Yenneba, a 15-year-old village girl in Burkina Faso, was in her eighth year of schooling when her parents could no longer afford to pay for her, along with her younger sister and two younger brothers, to stay in school. After being told she could no longer attend school until she paid, she took matters into her own hands. She asked friends and family members for support and started making and selling toffee candies to raise money. In the end, she succeeded and was able to continue school. While Yenneba’s struggle to stay in school has a happy ending, unfortunately not all girls are as lucky and resourceful as her.
As of 2012, only 15.5 % of females in Burkina Faso were enrolled in secondary school with literacy rate for females ages 15-24 being 33.1% (1). Not only are these figures strikingly low, but they are also indicative of the gender gap in this country. The percentage of boys who are in school and literate is much higher (2). This is due to a multitude of factors, including: the belief that a woman’s place is at home, the fact that girls get pregnant and marry at a young age, and the fact that many families simply cannot afford to send their children to school. When this last unfortunate situation arises, girls’ schooling will almost always be sacrificed before boys’. In order to address these issues, we created a week long Let Girls Learn Leadership and Empowerment Camp in Bobo-Dioulasso to give girls the knowledge and tools needed to help them and their children stay in school.
During this camp, American and Burkinabe facilitators collaborated to teach 48 school-girls from eight different villages, income generating activities, the skills necessary to manage a small business, and the knowledge to lead a healthy life. The girls learned budgeting, bookkeeping, marketing, business planning, and entrepreneurship skills. They also made tofu and liquid soap, worked in groups, and attended classroom sessions. In teams, they presented a product and a business plan at the end of the camp. Because health and wellness play an integral role in success, we also discussed a variety of health topics including: hygiene and diarrhea, water filtration, malaria, reproductive health, and family planning. Three outreach agents from Marie Stopes International came to speak with the girls about contraceptive methods and the female reproductive system. After these sessions, we showed the girls how to make sanitary napkins out of local fabric.
The primary goal of the Let Girls Learn Leadership and Empowerment Camp was to encourage girls to stay in school and use the skills they learned at the camp to help pay for their schooling. Even if not all of the girls are able to finish school, they will all be able to use these skills to become responsible and healthy mothers and adult women. We hope that the knowledge they gained from the camp will facilitate financial independence, healthy lifestyles, and self-reliance. As future mothers and leaders, these girls will probably pass on their newfound skills and capacities to generations to come.
(2) Annuaire Statistique des Enseignements Post Primaire et Secondaire 2012-2013 du Burkina Faso ; P.i