INT’L DAY OF THE GIRL: Salesian Missions highlights programs that empower girls
Education and social programs taking place in Bolivia, Cambodia, India and Sierra Leone.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 11, 2022) 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 the Girl on Oct. 11. This is the 10th anniversary of the day that has been celebrated annually 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 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 “Our time is now — our rights, our future” has a threefold focus including letting girls lead by putting them at the forefront of change efforts, resources for girls that support their education and mental health, and strengthening services for girls at all times but especially in crisis response and recovery.
UNICEF noted, “In these last 10 years, there has been increased attention on issues that matter to girls amongst governments, policymakers and the general public, and more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard on the global stage. Yet, investments in girls’ rights remain limited and girls continue to confront a myriad of challenges to fulfilling their potential; made worse by concurrent crises of climate change, COVID-19 and humanitarian conflict.”
Salesian missionaries living and working in more than 130 countries around the globe are focused on achieving gender equality through educational programs targeted specifically for girls.
“Salesians around the globe are working to ensure that young girls have equal access to education and the tools needed for learning.” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Young girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential. Salesian educational centers foster safe learning environments for girls and encourage them to continue to advanced education and skills training so they can become leaders in their families and communities.”
To mark International Day of the Girl, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that empower girls through education and social supports.
Salesian missionaries offer schools and social development programs across Bolivia to ensure youth have access to education and hope for a brighter future. In Cochabamba, Salesians operate Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, where young girls seek shelter and an education. The long-term residential home provides a safe, structured setting where young girls can grow into independent and self-sufficient young women. As many as 45 girls ages 2-17 live there at any given time.
Eden Gordon, a Salesian lay missioner who has served twice at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, was determined to help one young girl who had been abandoned. Veronica arrived when she was just 6 years old, abandoned by her parents without understanding why.
Gordon knew she needed to reassure Veronica of her worth, so she played a daily game with the little girl in the weeks leading up to her move into the residence. Gordon would ask Veronica when she was coming to live at the Hogar and tell her that she was excited and waiting for her arrival. It became a happy game the two played when they spoke. The game instilled such confidence that on the day of her move, Veronica marched in with a big grin on her face.
Students, many of them girls, from the St. Anne Orphanage were granted scholarships to attend Don Bosco Vithayalai in Battambang, Cambodia, thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The scholarships were provided in February 2022 and May 2021.
Children attending Salesian schools in Cambodia have faced a number of issues including abandonment from their families, abuse, child labor and trafficking, and migration. As a result, they often miss school and fall behind academically. Salesian schools ensure that young students are able to attend school even if they are unable to pay for it.
Don Bosco Prem Seva Sadan, a Salesian home for girls who have been living on the street, launched a new home in February 2022. There was an increased need for shelter for girls in Hayathnagar, Hyderabad, India, where the home is located. Don Bosco Prem Seva Sadan is a branch of Don Bosco Navajeevan, which has been helping at-risk youth in the region since 1998.
Don Bosco Navajeevan offers a range of vocational and technical training programs focusing on electrical, carpentry, welding, tailoring, baking, garment making and printing press skills. The organization works to ensure that poor youth have an opportunity to gain an education.
In addition to education, Don Bosco Navajeevan provides a youth center that places special emphasis on rescuing and rehabilitating children engaged in child labor. The program offers shelter to child laborers and street children. Once a child arrives at the center, he or she receives shelter, food and clothing and is then eligible to participate in Salesian programs that focus on education and life skills training. The goal is to help children break the cycle of poverty and go on to lead productive lives free from abuse and forced labor.
Don Bosco Fambul in Sierra Leone won for the Girls Os+ program, which provides support and recovery for underage girls who are victims of sexual violence and abuse and forced into prostitution. Since the program was launched five years ago, it has changed the lives of more than 600 girls and given them the opportunity to start a new life and access education.
To support the Girls Os+ program, Don Bosco Fambul launched a therapeutic center with four large buildings, a clinic, accommodations for volunteers and social workers, a house for the Salesian community, and a chapel. It’s the only program of its kind in West Africa that enables girls to live in a safe environment to overcome their traumas and start a new life.
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 services at the shelter 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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