Human Rights Day: Salesians Highlight Vulnerable Youth Empowerment Initiatives in Africa

Credit: Salesian Missions

On the annual event of Human Rights Day marked December 10, officials of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), have highlighted programs empowering vulnerable young people across the world, including Africa, focusing on initiatives that help the youth understand their rights.

In a December 10 report, officials of the SDB entity say Salesians work to ensure that all youth know their rights, are able to fully participate in their respective communities, and have their voices heard through institutions of formal education. 

“Whether it’s combating child labor, assisting homeless youth or building schools where children who previously had no access to education, Salesian missionaries are educating youth on their rights and ensuring access to programs and services they need," Salesian Missions officials say.

They add that in their over 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the world, children from some of the poorest places on the planet have access to education.

In the report, the Director of Salesian Missions says that in providing education on human rights to youths, SDB missionaries accord the young people “a sense of personal dignity and self-worth.”


“At Salesian schools, young children gain an education, learn about their rights and freedoms, and participate in sports and other activities – all in a safe environment that encourages learning and growth,” says Fr. Gus Baek.

Fr. Baek adds, “Education is always our primary focus, but we know youth are dealing with much more than just needing access to education.”  

In the West African nation of Benin, Children at Foyer Don Bosco, a home for abused and abandoned children in Kandi, a town in Eastern Benin, have received food support thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. 

“The funding provided food support for 36 children, as well as cleaning products and medicines for the infirmary,” Salesian Missions officials say in the December 10 report. 

They note that “ten girls and boys have also benefited from the purchase of toolboxes for various trades.”

More in Africa

Officials of Salesian Missions further report that “Foyer Don Bosco serves boys and girls in very complex situations, including those who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse, and victims of forced marriages.”

“The area of Kandi often has an influx of children who are on their own. Children are sometimes sold on the black market and exploited in the workforce,” officials of Salesian Missions say.

They note that a “transit home was started with the support of UNICEF to host these children, while, guiding them to other homes or trying to find their families.”

“Foyer Don Bosco was created for children who have nowhere else to go or need to stay for long periods of time,” Salesian Missions officials say.

In collaboration with the juvenile courts of Benin, officials of the SDB entity report that “minors who are in conflict with the law and in high-risk situations are assisted by the Salesians.”


“The border police also intercept children being trafficked from Niger and Burkina Faso,” Salesian Missions officials further say in the December 10 report.

In Nigeria, youth attending the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Koko in the country’s Kebbi State have received scholarships thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. 

“The 150 students who received scholarships were selected based on criteria developed at the school,” officials of the SDB entity say on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2022.

They add that the initiative benefitted “students who were directly affected by bandit attacks, teenage girls who were about to be forced into marriage, youth from poor backgrounds, and orphans who lost either parent.”

“Other students selected had not received any formal education and were willing to learn a skill,” Salesian Missions officials further say. 

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They give the example of Lydia, a beneficiary of the scholarship initiative and highlighting her vulnerabilities.

They say, “Lydia, one of the recipients, is the oldest of seven daughters. Three years ago, her father died and her mother passed away last year.”

“Lydia was left to take care of her siblings, but she cannot afford the fees to send them to school. She is continuing her education to be able to help her siblings,” officials of the SDB entity say in the December 10 report on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2022.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.