INT’L WOMEN’S DAY: Programs help women and girls become leaders in their communities
March 8 celebrates achievements of women while focusing world’s attention on areas requiring further action.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March 8, 2022) Top of Form 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 “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” and recognizes the contribution of women and girls who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response to build a more sustainable future for all.
U.N. Women notes, “Women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most. At the same time, women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership results in more effective climate action.”
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.
“In order for girls and young women to be leaders in their community, they must have access to education,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesians ensure that girls and young women have access to education in their communities, and we encourage them to be leaders. At the same time, women have stepped forward in leadership roles in countries around the globe, helping to shape their communities and supporting their families and communities.”
In honor of International Women’s Day, Salesian Missions is proud to share Salesian programs around the globe that empower young women and girls.
The Salesian Tuwe Wafundi School of Trades, part of the Don Bosco Center in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), welcomed 21 girls and young women who asked to learn a profession traditionally reserved for men, such as bricklayer, carpenter, mechanic and welder. A conference was held for these students with Marie Claire, a woman entrepreneur who is responsible for a local carpentry workshop.
Irène Nabintu, an apprentice in automotive mechanics, said, “With her personal experiences, she told us that to live and be a female leader, we need to have some principles, some rules that we give ourselves.”
Claire is a married mother of nine children who are all well-educated thanks to her work. She told the students to continue their education. She said, “To qualify as boys do, intelligence and strength are needed, and to work with courage. Without disrespecting men, you can make yourself accepted as a true female leader.”
Don Bosco Tech launched its first agro-based training program in Katihar, India, in 2020, to teach and empower 53 women to start mushroom farming training and growing mushrooms in their homes. As a result, these women doubled and tripled their initial investments and were able to earn an income to help their families. The program has grown—increasing both the number of participants taking the training and the women’s income.
Mushroom farming was easy to start for most of the women. They could purchase the seeds, grow them in their own homes, and farm while still being in lockdown and engaged with their families. In addition, the cost to start was low enough that it was accessible, and the profit was substantial enough that it made a real impact for these women and their families.
One woman said, “The best thing about Don Bosco Tech’s mushroom farming program is that it’s very profitable. My economic situation was difficult before, but ever since I started farming mushrooms, I have received a good deal of profits, which has improved my economic situation. I am now able to send my children to a good private school, something I couldn’t do before.”
Don Bosco Technical College in Alafua, Samoa, currently has its highest enrollment with 40 girls among 180 first-year students. Since 1988, Don Bosco Technical College has been known for offering quality skills-based education to disadvantaged youth. Many of the students have not been able to complete mainstream educational due to poverty, family and social issues. This is a second chance at education for them.
Over the years, the college has become well-known throughout Samoa and the Pacific for its excellent technical training and focus on integral student development. Originally established as a school for young men ages 16-22, the college opened enrollment to girls in 2020.
Ms. Farene, a second-year student, is happy with her choice to specialize in plumbing. She said, “I felt that plumbing is my calling. I want to get a job to help my family as they’re not well off and I want to help them in any way I can.” Farene encourages young girls who want to become plumbers in the future to not hold back.
Students, parents and staff of the Salesian Mons. Luiz Lasagna Institute and the Salesian University UniSALESIANO, both based in Araçatuba, Brazil, planted 100 ipê, which is a flowering plant of the Bignoniaceae family. Liliana Aparecida Cora, academic coordinator of the Salesian Institute, along with Father Erondi Tamandaré, director general of UniSALESIANO, gathered with the students and their families on planting day.
Each student chose a name for the tree they planted. The goal of the initiative was to promote integration, education and environmental awareness on the campus to highlight the relationship between humans and the environment.
Many Salesian institutions around the globe have taken part in tree planting and other environmental awareness projects and education since Pope Francis’ 2020 Laudato Si’, which has as its theme “Good Christians and Upright Citizens.” Pope Francis underlined the importance of education and training that will help youth shape a lifestyle and foster environmental responsibility. Rector Major Father Ángel Fernández Artime noted the importance of concrete initiatives in the care of the environment. The first objective is encouraging the environmental commitment of youth.
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