Mothers volunteer to help girls complete their education in Cote d’Ivoire
Abobo, Côte d'Ivoire, 8 August 2010 - Habibata Ouattara was 17 years-old when she was forced out of school to get married with a man her family had chosen for her. Today she strives to ensure that girls in her community can stay in school and complete their education.
She volunteers at the School Girl Mothers’ Club (CMEF) in her community to encourage and support more girls to go to school. While girls are faced with a gamut of challenges when it comes to accessing and completing a quality education in Cote d’Ivoire, CMEFs are making important contributions towards the Millennium Development Goals 2 (access to education) and 3 (women’s empowerment).
Link with income-generating activities
To set up the shop, the CMEF benefited from a micro credit of US$400 to purchase large quantity in bags and find a location for the store.
Persisting barriers to girls’ education
According to the State Report on the Situation of Education (2009), a boy has on average 76% chances to attend school and a girl only 66%. Less than 20% of girls have access to secondary education. In addition, the girl drop-out rate remains higher as only 42% achieve primary education and 60% for boys.
Basic social services delivered by the government have largely collapsed, especially in the Northern Center and Western parts of the country, since the beginning of the socio-political crisis in 2002, including birth registration facilities.
According to the latest survey, birth registration dropped from 72% before the crisis to 55% today, which means that only one birth out of two is registered.
Oftentimes, girls are enrolled in school for a few years and then drop out to work as domestic worker or to get married or as a result of sexual violence by peers and teachers.
The CMEFs now can advocate in the communities and can put pressure on families to keep all of their children in school to complete primary education and also remain in school as long as possible.
Girls are often pressured to provide sexual favours to their teachers in exchange of good grades or are sexually assaulted by teachers and peers.
While a ministerial decree on corporal punishment has been issued in 2009, there is still a gap in the national legislation on sanctioning sexual and gender-based violence in schools.
Implementing change from the bottom and up
UNICEF has also led the establishment of a national UN Girls Education Initiative network since 2006, which brings together government, local authority, UN and civil society partners to ensure that girls have access to safe and quality education.
Since its creation, the Agnikro CMEF in Abobo was able to provide financial assistance to about 10 families to go through the administrative procedure to get papers to the girls.
The cost ranges between US$10 to US$20, a huge sum of money in a country where half of the population lives on less than a dollar per day.
The CMEF in Abobo has expansion plans. The success of selling rice encouraged them to continue and start selling other products such as cooking oil and soap.
But to continue they need to find a larger stall. More importantly they want to convince more mothers to join their CMEF and they also want other mothers to set up similar clubs throughout the country.
"We have to take the education of our girls in our own hands" said Ouattara.
By Louis Vigneault-Dubois