At a glance: Gambia

Mothers Clubs playing a crucial role advocating for girls’ education in Gambia

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© UNICEF video
Members of the Mothers Club in Sare Samba, Gambia, gather for a meeting.

By Thomas Nybo

SARE SAMBA, Gambia, 18 December 2006 – Girls growing up in Gambia’s farming communities are often faced with a tough life. Very little emphasis is put on education. Instead, they are usually forced into early marriages and are expected to do farming work and take care of the home.

But now, a group of dedicated mothers is determined to change this. They’ve been  making a positive impact on Gambia’s drive for universal education and girl-friendly schools by forming Mothers’ Clubs throughout the country. 

Here in Sare Samba, members of the Mothers Clubs helped build a new school. They go door-to-door to encourage parents to enrol their daughters in school and the classrooms are filling up quickly. Among the new students is 14-year-old Amy Touray. She once spent her days working in the fields but now she can read, write and even speak English.

Importance of education

“If you don’t go to school, your parents will marry you off early, or take you to the bush and overload you with work,” Amy says. “But if you go to school, all this energy is spent making you better. You will know yourself, your rights and how to take care of yourself.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
With the help and advocacy work of the local Mothers Club, a new school was built in Sare Sambas and it was soon filled with students.

With the tireless work of the Mothers Clubs, girls like Amy are not only getting to know their rights but also understand the importance of having an education.

“When I grow up, I want to be a school principal just like the one at my school,” Amy continues. “She does a lot for herself. She feeds and provides for her family without any help from others, and this is something you can’t do without an education.”

Helps with school expenses

Fatou Bah is President of the Sare Samba Mothers Club. She says she is grateful for seed money provided by UNICEF. Along with various income-generating projects, the club is able to purchase supplies such as children’s school books, uniforms, shoes and other essential items.

“UNICEF initially gave us $6,000 to help the ladies of this community,” she explains. “We were able to work with it and we now have $15,000 in hand. Some of the materials that we brought to the school were purchased with the money that we gathered.” 

UNICEF has also provided machines to lessen the time spent on milling food, leaving the women and girls more time and energy for education. To improve children’s nutrition, the club helps harvest vegetable gardens on the school grounds, giving parents another reason to send their children to school.

To date, there are about 90 such clubs throughout Gambia, all supported by the Gambia Forum for African Women Educationalists and UNICEF. Thanks to the mothers’ understanding of the power of education, a world of opportunity is now opening up for girls in Gambia.


 

 

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18 December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on Gambia’s Mothers Clubs and their efforts to bring more girls to school.
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