In her final week as CEO for African Initiatives, Rosie Martin talks about why she loves our work with girls’ education .
I have been with African Initiatives for five years and am leaving next week to take up a new post in my local community.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Chief Executive role is getting to know our African partners and spending time with them in Tanzania and Ghana. My last trip to Tanzania in February was one of my best ever. This was because, after three years since our “girls’ right to education” programme began, I could clearly see the results and this was immensely satisfying knowing the effort that had gone into the work from partners, communities, schools, ourselves, and of course the girls.
I talked to girls in every school I went to and the message was the same. Those in girls’ clubs were clearly confident and articulate; they knew their rights and they knew who to go to if they encountered problems. Those now housed in school dormitories were so obviously happy to have a place and attested to many improvements in their lives: the ability to study harder due to having less household chores to undertake, less distance to walk and light to study by; and girls felt safe from sexual harassment and abuse and had a trained matron on site to help them. They obviously enjoyed living with other girls and there was a certain level of solidarity among hostel dwellers who now studied in groups for mutual support and benefit. As a consequence, school attendance was high, drops outs low and their school performance was shooting up; all the things we wanted to see when we began this work.
Even better, I could see impacts that we never envisaged when designing the programme. Local governments were building other hostels and one was building two girls’ only schools. Nationally, the government now has a budget to build girls’ dormitories in every region. The programme has also raised the status of community schools which are now negotiating to take “A” level students for the first time.
The best moment of all on that February trip was asking one girl what she liked best about living in a school dormitory; “I can now study between 7 and 10pm”, she replied. It blew me away – how many teenagers would admit to that in the UK?
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