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At a glance: Sierra Leone

Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo urges girls to 'change the face of Africa'

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2008/Davies
Angélique Kidjo with members of the ‘Girls Tell Us Forum’, a programme for girls who dropped out of school due to poverty, child marriage, sexual abuse or exploitation.

By Issa Davies

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 11 September 2008 – West African singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo recently visited a UNICEF-supported girls’ education project in Sierra Leone, where she called for stronger actions to help educate girls and lift them out of poverty.

Ms. Kidjo spoke to a group of young teenage girls in a small village in Bombali District, northern Sierra Leone.

“Stay in school. You have to change the face of Africa!” Ms. Kidjo told them. “If you go to school, you help bring your parents out of poverty and become self-empowered.”

The girls, who had dropped out of school due to problems related to poverty, child marriage, sexual abuse and exploitation, are members of the ‘Girls Tell Us Forum’.

The UNICEF-supported forum explores issues affecting girls both in and out of school and proposes appropriate solutions to increase girls’ participation in education, including enrolment, better retention and high performance and completion rates.

Ms. Kidjo also met members of a Mothers’ Club and inspected vegetable gardens, which they cultivate to raise funds to support children’s education, especially for girls. The Mothers’ Clubs advocate for all girls and boys to go to school and ensure active community participation and support for the management of village schools. The extra income they earn supplements families and helps pay for school costs.

© UNICEF Sierra Leone/2008/Davies
A member of a Mothers' Club in Sierra Leone explains how the club works to support education, especially for girls.

‘Determined to be educated’

“Your country needs doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers to take it forward,” Kidjo advised the mothers. “And if I am here today, it is because I was determined to be educated.”

As part of the UNICEF-supported project, sensitization activities about girls’ education are organized to help mothers realize the importance of sending their girls to school. 

“As mothers, we cultivate corns, pepper and potatoes to pay for our children’s education, especially the girls’ education,” said Amie Mansaray, a member of a Mothers’ Club. “Before the existence of the club, we did not understand the importance of education, and that was why we sent our girls to get married at early age."

A perfectly timed visit

Ms. Kidjo’s visit to Sierra Leone coincided with the annual reopening of schools after summer holidays; a perfect time to advocate for childrens’ right to education.
“Angélique Kidjo came to Sierra Leone at a good moment in time,” stressed UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone Geert Cappelaere. “The message she sent out throughout the country during her visit has certainly resonated in many households and hopefully will be echoed in the communities for a long time.”

The Government of Sierra Leone has said it is determined to ensure that all children receive their right to education. It is difficult to imagine better advocate than Ms. Kidjo, whose voice and passion can bring urgent attention to these issues.




4 September 2008: UNICEF correspondent Eduardo Cure reports on Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo's visit to girls' education projects in Sierra Leone.
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