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Uganda – International Day of the Girl Child in Palabek refugee camp

12 October 2020

(ANS - Palabek) - The Salesians active in the refugee camp of Palabek, in northern Uganda, celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, together with 307 young people in situations of great poverty, aged between 12 and 19 years old. The day was celebrated one day in advance, Saturday 10 October, in memory of St. Daniel Comboni, a great saint who dedicated his entire life to mission work in Sudan.

With the support of the "Atabal" Foundation of Spain, the Salesians prepared a great formative experience, wherein, together with the young women, they explored what it means to be a girl in a refugee camp in the light of the word of God contained in Psalm 139, 14: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The young women were thus able to understand that they were created in a surprising and wonderful way by God and that they are precious to Him, who takes care of them and looks after them with love.

Enlightened by the testimony of Saint Maria Goretti, the girls were able to share their everyday concerns. They too must have a very strong faith to discern the difference between what is good and what is bad; and guided by Christian values, they are called to walk the paths that can bring them closer to God, even in the difficult situation of the refugee camp.

During this meeting they also pledged to do their part to ensure that their rights are respected: the right to be happy, not to be discriminated against, to be respected, to live their childhood, the right to education, rest and to free time, medical care and the right to grow up and decide who to marry.

“All the girls present were refugees and after a small survey we were able to discover that 91% of the 307 girls attend primary school, even though most of them are between 17 and 19 years old. Many of them grew up in different refugee camps, always on the run, always with the need to start over and with the impossibility of even finishing elementary school. 8%, on the other hand, attend secondary school and 1% the technical-vocational school, and have to travel miles and miles every day to attend them,” says Salesian missionary Fr Ubaldino Andrade.

Again, the questionnaire showed that 50% lost their father, probably in war, and 24% lost their mother.

The meeting ended with a good dish of polenta and beans with meat. Each young person received a "beauty kit" consisting of: underwear, soap, towels, body lotions, sanitary napkins, a blanket for sleeping, a pair of sandals and a water tube.

“They came home dancing and happy. They really deserve it,” concluded Fr Andrade.

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