Rome (Italy). On 4 March 2022, during the “Empowerment of Women in Conflict Areas” Conference, held at the Salesian Pontifical University (UPS) in Rome, an empowerment project for women was presented, carried out between 2019 and 2020 in Gumbo, near Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in collaboration with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Mary Help of Christians Province (AES).
The Conference, organized by the Embassy of Japan on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Holy See, focused on the theme of the emancipation of women in conflict zones and had the aim of sharing this project, of reflecting on the means by which different realities – international organizations, diplomatic representations, and religious organizations – provide humanitarian aid and to develop a model of concrete support for people.
The Conference, introduced by Fr. Andrea Bozzolo, Rector of UPS, was attended by Mr. Okada Seiji, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Holy See; Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, FMA, ad interim Secretary of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development; and the General Councilor for the Missions of the FMA Institute, Sr. Ruth del Pilar Mora.
The Mazzarello Women Promotion Centre of the FMA of Gumbo, was chosen for the implementation of an innovative project aimed at empowering women in conflict zones, an example of collaboration between the government of Japan, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and the government of South Sudan.
Dr. Ishikawa Akemi, an official specializing in industrial development, agribusiness section of UNIDO, presented the implementation of the project on offering job opportunities and profit through the construction of an agricultural value chain in South Sudan. Sr. Lourdes Hermoso, Director of the FMA Community of Gumbo, participated through an online connection, explaining, together with the difficulties and problems faced in carrying out the project, the positive results obtained and the current state.
The FMA, present in South Sudan for almost 40 years, have always invested in the education of women. In this country, girls, exposed to violence and discrimination, are unlikely to achieve a higher education qualification. The project, aimed at creating job opportunities, reached 234 women involved in training courses aimed at the prevention and re-elaboration of violence suffered by women, who were provided with basic skills in small business. In particular, the project focuses on the production of peanuts and sesame to extract oil and raise its market value, in order to guarantee a stable income and promote the economic independence of women.
To achieve the goal, the introduction of machinery for oil extraction, the creation of training courses on the safety of processed food products, the creation of collective savings banks, and the provision of loans were envisaged. During the first eight months the women, organized into 8 small groups, managed to save a considerable sum. Together they formed as a Cooperative and are positioning their products on the local market with satisfactory results.
The project was possible thanks to the synergy of the three parties involved: UNIDO, which planned and carried out the project; the Government of Japan, which provided financial support; and the FMA, who with their Center for the Promotion of Women enjoy great trust among the locals.
International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March 2022, on the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” aimed to promote the achievement of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, specifically objective 5, which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering women, and on Goal 4, focusing on access to quality, equitable, and inclusive education and on learning opportunities for all.
The FMA Institute supports education as a privileged way for the promotion of women, so that they can become protagonists in bringing the female contribution to the challenges of the planet and of today’s society and be generative of new life.
“And while mothers give their lives and women guard the world, let’s all work to promote mothers and protect women”.
(Pope Francis, World Peace Day 2022)