Checking In On Our Girls In Mali

By Merritt Frey, Executive Director

When I talk with anyone about our work, the project that people most connect with is our Girls Project. Men and women, people from the U.S. or people from Mali,  younger or older -- everyone gets excited about making sure girls get an equal education. 

So I try to be sure to do a periodic update on our girls progress under the Girls Project. I know  you're rooting for our girls, so here's the latest news from our Girls Project Coordinator, Hindaty.

Since school began in October, Hindaty has been hard at work in our three pilot villages -- Kolimba, Simidji, and Beneko.  At the beginning of each year, she meets with the school committee and school leadership to talk about the project. She pays our girls' school fees to eliminate one excuse for not sending girls to school. She tracks enrollment to make sure girls are showing up to start the new year and checks in on those who are not.

More excitingly, October kicks off the monthly meetings of the Girls Groups. These peer meetings gather the girls together to learn critical life and school skills and to support each other. In October, the meeting focused on introducing the new girls (brand new middle schoolers in 7th grade) to the project, and an evaluation of their current skills.

In November, the girls discussed the importance of girls' education. Mothers and other women from each village attended to share advice and to encourage the girls to stay in school. The girls also received reusable menstrual kits (to help them stay in school instead of missing a week of school each month!) and education about their bodies and health.

And in December, the Girls Groups watched a short film aimed at educating the girls about their rights at school and sexually transmitted disease. Hindaty reports that using the film to broach this sensitive topic was very successful because the girls paid close attention to the relative novelty of a film in their school! Post film discussion was "massive" according to Hindaty.

In addition to this direct work with our girls, Hindaty invested time in making sure our teachers do right by our girls. At our December 2017 teacher training, we invested a whole day of the training to building our teachers' skills in applying gender equality in the classroom. Hindaty participated in that day with the trainers, and presented information about the Girls Project to the teachers and principals from all of our schools. She led a lively discussion about the obstacles to girls' education and ideas for overcoming those obstacles.

So there's a quick snapshot of just some of the Girls Project's great work last quarter. While the specifics are important, we truly can't overstate the simple importance of the positive energy of bringing our girls together in a safe forum to support each other and the powerful role modeling provided by Hindaty as she works with our girls.

Thank you to everyone who has so generously supported the Girls Project, Hindaty, and our girls!