2016-03-08 12:59:00

'VoF' and JRS: giving vulnerable girls education and hope

(Vatican Radio) Did you know that there is a platform for “International Women’s Day” in the heart of the Vatican?

It’s called “Voices of Faith”, it’s at its third edition, and it takes place at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in the Vatican gardens.
The Gotz Foundation's “Voices of Faith” is described as a storytelling event dedicated to the empowerment of women who have experienced trafficking, forced displacement, violence, forced early marriage, lack of education… simply for being female.

Chantal Gotz, founder of the “Voices of Faith” initiative and executive Director of the Fidel Gotz Foundation explains why she thinks it is important to bring women’s voices into the Vatican and how she hopes it will ultimately help to build a more just world.


She says that looking at the Church we see that one of its biggest concerns is social justice “and we have to admit that most of the work done is through women, but most of the women’s voices are not heard, the women are not visible”.

Gotz says her experience that has brought her into contact with many of these women on the field has so inspired her that she thinks that “maybe bringing in these stories, into the Church, into the heart of the Church (…) is worthwhile”.

She says that ultimately she hopes it will bring change because ‘storytelling’ touches the hearts and the souls of people and “finally it may also change the minds of persons” leading to a more just and right world.

One of the Gotz Foundation’s partners in this venture is Jesuit Refugee Service with its focus on education – and in particular the education of girls - as a key contribution to the needs and hopes of refugees.

Fr. Tom Smolich SJ is actually present at the “VoF” event on March 8, moderating a discussion which is headlined: “What women want – a multigenerational conversation expanding women’s leadership in the Church”.

Fr Joaquin Martinez SJ, JRS’s International Education Coordinator spoke to Linda Bordoni about the JRS “Mercy in Motion” campaign and of how education gives refugees hope and the tools not only to contribute to their new communities, but also to rebuild their old ones. And of how important it is in empowering girls and women – and even in keeping them safe!

Fr Martinez explains that the Gotz Foundation has been a strong supporter of JRS and that one of the goals of the “Mercy in Motion” campaign is to increase the number of students by another 100,00. 

“Our especial emphasis on the education on the education of young women and girls” he says.

This, he points out, is of particular interest to the Gotz Foundation. He explains that JRS believes that education gives hope to people and it allows them to transend some of the situations in which they find themselves.

“It’s a lot harder for young women and girls because – for example – in a refugee camp access to the school, having to cross the camp can be unsafe if you are a young girl” he says.

And often girls, he said, are expected to help with household chores or to help with livelihood for the community, or are perhaps married off when very young: they are all denied the right to education. 

“The number of girls who are refugees and are in primary education, in secondary education drops very steeply due to a number of factors in their lives” he says.

Fr Martinez says that of the estimated 60 million people who are on the move today less than one percent of them go on to obtain access to higher education.
He says that what JRS is trying to do is to increase the numbers of people who receive secondary education because that allows them to access higher education afterwards.

And JRS, he says, operates across all divides.

“About 70 percent of the people we work with are Muslim because most of the refugees in the world today are Muslim and we run schools irrespective of the religious affiliation of the people we serve” he says.



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