to focus on these students because the government is offering laptops to students in grades 11 and 12. The laptops are being given to the school for them to distribute to the beneficiaries.
Salesian missionaries in Nigeria were able to train 15 girls in tailoring and give them self-employment starter kits thanks in part to funding from Salesian Missions. The “Post-COVID Relief through the Provision of Skills in Tailoring for Young Girls in Lagos and Ijebu Ode” project ran from November 2020 to April 2021. A new second phase of the project ran through July 2021.
Guided by the goal of equipping trainees with skills in tailoring and sewing, the training consisted of 90 percent practical work and 10 percent theory, which also involved life skills training, marketing, management, interpersonal communication and other essential aspects of running a business.
The trainees also completed a one-month internship before being provided with starter kits to help with self-employment to improve their livelihood. They remain under the supervision of the project for another two months for business monitoring and performance assessment and to ensure that their start-up kit tools are being used effectively.
Salesian missionaries in Quetta, Pakistan, collaborated with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to organize a badminton tournament for girls. The first-ever sporting event for girls, called “Mamma Margherita Badminton Tournament,” featured 20 participants from five different ethnic groups and four different religions.
The Salesian center in Quetta provided the girls with a safe space to practice and show off their talents. Despite the pandemic, Salesian missionaries have been able to keep their doors open to youth to provide a meeting place to connect with their peers and stay engaged in sports activities including badminton, soccer and cricket.
Salesian missionaries have been working in Lahore and Quetta for the last 21 years. In Lahore, Salesians have a technical institute, elementary school, boarding school for children, workshops for girls and a youth center open on Saturdays. In Quetta, there is a school and two boarding schools, one for boys and one for girls.
Don Bosco Fambul, located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown and one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations, provides job starter kits to young women who complete their education. The young women, who have come from situations of vulnerability, receive training in tailoring, tourism, catering and hair care through Salesian education.
Don Bosco Fambul has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution, as well as to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families. The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120, including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces.
Salesian missionaries, professional social workers and pastoral workers provide crisis intervention and follow-up care for girls and young women who have been victims of sexual assault. Girls that access the shelter services are also able to attend educational programs that are a part of the broader Don Bosco Fambul network of programs. These educational programs give young women the skills necessary to find and retain employment.
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