Why Invest in Leadership Training for Girls?

By Hindaty Traore, Girls Project Coordinator

Two girls compare notes for their big presentation to the group.

Two girls compare notes for their big presentation to the group.

For the last three years, Mali Rising has been working closely with girl students in three pilot villages.  You can't help a girl stay and succeed in school without helping her overcome certain obstacles that prevent her from advancing or succeeding.

Leadership training is an opportunity for us to overcome these obstacles.  A leading girl must be able to express herself in public, defend her vision, lead a team, and defeat her shyness.

For girls to acquire these skills, it was necessary to practice exercises on: "diagnosing her image" by referring to the issue of girls ' schooling and community leadership.

So, 49 girls in Simidji were divided into three groups where we chose a President for each group. All the girls in Group 3 were afraid to lead the group or to be a reporter at the risk of being ridiculed by others. After several attempts, Maimouna Doumbia agreed to be President of her group.

When Maimouna was successful, the other girls began to step forward as possible leaders, inspired by Maimouna’s success. In fact, during the second exercise when each group had to choose a new leader three girls came forward as candidates in Group 3. This is how Oumou Doumbia was elected President.

The second exercise focused on the desired image, affirmation of one’s personality, the development of one’s personal and collective abilities.  Each group had to imagine its life in 15 years and mention the obstacles that could prevent them from realizing this dream.

Next, the girls were asked to discuss a critical question: Why are girls less involved in classes than boys? Several responses were given by girls such as being humiliated by boys and teachers in case of a bad or “wrong” response or being underestimated by other girl.

Aichata Doumbia gave a fine example by telling the next story she saw when she was in elementary school. Aichata explained that a girl was assaulted by a boy in her class after school because when they were in class the teacher asked a question and the boy answered badly. Later, the girl answered the same question correctly. In the boy’s mind, the girl humiliated him in front of everyone. He hit the girl when she was going home after school.

After a long debate around the theme, the President of each group went to the front of the room with her two reporters to defend their results. At the end of the reports, the members of each group gave their impressions of the management style of their President as well as the criteria of choice of the two reporters.

At the end of the training, Oumou Doumbia who had refused to become group President at the beginning of the training but stepped forward for the second exercise, told us that the event was an opportunity to reinforce her self-confidence. She said before the training she was afraid of the public, she did not feel able to speak out, to express her feelings and manage her stress in front of an audience. This training experience allowed her to be more committed to fight for success and to become a leader. That is why she volunteered as President in the second exercise. She decided to take to heart her role to ensure the success of all the members of the group like all the other Presidents until the end of the year.