News From Our Girls on International Women's Day

By Merritt Frey, Executive Director

Today is International Women's Day, but here at Mali Rising every day is girls' day. Why is that? Because we are very excited to be deeply engaged in the first year of our pilot Girls Project, which aims to recruit more girls to our schools, help those girls stay in school, and empower them with the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.

Led by our intrepid Girls Project Coordinator, Hindaty, the Girls Project launched in autumn 2016 and is now going full steam ahead. Hindaty's work includes discussions with parents about the value of girls' education, partnering with teachers to ensure safe learning environments for girls, girl-led peer groups to build girls' leadership and life skills, and much more.

Why is Hindaty's work so important?

While Mali has made strides in improving girls’ enrollment in primary school (primary school attendance for girls: 55 percent), there is a steep drop in secondary school attendance for girls (23 percent).[1]  Research shows enrollment numbers for girls are even worse in rural villages such as those where Mali Rising schools are located. The decrease in enrollment for girls is a serious problem for the future of individual girls, as well as for their villages and for the entire country. 

UNESCO estimates that if all women in low to middle income countries received primary education, there would be 15 percent fewer child deaths; if all women received a secondary education, there would be 49 percent fewer child deaths.

Girls who receive an education benefit from that experience very directly, as do their children. Girls with education have their first children later, and are less likely to die in childbirth when they do have children. After birth, educated women are better able to provide children with a healthy upbringing. Why? Because educated mothers are more likely to understand nutrition, to practice apply basic hygiene practices, to recognize signs of illness, and to seek help early if there are problems.

But it isn’t just the girls and their children who benefit from secondary education.  A well-known African proverb summarizes this idea very well: “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a community.” For example, a World Bank study showed that increasing the share of women with a secondary education by 1 percent increased a country’s annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percent. Another study found that educating girls and reducing educational inequality promotes democracy.

Seventeen of Mali Rising’s nineteen schools are middle schools and these schools reflect the national trends for lower enrollment of girls. For example, during the 15/16 school year Mali Rising’s overall gender ratio was 57 percent boys to 43 percent girls. Generally speaking there were more girls enrolled in early grades (i.e., 7th grade) and their numbers drop in the later grades (i.e., 9th grade).

So Hindaty has her work cut out for her, but that work is so important for the future of our girls and of Mali as a whole. Catch up on the latest news from Hindaty and her girls here:

Excited about the Girls Project? Consider a donation to support Hindaty's girls!

[1] For comparison purposes according to UNICEF 60 percent of boys and 55 percent of girls attend primary school in Mali. However, only 36 percent of boys and 23 percent of girls attend secondary school in Mali.