International Women’s Day: Salesian Missions Highlights Programs That Empower Girls and Young Women Through Education
Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and its international partners in celebrating International Women’s Day, celebrated each year 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 the theme #BeBoldforChange calls on everyone to help develop more equal employment opportunities and working environments for women. In 2015, world leaders adopted the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of these new goals.
UN Women notes in order to ensure women’s economic empowerment in employment, the global community must bridge the gender pay gap, which stands at 24 percent globally, recognize women’s unpaid care and domestic work, and address the gender deficit in care work. In addition, world leaders must address the gender gaps in leadership, entrepreneurship and access to social protection as well as ensure gender-responsive economic policies for job creation, poverty reduction and sustainable, inclusive growth.
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 young girls and women through education and ensuring that they have equal access to schools and skills training for later employment,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “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 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.
Started in 1992, the Casa Maín girl’s home in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, provides shelter, nutritious meals and schooling for girls and young women with little access to education and those who were once living on the streets. Currently, there are more than 160 girls living and being educated at the home. Casa Maín is comprised of three houses and the girls are divided among them by age. The youngest girls, attending elementary school, live together in one house supported by several volunteer students from the secondary school.
A second house provides shelter and peer support for girls attending secondary school while a third house is for young women attending the local university. The university students enjoy a setting that allows them to finish their degrees in higher education in a stable environment while learning how to live independently.
The Salesian-run Don Bosco University, located in San Salvador, works to provide opportunities for advanced education and employment for disadvantaged women. The university is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country, particularly in the technical and technological sector. In the past, the technology programs were attended mainly by young men but in 2013 the university started an initiative called the Science Camp for Girls, which is supported through funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Science Camp is a long-term project for the university. To date, 123 young women in their last year of high school have participated in the camp. Young women who have finished school, are convinced they can do well in the technical and science fields and are passionate about this study are encouraged to enter the program for higher learning.
The Don Bosco Development Society, in partnership with AXA Business Services Private Limited, launched the women empowerment project in the slums of Pimpri and Chinchwad, located in the city of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
The project will directly benefit 2,500 women and children and is aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women through income generation, skill development, health education, free health camps and free educational support classes for the children from marginalized families. As part of the initiative, 10 self-help groups will be formed to improve the educational status and health of 250 children.
More than 25 percent of women in Madagascar become first-time mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, often trapping them and their children in a cycle of poverty. These women and children are particularly vulnerable to poor health care, chronic malnutrition and lack of educational opportunities.
Through projects like TAIZA, a Salesian-led child’s right network present in each borough in the capital city of Antananarivo, young, impoverished mothers and their babies can access social services as well as health education and clinics, and participate in peer support groups and literacy programs.
Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Fambul in Freetown, Sierra Leone, have been running a Girls Shelter for the past two years. Here, professional social workers and pastoral workers provide crisis intervention and follow-up care for girls and young women who have been the victims of sexual assault. Those that access services at the shelter are also able to enroll in educational programs that are a part of the broader Don Bosco Fambul network. These programs train young women in the skills necessary to find and retain employment.
As part of the rehabilitation program at the Girls Shelter, young women take coursework in hotel management, hairdressing and tailoring. This training helps to empower them to overcome the discrimination they have faced, gain a greater awareness of their rights and boost their work prospects. It also helps to build character while allowing the young women the freedom to make decisions that affect their lives and their health. Recently, both the trainers and the students in these programs were able to present their skills and products to the general public at an exhibition in Freetown.
UN Women – International Women’s Day 2017