Empowering Girls to Live Independently

Publication Date: 
April 23, 2014

In Mexico’s capital city, nearly 240,000 children -- many of them girls -- live in profound poverty on the streets. Robbed of their basic rights and dignity, and with little hope of attending school or earning a living, these girls face a bleak future. Through the “Yolia” program, Salesian missionaries are working to change that -- one young woman at a time.

The odds are stacked against them.  Throughout the country, deeply ingrained cultural norms have fostered an extreme gender inequality. Marginalized girls and women face diminished access to education, healthcare and basic public services.  For the girls who end up on the streets, the consequences of this inequality are particularly acute: Beyond the everyday stresses of basic survival, they face the serious dangers of exploitation, gang violence, human trafficking and worse.

“Life for a child of the streets is a fight for survival - even more so if that child is a girl.” says Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “This is why Yolia exists -- to help young girls live safely, while receiving the emotional support and educational opportunities they need to break the cycle of poverty and live independently.”

The Salesian missionaries and volunteers of Yolia literally take to the streets of Mexico City -- reaching out to at-risk girls where they live. From here, willing participants can choose to attend Yolia’s Day Center -- where an interdisciplinary team of experts provides warm meals, basic education and therapy to help the girls deal with the physical and emotional traumas they have endured. Participants may also opt to pursue specific job training in areas such as jewelry making, hair styling and more.

In the evenings, girls retire to a group residential home, where the staff fosters an environment of respect, knowledge and affection. Here, participants begin to develop positive interpersonal relationships, regain their sense of self-worth, and understand their individual and collective value.

Translated from the Spanish, Yolia means “heart of a woman.” Based on its success stories, the program is aptly named -- for it empowers young women to overcome the discrimination and hardships they have faced, while fostering a greater awareness of their rights. In turn, they gain the freedom to make decisions that affect their lives, improve their health and boost their work prospects.

In more than 130 countries around the globe, our mission gives hope to girls and young women so they can raise themselves out of poverty and into brighter futures. Find your mission by supporting programs like these. Thank you for your generosity and kindness.

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