INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Salesian programs help young women and girls become leaders
Salesian Missions highlights the educational programs around the globe that help young women and girls become leaders in their communities.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March. 8, 2021) 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 while focusing the world’s attention on areas requiring further action.
Each year, International Women’s Day focuses on a theme. This year’s theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” UN Women notes, “The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
UN Women also states, “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 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 work to eliminate those barriers by ensuring education is accessible to all,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Women have stepped forward in leadership roles in countries around the globe, helping to shape the response to the pandemic and supporting their families and communities. We celebrate these women and honor the role they have played during this challenging time.”
In honor of International Women’s Day, Salesian Missions is proud to share Salesian programs around the globe that empower young women and girls.
Don Bosco Human Resource Development Center, located in Gagillapur, Hyderabad, India, has graduated 15 young women from a two-month basic training course in tailoring. The students performed a short cultural program at their graduation, and two of them also shared their experience and highlights of the training. All 15 students received a course completion certificate and a sewing machine. The center has trained more than 3,000 youth since 2010.
The course commenced in September while adhering to all COVID-19 regulations. The young women were able to safely take the course while wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The training helped them prepare for work in a tailoring shop, or some may start their own small tailoring business to make a living, support themselves and help their families.
Earlier in the year, the Don Bosco Development Center’s tailoring department was able to spring to action to sew 1,000 masks as part of the prevention efforts during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The masks were distributed free of charge to the poor in the local area and within the state of Telugu, in particular where there are Salesian programs.
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.”
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.
The Salesian-run City of Hope, located in Lusaka, Zambia, is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic under the guidelines set forth by the Zambian government. Girls in the program have already made face masks that they are wearing and distributing to others while also working on completing their school packages, studying, reading and making crafts.
The Salesian sisters who operate City of Hope have also focused on working with teachers, mothers and other educators to teach children about issues of sexual and gender-based violence, which has increased during the lockdown within the communities. They have sent informational letters to youth to educate them on these subjects since they cannot teach in classrooms.
“We are trying to be close to them through these other means even despite the challenges around country-wide lockdown measures. So far, we are doing well and our message is reaching them,” said Sister Prisca Mulenga Mwila, a Salesian sister at City of Hope.
Salesian sisters are also preparing various support projects for once the lockdown restrictions ease, including continuing with longer-term fundraising efforts to support all of the self-sustaining programs in the community. In addition, the Salesian sisters are harvesting four to five trays of eggs a day from the chickens they have on the farm.
The City of Hope was established to meet the needs of youth and their families living in the most severe poverty in Lusaka. The vast majority of children attending City of Hope programs are those who have been abused, live on the streets or are victims of child trafficking.
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