Girls Speak Out
In 2016 Street Child launched a campaign to help thousands of girls across Sierra Leone and Liberia who were not being given the chance to go to school. We spoke to over 3,000 of them to discuss the issues preventing them from getting an education, and what could be done to help. Girls identified five key barriers to their education: poverty, teenage pregnancy, loss of a caregiver, negative cultural attitudes towards women's education, and poor quality of teaching making attendance pointless.
Our Girls Speak Out program is helping to tackle these barriers and so far has given more than 10,000 girls the chance to go to school and stay there.
WITH YOUR SUPPORT, WE HAVE ALREADY...
LAUNCHED CATCH-UP CLASSES FOR TEENAGE GIRLS IN LIBERIA
Over 73% of all Liberian children drop out between elementary and junior high school. That’s why Street Child's catch-up classes are so important. With the help of teachers and the Street Child social workers, our new catch up classes ensure that girls can continue moving up the grade system – a goal to which they all aspire.
GIVEN 1,668 GIRLS EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT TO RETURN TO SCHOOL
We identified 1,668 girls who were not attending school due to financial barriers. With the cost of education identified as a major barrier to completing elementary school, each girl received a uniform, school bag, shoes, books and pencils, and school fees.
2,305 siblings have also received support after our social workers identified them of being at risk of dropping out too.
GIVEN OVER 2,500 FAMILIES BUSINESS GRANTS
Poverty was identified as the biggest barrier to girls' education. We have supported over 2,500 families with business grants and training so they can set up a business which makes enough profit to afford the cost of feeding and educating their children. On average, this small grant is enough to grow businesses by 42%!
PROVIDED ON-GOING TRAINING AND MENTORING FOR 400 TEACHERS
Initial workshops were held with 400 selected teachers, covering core content delivery and classroom management skills. Since then, our 13 trained teaching specialists have been visiting each teacher a minimum of once per month to provide in-classroom support, helping to improve the quality of education across schools.
SUPPORTED 117 TEENAGE MOTHERS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Teenage mothers face additional challenges to returning to school, including the need for family support in childcare arrangements and the stigma faced within the classroom. We've given 117 teenage mothers intensive support packages, including advocacy at the family and community level, and supplementary financial support.
DISTRIBUTED LEARNING MATERIALS TO OVER 11,000 CHILDREN
400 classrooms have been provided with basic teaching materials and their students with learning materials including pens, pencils, and paper. 172 classrooms were also provided with additional desks and benches and 350 classrooms were given blackboards, helping to improve the learning environment.
STORIES FROM OUR WORK
HAWA, THE ASPIRING LAWYER WHO USED TO BEG ON THE STREETS
Hawa is one of 15 siblings. Her father is blind. From the age of eight, instead of going to school, she spent her time begging on the streets.
A Street Child social worker met Hawa on the streets earlier this year. We gave her education support so she could return to school. We also provided her family with a business grant so her mother could set up a sustainable business and support Hawa and her siblings to go to school.
“I want to say thank you to Street Child for what they have done. I want to be a lawyer so I can help the people of my country.”
JENNEH, THE ORPHAN WHO WANTS TO BE AN ELECTRICIAN
One of 15 brothers and sisters raised together in Makeni, Sierra Leone, Jenneh also counts as one of 3,000 children who lost both parents to Ebola.
A Street Child social worker has helped Jenneh's grandmother to setup a business selling firewood. She can now afford the costs of sending Jenneh to school.
"My grandmother can buy my essential school materials like pens, books, and a new school uniform. Being back at school keeps me busy. I want to be an electrician! It’s a good vocation for a lady as I will stand a better chance than a man!”
WHY AREN'T GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN GOING TO SCHOOL IN WEST AFRICA?
In West Africa there is a dangerous, worrying fact facing vulnerable young girls looking for a fair start in life: they’re simply not being given the opportunity to stay in school.
UNICEF research shows that even a single year of high school has the potential to increase a young woman's future earnings by up to 25%. Investment in girls’ education also has a multiplier effect: educated girls benefit from better family planning and have healthier children who are more likely to remain in education themselves. But girls in Sierra Leone and Liberia are increasingly likely to drop out of school at this vital stage. As a nonprofit working at the very forefront of educational development in the region, Street Child felt it was imperative to find out why.
So we decided to ask them.
We spoke with 2,000 adolescent girls in the fall of 2015 to find out what they thought were the barriers to accessing education. And as Sierra Leone and Liberia are among the bottom 10% countries in the world for gender equality, we feel it is time to let these girls speak out.