INT’L DAY OF RURAL WOMEN: Salesian Missions highlights projects that empower rural women
Day focuses on ‘Rural women confront the global cost-of-living crisis’.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 15, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring International Day of Rural Women, which is celebrated each year on Oct. 15. This day, which was first established in 2008, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including Indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security, and eradicating rural poverty.”
This year’s theme “Rural women confront the global cost-of-living crisis” recognizes the important work of these women in the food systems of the world. U.N. Women noted, “Giving women the same opportunities as men could rise agricultural production by 2.5% to 4% in the poorest regions and the number of malnourished people could be reduced by 12% to 17%. Yet they face significant discrimination when it comes to land and livestock ownership, equal pay, participation in decision-making entities, and access to resources, credit and market.”
Further the United Nations indicated, “The most recent U.N. Women report has highlighted that the current disruption to the food and energy markets has only intensified gender disparities, causing rates of food insecurity, malnutrition, and energy poverty. The ensuing cost-of-living crisis has acutely threatened women’s livelihoods, health and well-being. In addition, alarming increases in gender-based violence, transactional sex for food and survival, child marriage (with girls forced to leave school), and women’s and girls’ unpaid care and domestic workloads are further endangering women’s and girls’ physical and mental health.”
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.
“Salesian missionaries empower rural women in countries around the globe through education and ensuring that they have equal access to social programs and skills training,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Ensuring access to land and education empowers women farmers to cultivate the land so it becomes a reliable source of income and nutritional support for their families and communities.”
In honor of International Day of Rural Women, Salesian Missions is proud to share some Salesian projects that empower rural women.
Salesian missionaries with Bosco Global have launched a project to provide 80 Indigenous artisan women in Ecuador with vocational training to improve artisanal processes, management and entrepreneurship. The women from the parishes of Salinas, Simiatug and Facundo Vela sell their products under the Warmi Ruray (Women who work) brand. The project received funding from Cabildo Gran Canaria in Spain.
A Salesian who runs the project said, “The objective is to help these artisans in the production and marketing of products to develop new income opportunities and improve the quality of life for Indigenous women in the area. Underlying the project are concepts such as group promotion, the sustainable use of natural resources and respect for the cultural identity of rural women’s organizations.”
Training sessions included the proper use and responsible management of raw materials such as fibers, straw, and sheep and llama wool. Women created crafts to emphasize their cultural identity and showed innovation in their designs to make them more attractive to potential customers. One of the women said, “We are very proud to have developed a catalog of handcrafted products with our brand.”
The women also participated in the production of jams. The project has helped make the packaging more visible and attractive, reduce production times and costs, and develop and incorporate a biosafety plan that guarantees compliance with manufacturing best practices throughout the production process.
The Salesian-run Anma Integrated Development Association (AIDA) held a series of trainings for women who are part of self-help groups facilitated by the Don Bosco Campus in Dimapur, Nagaland, India, according to a recent article in the Nagaland Post. The trainings were held in five villages, with a focus on mushroom cultivation and food processing.
The goal was to provide skills training for unemployed youth and women. Self-help groups are set up to help women have better employment opportunities. Women attended hands-on training and had a chance to meet with different organizations and departments for cross-sharing of information in a real-work environment.
The 50 participants who attended the mushroom training were taught about the construction of the mushroom house, preparation of straw, incubation/spawning and casing soil. The 27 participants in the food processing training learned about food quality assurance, quality control, and preservation for meat and pickles.
Salesian missionaries have continued to develop the St. Joseph’s Farm, in Sagamu, Nigeria, thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The farm is a center for training, research and production on 25 hectares of land acquired by the Salesians.
Since it started, the farm has improved the farming skills of many local and small farmers, including rural women. It has also brought awareness to youth on the importance of farming, trained local people on various farming techniques, and created a cooperative of small farmers.
With the funding from Salesian Missions, the farm developed both a fishery and a pig farm, which is being expanded. The current pig barn has 20 rooms for the pigs and two rooms for feed storage. A total of 29 boars and sows are at the farm, along with 135 piglets that have been purchased or reared at the farm.
The pig barn still needs to be plastered, as well as have proper flooring and plumbing completed. With the high cost of materials and services caused by national economic inflation, construction has been delayed. It is currently about 90% completed.
Salesian missionaries have operated the Don Bosco Training Center in San Jose, Philippines, since 1995. An organic agricultural production course was launched three years ago in response to the government’s call to augment the food production industry. The Salesian diocese of San Jose is in a region which is known as the country’s rice granary. Rice is the staple food in the Philippines, and 80% of the population are farmers. The most recent course helps protect the environment through sustainable organic farming.
Don Bosco Training Center is not the only farming education that Salesians provide in the region. In the mid-1980s, Salesian Bishop Leo Drona founded the Gratia Plena Social Action Center to help the poor farming population after a destructive typhoon. It considers organic agriculture as a strategic response to environmental issues by promoting sustainable farming methods.
Through the Gratia Plena Social Services Center, Salesians support and guide farmers to acquire skills to boost the local economy. The center also works in partnership with small-scale farmers, cooperatives, and development practitioners who believe in organic practices of producing food for life, health, and the environment. Salesians are exploring possibilities for the Don Bosco Training Center to work in closer collaboration with Gratia Plena Social Services Center.
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