INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL: Salesian Missions highlights programs around the globe that empower girls through education
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions joins the international community in honoring International Day of the Girl. The first ever International Day of the Girl was recognized on Oct. 11, 2012 and was established to promote equal treatment and opportunities for girls. The day is an acknowledgment by the world that there is a disparity in the way the 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 in 2011 to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This year’s theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” and highlights the need for expanded access to education and skill training for girls so they are able to enter today’s workforce.
UNICEF notes that this year’s International Day of the Girl “marks the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to highlight, advocate for and invest in girls’ most pressing needs and opportunities to attain skills for employability.”
Nearly one billion youth, including 600 million adolescent girls, will enter the workforce in the next decade, according to UNICEF. It notes that more than 90 percent of those living in developing countries will work in the informal employment sector where jobs are not regulated or protected. These jobs are marked by low or no pay and abuse and exploitation. Girls, especially those living in rural areas or who have disabilities, are even more disadvantaged when finding decent work, according to UNICEF.
“With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” challenges the international community to ensure that girls have the skills they need to find and retain employment including skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The focus should also be on teaching transferable skills such as self-confidence, problem solving, teamwork and critical thinking.
Salesian missionaries living and working in more than 130 countries around the globe 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 around the globe empower young girls and women through education and by ensuring that they have equal access to schools and skills training for later employment,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential. Those who are able to access education are more often able to achieve financial independence and make better and healthier choices that affect not only themselves but their families and communities as well.”
To mark International Day of the Girl, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight some of its programs around the globe that empower girls through education.
Don Bosco Technical School Kep/Hatrans, located in southern Cambodia, made changes to its school buildings and dormitories to ensure they are accessible for students with physical disabilities thanks to a grant provided to Salesian Missions from the Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) at USAID. The technical school also received funding to aid in the construction from Don Bosco Bonn and the Sawasdee Foundation.
With the USAID funding, in 2015 Don Bosco Kep made modifications to the school including the installation of a solar-powered elevator with a walkway between two buildings in order to reach four floors in the main building and the construction of ramps to access areas for community gatherings. The funding also allowed for the outfitting of three bathrooms with accessible facilities.
Young women with physical disabilities in rural Cambodia are at high risk of living in poverty. The investment by USAID in Don Bosco Kep provides opportunities to numerous students who are ethnically and economically disadvantaged. The positive impacts are disproportionately felt by young women with physical disabilities who otherwise would be unable to access an education and achieve self-sufficiency as a result.
Don Bosco Vocational Technical Center (Don Bosco Tech) located in Rangajan in the state of Assam in India provides educational opportunities for the underserved Adivasi tribal community. The school offers education and job placement courses in sewing machine operator and photovoltaic systems installation, operation and maintenance.
Short-term vocational training is offered in courses lasting three months. Students are able to gain technical knowledge from course materials prepared in consultation with industry experts and professionals. Courses include assignments, on-the-job training and field visits. Valuable life skills are also integrated into the curriculum through an interactive teaching process. Some of the Don Bosco Tech programs focus specifically on helping young women become financially self-sufficient and better able to care for their families.
Don Bosco Fambul, one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations located in Freetown, has been helping young women caught up in prostitution come in off the streets. Father Jorge Crisafulli launched the program out of Don Bosco Fambul’s Girls Shelter in September 2016 with the aim of searching for girls in their workplaces where they are surrounded by alcohol and drugs and at risk of danger and exploitation. The program offers them shelter, healthcare, nutrition, education and wherever possible, reintegrates them back into their families.
Close to 200,000 young girls and older women were sexually assaulted during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, according to UNICEF. And although the war has stopped, the sexual violence against women continues. Young women are at risk for sexual violence, trafficking and forced pregnancy, among other atrocities. Today, one third of girls are forced into marriage and often sexually assaulted by their husbands before their 15th birthday. In addition, 90 percent of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation. The Girls Shelter, which has been in operation for five years, was developed in response to this crisis.
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.
Salesian vocational schools in Tanzania having been working to promote education for young women who are often left out of advanced educational opportunities. Tanzanian vocational schools were originally designed to provide training only for boys but now 38 percent of the student population at the schools are girls, up from 11 percent in 2015.
It was necessary for Salesian vocational schools in Tanzania to open up their programming to girls for many reasons. When young women have access to education, they are more likely to experience social justice, avoid early marriages and support the growth and development of the country. This is important as a strong economy requires a greater number of qualified people.
In Tanzania, this change has not been easy to achieve because vocational training has been traditionally considered a male stronghold. Salesian schools have been working to change the culture by organizing a series of initiatives to encourage girls to enroll in technical and vocational schools.
The “Binti Thamani” campaign (literally translated as “precious girl”) works to make students, teachers and parents aware of equal opportunities for boys and girls in education, including technical training and work.
Many girls and their parents did not know that girls could attend vocational training courses. The campaign has reached 3,000 girls and is still reaching girls today. The number of girls attending Salesian schools continues to grow steadily every year.
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