In Burkina Faso, women who complete even a primary school education live very different lives from women who do not: they are healthier and their families are healthier; they have lower levels of fertility; and their children attain higher levels of education.
Villagers in northern Burkina Faso are subsistence farmers. With extremely low incomes, if they are able to send any of their children to school, they traditionally send their sons.
In 1999, a local NGO, Association NEEED (Nimbus Enfance Environnement Education) was formed by a local teacher and a midwife to promote the education of young village girls in the region. The project works with village leaders and parents to raise awareness about the importance of sending young girls to school. Through donations, the project enables parents to enroll their daughters in primary school by providing basic school supplies, a T-shirt and skirt, a simple lantern and lamb to a girl at a cost of $80. The parents commit to raise and sell their daughter's lamb each year in order to pay for the girl's remaining 12 years of primary, middle and secondary school. The project works with each interested village for one year in order to demonstrate, through the Lambs Support Girls' Education Project, how parents can support their daughters' education. The strategy is self-help and sustainable.
I met NEEED personnel in 2001 and was impressed by 1 ) the strategy they developed to encourage and enable parents to send their daughters to primary school and to enable parents to sustain the educational costs of their daughters' education, and 2) the competence, commitment and integrity of project personnel.
I introduced the project to Friends of Burkina Faso (a returned Peace Corps volunteer group) and we have supported the education of 3,700 girls entering primary school to date. Every year, these highly motivated girls far outperform their peers in the region on national year-end exams based on the French educational system.
In 2015, NEEED anticipated being able to respond to all remaining villages that had expressed interest in the project by the end of this year. However, NEEED is now receiving requests from a new wave of villages that have recently built schools (see video) in order to qualify for government teachers. They are asking for assistance to enable them to jump start the education of girls in their communities.
As a former Peace Corps Volunteer in maternal and child health in northern Burkina Faso, and a reproductive health consultant in Africa throughout my career, I have seen first-hand the impact that education has on a woman's choices and on the future of her children.
I am inspired to support the Lambs Support Girls' Education Project because it contributes to the health and welfare of families, communities and the nation; and because I have seen first-hand the impact it has had on village parents' commitment to the education of girls. Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. This project is a model for how to encourage girls' education.
Review from #MyGivingStory