INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational programs around the globe that empower girls and young women
Programs in Colombia, DR Congo, Ecuador and Ghana illustrate the work of Salesians that educate and provide support to young women to help them succeed in life.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March. 8, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. The day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women around the globe while focusing the world’s attention on areas requiring further action.
Each year, International Women’s Day focuses on a theme. This year’s United Nations theme is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” which is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality. This marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.
UN Women notes, “The emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonizingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and in culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. Furthermore, there is a significant threat of rollback of hard-won feminist gains.”
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.
“There are still many barriers to education for young women and girls, but Salesian programs around the globe work to eliminate those barriers by ensuring education is accessible to all,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries have seen that young women who are able to access education 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 Women’s Day, Salesian Missions is proud to share some of its programs around the globe that empower young women and girls.
Don Bosco City, located in Medellín, Colombia, has been working with youth for 54 years and has saved more than 1,300 from a life of violence. It is estimated that close to 6,000 minors are still utilized as child soldiers with thousands more having reached their 18th birthday after years of combat. The long rehabilitation process at Don Bosco City focuses on three things youth need to learn—how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others.
Psychologists and teachers work together with youth, giving them the tools for a better future including basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment.
Catalina and Claudia, both former participants in Don Bosco City’s child soldier rehabilitation program, have become nurses after graduating from a Salesian school. Catalina, who is 21 years old, has been attending programs at Don Bosco City since she was 16. She had joined guerrilla forces to escape the mistreatment and abuse at home but soon realized that handling a gun, living in the jungle and staying away from her family was even worse. After making the decision to escape, she sought help at Don Bosco City.
Claudia is also 21 years old and began participating in programs at Don Bosco City in 2015. After being without food, walking for days in the mountains and being treated poorly, she met with Salesian missionaries. Once at Don Bosco City, she began to feel the family-like affection and to connect positively with her peers.
The Don Bosco Center, located in the city of Bukavu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is supporting women who wish to join women’s groups run by the Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit (AVEC), an association for savings and credit in the villages. Since July 2018, the Don Bosco Center has helped create 20 groups of women, mostly mothers.
Every week, the women deposit 1,000 to 5,000 Congolese Francs (CF), which is roughly 60 cents, into the group’s safe, in addition to depositing another 200 CF in the solidarity fund. After a few weeks, the group members can apply for credit and receive up to 10,000 CF to help in situations of necessity such as the birth of a child, an illness or a death in the family.
The women in the groups often have great ideas and projects, but they need help to start or strengthen their activities. Many of the mothers live in difficult situations and have problems related to their children’s health, food and school. Recently, 100 mothers and a few dads were selected to receive a small financial contribution from the Don Bosco Center. This will allow them to start an income-generating activity and work on becoming self-sufficient. The candidates selected are all in serious need of additional assistance.
Salesian missionaries in the indigenous community of Salinas de Guaranda in Ecuador have launched two new projects to help the local economy and provide economic opportunities for indigenous women. The first project is a factory for herbal teas and essential oils, which will impact 120 indigenous women.
The second project is focused on strengthening the production chain of aromatic plants. It includes a new production plant facility and workshops. This project will help support 200 women from the Salinas and Simiatug communities who work in this garden to prepare the plants. They have been trained by specialists on the best methods to grow and cultivate these plants.
Unfortunately, the poor local road conditions make travel difficult. The women have organized themselves to collectively transport what they produce and bring it to the processing plant. There, a fair price is paid for the plants harvested and cleaned to proceed to the processing chain, which ends with the creation of herbal teas, tea bags, medicinal creams, essential oils and cosmetics.
Salesian missionaries in Ghana focus on education and the growing demand for skills training to help youth gain the skills needed to find and retain stable employment. The Don Bosco Technical Institute in Ashaiman, a large town in the Greater Accra Region of South Ghana, has been developing new programs to meet the needs of local youth. Early on, the center expanded to include training in a wide range of skills from carpentry and metalwork to graphic arts. Salesian missionaries have also developed a credit program to aid training center alumni in financing new businesses.
In 2018, several developments took place in support of youth attending the school. A development project, which was funded by the German International Development Cooperation, the Korea International Cooperation Agency and Samsung Ltd, and supported by the Council for Technical and Vocational Educational Training, targeted support for young women looking to study electronics. A state-of-the-art facility has been established fully equipped with all the necessary tools to enhance learning. As a result, more women have become interested in the program.
Young women at the Don Bosco Technical Institute have also been trained in mobile phone repairs. These classes are carried out in collaboration with Ghana Telecom University. Both of these programs are designed to assist young women who face adversity and are vulnerable to migration and human trafficking. Almost all are living in conditions of poverty, have been deprived of basic education and have little or no support to learn how to become independent in society. Program participants have been rescued from various vulnerable situations all over Ghana.
Contact: [email protected]