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On International Girl Child Day, Salesians Highlight Programs Empowering Girls in Africa

In Nigeria, a program helped girls develop tailoring and business skills to help achieve self-sufficiency. Credit: Salesian Missions

On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child marked Monday, October 11, members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) have highlighted programs empowering young girls around the globe, including Africa.

In a Monday, October 11 report shared with ACI Africa, SDB members say, “Young women and girls face many disadvantages and barriers to accessing education and achieving financial independence despite their huge potential.”

In the report by Salesian Missions, the U.S.-based development arm of SDB, members of the Catholic Institute provide statistics of their education programs empowering young girls around the globe.

“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,” SDB members say in the report.

In the West African Nation of Nigeria, Salesian missionaries facilitated the training of 15 girls in tailoring, realizing for these girls “self-employment.”

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“The Post-COVID Relief through the Provision of Skills in Tailoring for Young Girls in Lagos and Ijebu Ode project ran from November 2020 to April 2021,” officials of Salesian Missions say in the October 5 report.

They further say, “A new second phase of the project ran through July 2021.” 

Guided by the goal of equipping trainees with skills in tailoring and sewing, SDB Officials say, “The training consisted of 90 percent practical work and 10 percent theory, which also involved life skills training, marketing, management, interpersonal communication and other essential aspects of running a business.”

“The trainees also completed a one-month internship before being provided with starter kits to help with self-employment to improve their livelihood,” they add in reference to the initiative to empower girls in Nigeria.

The trainees, SDB Officials say, “remained under the supervision of the project for another two months for business monitoring and performance assessment and to ensure that their start-up kit tools are being used effectively.”

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In the West African nation of Sierra Leone, at Don Bosco Fambul that is located in the country’s capital, Freetown, SDB members have provided job starter kits to young women who complete their education. 

“The young women, who have come from situations of vulnerability, receive training in tailoring, tourism, catering and hair care through Salesian education,” officials of Salesian Missions say about their initiative known to be one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations.

They note that “Don Bosco Fambul has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution, as well as to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families.” 

“The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120, including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces,” SDB members say in the October 11 report.

They add, “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.”

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“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,” SDB Officials further say.

Held annually on 11 October since 2012, the International Day of the Girl Child is an acknowledgment by the world that there is a disparity in the way the rights of girls and boys are protected and promoted, and provides the occasion to promote equal treatment and opportunities for girls.

This year, the event was marked under the theme, “Digital generation. Our generation”, a theme that calls for equal access to digitality for girls.

In a July 2 report, the leadership of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said, “Some 2.2 billion people under the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home, something that has complicated a move to digital-based learning during the pandemic. Girls are more at risk of not having access to internet connection.”

“The gender digital divide is about more than connectivity. Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices, and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all,” UNICEF leadership said of the unequal access to digitality. 

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In the October 11 report, the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek is quoted as saying, “Around the globe, Salesian missionaries empower young girls through education and by ensuring that they have equal access to schools, skills training and technology.” 

Fr. Baek adds, “Salesians around the globe are working to ensure that young girls have equal access to education and the tools needed for learning.”