INT’L DAY OF THE GIRL: Salesian Missions highlights educational programs for girls
Programs focus on achieving gender equality.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Oct. 11, 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 the Girl on Oct. 11. The day, first held in 2012, 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.
The United Nations has noted, “Nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15-19 globally are not in education, employment or training, compared to 1 in 10 boys. Yet, every day, girls are breaking boundaries and barriers, tackling issues like child marriage, education inequality, violence, climate justice, and inequitable access to health care. Girls are proving they are unstoppable.”
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 know that it’s more difficult for girls to access education, so we are ensuring young girls can go to school and learn the skills for self-sufficiency,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “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. Gordon even nicknamed her Querida, from the Spanish “to love.” Every time she hears it, Veronica understands its truth.
Salesian missionaries in Machala, Ecuador, provide technical education for at-risk young people from low-income sectors in the city. Salesians also supported 20 small family business initiatives to improve the living conditions of the beneficiaries. The project was supported by the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid, the ADEY Foundation and the Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Ecuador.
The goal was to reduce poverty by strengthening technical skills and promoting family and entrepreneurship for young people ages 18-35. Courses focused mostly on young women who are migrants, mainly from Venezuela, and Ecuadorian citizens experiencing social exclusion, including single mothers and economically dependent women. With lower levels of education, these young women face the greatest barriers to accessing training and employment.
Education included courses in gastronomy, cosmetics and cell phone repair, which were held at three different times. Each course included 108 hours of face-to-face lectures on technical topics, 12 hours of lectures on peace culture, entrepreneurship and business models, and 24 hours of hands-on individual work that was done at home. A total of 218 students participated in the courses, with 68% of the students women and 32% men. Of the students, 56% were from Ecuador and 44% were migrants.
Salesian missionaries provide social development and educational services to poor youth and their families in centers in Lahore and Quetta, Pakistan. Salesian schools provide economic benefits, scholarships and accommodations for students from the poorest families so that education is not only accessible but also an incentive for parents to send their children to school.
Salesians provide training programs focused on educating girls and young women about their rights with the aim of creating and spreading awareness and self-determination. Salesians encourage girls and young women to continue their studies. They also organize courses to impart knowledge and skills aimed at learning a trade. One of the students said, “If we study, we can have a brighter future.”
Salesian school fees are very low, since most families have one income to support many children. Scholarships are needed so that students can complete their education and skills training in order to become independent members of society.
One of the educational facilities is the Don Bosco Learning Center, within the Don Bosco Quetta community. The center has been teaching primary and secondary school in Quetta since 2000. More than 780 students, ages 8-22, attend this center. Students also have access to a computer lab to learn technology skills in order to compete in the current labor market.
St. Augustine Agricultural Junior Secondary School, located in Lungi, Sierra Leone, received support from donor funding from Salesian Missions. The school, which was established in 1984, has 14 classrooms, a computer lab, an infirmary/clinic and an administrative building.
The school provides education to marginalized students in the region. It currently has 700 students, 34 teachers and four auxiliary staff, including a nurse. Given the economic condition of the country and the challenges faced by students, the school recently reintroduced its feeding program. A portion of the donor funding went to support this program and ensure students in need have access to healthy nutrition through school lunch.
In addition, funding provided for school uniforms and to support salaries for the auxiliary staff. Maintenance and repairs of the school buildings, assembly and sport grounds, school fence, bathrooms and canteen also took place with the funding.
At the school, Salesian sports programming provides much-needed recreation and life skills for the students. Funding provided for table tennis equipment, balls, and jerseys for soccer, basketball and volleyball.