It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks of administering essays and interviews and am proud to say I have finished the applications for this year’s SeneGAD Michele Sylvester Scholarship program for two schools this year – in Dabo, my town, and Thiara, a neighboring town, as well as helped a neighbor volunteer with the program at the middle school in her town, Ngoky. It’s been hectic but definitely worth it, in getting to meet/catch up with all these wonderful, intelligent, fun, hardworking girls and their families.
This scholarship program aims to encourage middle school girls to continue their studies, as adolescence is an age where many drop out, frequently due to early marriage or pregnancy. I can see this first-hand in the dwindling numbers of girls in classrooms from the lower-level to the higher grade levels in middle school, and in high school, where female students are even scarcer. This year I am coordinating the scholarship program throughout Senegal (the program’s 20th anniversary year!), with over 50 schools participating, I have been enjoying helping other volunteers set up the program at their sites. Next week I’ll be hosting a few Peace Corps staff members to run a discussion session for parents of daughters at my middle school in Dabo about the importance of education and how to best support their daughters staying in school, which I am very much looking forward to.
I feel like I’ve written a lot about this program and girls’ issues on here already (ie. last year’s post about MSS, and this one about the girls’ day at my middle school), so I thought I’d let one of the girls speak for herself – this is excerpted from her essay on her future life plans and how girls’ education can best be supported in her community. Coumba is class president, one of the few girls in her class who elected to take the difficult sciences track for her grade level, comes from a subsistence farming family, and is also an amazing soccer player. In her (translated) words:
“When I finish school, I want to become a doctor, so that I will be able to help my parents, the girls in my community, and also the less fortunate.
To support girls’ education in my community, I propose raising awareness of early marriage, early pregnancy, girls dropping out of school, as well as violence towards girls at schools. I would also tell parents to not give up their daughters for early marriage because girls need education in order to one day be able to help their parents. I would do everything to help girls stay in school. I would also encourage others to practice abstinence, and encourage girls to not accept it when men betray us. Really, we, the young girls, say “no” to early marriage and pregnancy, but “yes” to staying in school.”
This scholarship program is funded by donations and with 3 schools this year, I have upped my fundraising goal to US$450. This will go towards the inscriptions fees and school supplies for the girls for next school year. Please consider joining me in making a donation to help fund girls’ education in my community! Using this donation link, please indicate in the comments section: “This donation is for MSS in PCV Sophie Danner’s community of Dabo, Thiara, and Ngoky.” THANK YOU!!
Learn more… read a letter from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to the girls of the world here. She writes, “Just imagine the whole world rising, as it will, when all women and girls are empowered. It has to start with education. All the number crunchers have it right on this one: education = empowerment” Also here’s a presentation on “the girl effect” – from The Girl Effect, about how empowering adolescent girls is a key issue in the the fight to end world poverty.
And in case you missed it before, here’s the trailer for the eagerly anticipated (at least among Senegal PCVs!) new film, Tall as the Baobab Tree, which takes place in a rural Senegalese village - a teenage girl hatches a secret plan to rescue her 11-year-old sister from an arranged marriage. And another, Girl Rising, which tells the stories of nine girls from nine different countries, illustrating how education can change the world!
Presenting …Dabo Middle School 2013 Michele Sylvester Scholarship Candidates! From 6eme: Fatoumata, Dienabou, and Kadidatou; from 5eme: Penda, Maimouna, and Binta (not pictured); and from 4eme: Fatoumata, Coumba, and Maimouna. Maimouna and Binta from 5eme and Fatou and Coumba from 4eme are all repeat scholarship girls from years past, way to keep the grades up!!
and presenting…Thiara Middle School 2013 Michele Sylvester Scholarship Candidates! From 6eme: Fatoumata, Aminata, and Kadidiatou; from 5eme: Mariama, Ansata, and Kadidiatou; and from 4eme: Fatoumata, Ndeye, and Wourdi