SAVING THE GIRLS
Milage is the most populated district in the Zambezia province, twice bigger than the provincial capital with 619,275 inhabitants. Among them 331,822 are women, that is to say, they are more than 50% of the total population. The population is predominantly young and rural, very dispersed, with hard and impassable roads, especially in rainy season. Bikes are the only mean of transportation of the population.
There are primary schools up to 5° grade in most towns. In some places up to 7° grade and there are six schools that are up to 10° grade. In the rural zone, there are schools up to 10° grade and two schools up to 12° grade localized in the village of Milange.
Most girls from the rural zone go to school up to 5° grade and only few of them up to 7° grade. Few families can send their children to the village to continue their studies. Poverty, scarce valuation of formal studies, the long distances towards educative centers and the lack of transportation are all obstacles for girls to study.
In this environment, families concentrate themselves in continuing their traditional life and the practice of “initiation rites.” Families feel the responsibility of sending their daughters -many are little girls still- to this ceremony of preparation to marriage. This way, the doors of an active sexual life, teenagers’ marriage, and immature pregnancies are opened fast. Thus, many adolescents become mothers.
Frequently I accompany girls between 12 and 14 years old who are hospitalized in hospitals’ maternities and who are suffering grave consequences of labor. In some cases, some of these girls die and let their babies orphaned. Girls are neither physically nor psychologically prepared to be mothers, but families accept this as something normal. Other girls and adolescents are sexually raped by adults in exchange of material things or improvements on their school’s performance and, by default, many get infected with HIV/AIDS and become mothers of illegitimate children. These cases are not informed to the authorities because most of these abusers are family members or acquantainces.
As Dominican Missionary Sisters, we feel this reality as a cry of pain that challenges us to work for the dignity of these girls, to believe in their potential, to encourage their formation and to motivate a responsible accompaniment by their parents, so we can help these girls to become dignified women and women able to generate life. Our founder, Ramon Zubieta, believed in the formation of women and for that reason, working for women is part of our charisma.
RESPONSIBLE MATERNITY AND PATERNITY FORMATION
Care and formation of girls and boys for being responsible mothers and fathers depends on families, schools, and communities, how can we reach families in a dispersed population? This is the question we frequently ask. What can we do to motivate and help girls to study?
Milange has a parish with 8 nucleus and approximately 250 Christian communities dispersed in the mission, they are divided in 4 zones with 35 pastoral centers, and each center contains 8 to 10 communities. After some encounters of the training women, we saw the necessity of integrating a father and a girl as members of the training team in each community. These training teams participated in an intense training in some pastoral centers with material available in two languages: Portuguese and Chichewa. Each training team is responsible of sharing the material they receive in their own community.
Within this organization we have a trainer woman who is responsible in each zone, who also was given a bicycle to help her to accompany the training in the communities. This was made due to people who are generous and sensible towards the suffering of the poorest people. The training was highly valued by the participants.
SUPPORT TO THE GILRS IN THE LIBRARY
“Educate women is to educate a people” are the words of our founder Ramon Zubieta, this is the reason why we -Dominican Missionary Sisters- have under our responsibility a library in the town where we receive daily many girls. We bet on their education by facilitating ways of studying through books in the library “To build is to know.”
BICYCLES FOR THE GIRLS WHO ARE STUDYING
The long distances from their houses to the schools, lack of transportation, and difficulties for families to rent a house in town or paying the boarding school have made us to think in finding alternatives to diminish girls’ transportation difficulties, so they can continue their studies in 11° and 12° grade. Thanks to the generosity of some families and sensible friends towards their suffering brothers and sisters, we were able to obtain some bicycles that were given to many girls as their mean of transportation to get to their school. Some of these girls ride daily a round trip of about 10 to 15 kilometers.
GIRLS CLOSENESS TOWARDS ANOTHER FORM OF LIFE
The environment in which girls and their families and communities live do not allow them to discover other life alternatives. Frequently adolescent girls are married and have children. We invite monthly adolescents who want to come to our house to receive human and Christian education.
Despite economic difficulties and not having a proper place, we started a life experience with a group of 8 girls in our house. We took an old school as home that little by little we have finished to adapt.
In this place, girls are studying 11° and 12° grades. They go to school and receive human and Christian education. We cultivate food and two of them were sent to Quelimane to continue their studies.
These small gestures are like a drop of water in the ocean, a small light in the darkness. We have a great hope, just as our Father Ramon Zubieta had.
We thank with all our heart to God for allows us to live this experience. We feel the presence of JESUS ALIVE in the middle of us. We thank to all the people who have an open heart and are generous, because through their prayers they give us moral and economic support, so we can reach these families. God bless their families. Thank you very, very much.
Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary