"Investing in boosting self-confidence"

School dropout among girls in Niger
Girls with a degree grow up to become women investing 90% of their incomes in their family. Mothers with a degree are twice as likely to send their children to school.

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Numbers do not lie: Education helps protect girls. Education helps in the fight against child marriages and against infant mortality. Because of their education women can better contribute to making their community a fair and more inclusive place. Girls with a degree grow up to become women investing 90% of their incomes in their family; Household incomes may increase with 25% for each year of additional schooling and mothers with a degree are twice as likely to send their children to school. 

In Niger, only 64% of girls are registered for school. Women’s literacy rates are also very low. Indeed, women literacy rate is at 18.2% only, against 40.2% for men (2012). 
Often girls leave school before having finished their studies. There are many reasons for this, including early marriage, early pregnancy, geographic remoteness and poor school system.

But according to Fati, the secretary of the pupils’ mothers’ association in Birni N’Falla, everyone has to play their part: ”We are responsible for the poor success rate of girls,” claims Fati “Boys get all the time they need to succeed, whereas we impose household chores on the girls,” she adds. According to Fati, parents must pay as much attention to their daughters’ education as to their sons’. She adds, ”Both can and should go to school as long as it takes.” 
Group photo of the girls and supervisors. In the middle: Fati, secretary of the pupils’ mothers’ association Birni N'Falla.

Sarraounia

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That is why the Sarraounia project of Enabel, in collaboration with the Nigerian government, aims to keep young girls in school in the rural communes of the Dosso region, paying attention to the obstacles faced by girls every day.
Middle: Balkissa Harouna Brah, coördinator of the Sarraounia-project. 
”I have coordinated the Sarraounia project over the past year. To me this is a personal commitment in the fight against girls dropping out of school and so I give the best of myself to improve school retention rates and help girls obtain their Junior Secondary Education Certificate in our intervention zone.” says Balkissa Harouna Brah, the project coordinator.

The Sarraounia project is a pilot project. That is why we always aimed at innovation, in both our approach and in the tools of intervention that we use. From the start onwards, we wanted to test incentives to make most local actors understand the benefits of education for young girls.

Study trip to BEnin

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By organising an annual Sarraounia contest rewarding the most committed actors, the project aims to arouse the interest of actors to achieve the desired behavioural change, namely retaining young girls in high school in view of them obtaining their Junior Secondary Education Certificate.

For 2017 – the first edition of this contest – a study trip to Benin was awarded to the best-of-grade pupils of six pilot rural high schools,” explains Balkissa. ”It was not easy to decide what price to award, because if you want to significantly promote the desired behavioural change, the prize must be sufficiently attractive for the targeted beneficiaries. But, a study trip to a neighbouring country like Benin to us seemed an attractive prize for the award winning girls, most of whom have never left their village, and for their family and community. “
How did it go on a the study trip? 
View the testimonies of the laureates ...
more on sarraounia via open.ENABEL

give them a voice

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”The fact of travelling and exploring an unknown country on their own is more likely to empower these girls than classical leadership training. It also offers an excellent opportunity not only to work on their general education, but also to develop an open mind towards different cultures,” explains Balkissa.

“But there is so much that still needs to be done. Every girl should be heard. It was an honour for me to amplify their voices. “

THE STORY OF chérifa & AMINA

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Chérifa: "Belief in oneself must be developed."

For Chérifa, a smiling girl of 16, things have already started to change. ”I am aware that I am fortunate that I can go to school,“ she says. ”Last year, I could not get my Junior Secondary Education Certificate, but this time, my parents told me to focus on my studies instead of helping with household chores. I took their advice at heart and you can see the result: I obtained my certificate!“

”What matters most to me is that I made new friends through this journey. In my village, many girls of my age are already married and stay at home. Consequently, I do not leave our yard myself; I do not find the courage to go for a walk on my own,” she adds. Actually, the legal age for girls getting married in Niger is 15, but in practice often girls are married at age 12. At age 15, one in three girls in Niger is already married and has had its first baby. 

”Admittedly, often the high school drop-out rates are used as an argument not to invest in education. And instead, too many parents decide to marry their girls early,” adds Fati, the secretary of the pupils’ mothers’ association in Birni N’Falla. ”Yet, it is the parents who should take things at heart. If they know there are no desks or seats in their children’s class rooms, they should start saving to pay for them. If they know their daughter has to walk three kilometres before she gets to school, they must get organised and find an appropriate means of transportation. I am afraid that the early marriage tradition threatens the future of young girls. They rarely complete their education and their prospects are therefore limited and so they remain illiterate and poor, like their parents. “

It is important to address the root of the problem as well as the practice of early marriage itself. How the Sarraounia project addresses the issue of the education of girls from several angles – committing with parents and the community, and focusing on gender role perceptions, on empowerment and on self-confidence – is an important lesson from this experience. ”I now can argue with those who claim you do not need studies to be successful in life,” confirms Chérifa.

Amina: "Encouraging mothers to have their daughters attend school."

Amina, a young girl aged 16, tells us she does not yet know what she wants to become later since there are still so many things to explore.

Even though she saw many of her classmates quit school after getting married Amina wants to follow another path.  ”I believe it is very important to get an education, even though this is not always easy for us,” she says. ”On top of school work, I must help my parents, like my brothers and sisters do: Bring our flock to grazing land, collect firewood and haul water, and till, irrigate and check on the fields. “

For Amina and her brothers and sisters the nearest school is six kilometres away. So, her day starts very early. “Every morning, I sweep the floor, clean pots, haul water and make breakfast for my family. Then, I walk to school, which takes me about one and a half hour. Luckily, I am not on my own. Three other girls from my village go with me. We used to be more of us, but most girls stopped going,” she adds. “I believe there are several reasons for that. On the one hand, most people here consider education for girls a waste of time, because when girls get married, they join their husband’s family. On the other hand, the girls themselves often are demotivated. Not necessarily because they can’t attend classes, but because the school is too far away and when you come home, household chores are still waiting. “

“I am lucky that my parents are so supportive.” After school, I can still spend a few hours there before I have to return home. That way, I can do homework and learn in quiet. Thanks to them I obtained my Junior Secondary Education Certificate this year. “

When Amina talks about her parents’ reaction to this adventure, her face reflects confidence, “Many people warned my mother and father against the ‘white people’ who wanted to take me to Cotonou. They said, ’You know what they will do? They will take your child away from you.’ But my mother is very strong-willed; stubborn even. Her own childhood was not an easy one, and I believe she wants to break that cycle.

KEY FIGURES

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  • In Niger, there are slightly more women (50.14%) than men. Women are twice more likely than men to end up in poverty and they are poorly represented in the country’s economy and political and administrative decision-making instances. 
  • The gross school enrollment rate of girls is 64.8%, against 77.7% for boys (2014).
  • The literacy rate of women is only 18.2%, against 40.2% for men (2012).
  • Niger also is the country with the highest child marriage rate: More than 3 in 4 girls are married before age 18; one in three is even married before age 15.

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