Here’s how we reached over 5,700 women and girls through our education projects in 2016.
Through our four girl-focused education programs we are addressing some of the most prevalent barriers that keep girls from accessing education. By giving girls and women opportunities to access education, we want to see empowered to create and lead change in their communities.
Through our Back to School Scholarships we want to ensure that some of the most vulnerable girls in the communities we work in are given access to secondary education, so they can learn, grow, and be the best they can be.
Here are some highlights of 2016.
BACK TO SCHOOL
During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, schools country-wide were closed. They re-opened in 2016 and we were excited to have our scholars back in school! However the new school year was condensed to make up for time lost during the closure – creating some real challenges for our in-country team as they organised 300 ongoing scholars and 55 new scholarship girls to return to school. The end of 2016 academic year also saw 31 scholars finish high school – an exceptional achievement in Sierra Leone!
THE ALUMNI PROGRAM
Working with our dedicated in-country staff team, we have created a pilot program that will be coordinated and driven by Alumni of the One Girl Scholarship program. Through the Alumni program we want to create a space for past and current scholars to come together and seek out a variety of opportunities for training, vocational, and social support, and find ways to support each other. We are piloting computer classes, vocational training, and other exciting ways to support our girls after they graduate.
SCHOLARSHIPS IN UGANDA
In Uganda we were able to successfully continue our pilot Scholarships program, providing 7 girls in two communities with absolutely everything they need to be supported in their return to school for a year. Our Ugandan scholars are all enrolled in various levels of Secondary school. Each girl successfully completed the year and will continue to be supported in 2017. One of our 7 girls scholars also graduated at the end of 2016, an exciting achievement!
COMMUNITY DIALOGUE MEETINGS
To complement our Scholarships program, our in-country staff team facilitated a series of Community Dialogue Meetings that brought together community leaders, parents, and school-staff in each community. The purpose of these meetings was to identify and address challenges our scholarship girls were facing, so that they were given the best possible opportunity to thrive in school. They were also an opportunity for everyone involved to reaffirm their commitment to supporting girls’ education.
INTRODUCING OUR FIRST EVER UNIVERSITY SCHOLAR
For the first time ever we have had a One Girl scholarship girl graduate and go on to University! Mariama is a remarkable young woman and last year she started her diploma of Human Resource Management.
Life before Mariama became a One Girl scholar was difficult. Mariama lived with her Grandmother who had five other children she was looking after.
Though Mariama was bright and loved school, there was no money to pay for her tuition fees, so she spent her days selling oranges and donuts to try and raise funds to go to school.
But our Sierra Leone team found her and heard her story, and offered her a scholarship. She thrived back in school. And despite spending years out of school, Mariama not only caught up to her peers, but excelled. She graduated with 6 subject credits (5 credits are necessary to be eligible for University).
We’re so excited to see our first University Scholar continue to kick goals and achieve amazing things.
I am so happy to be at College, my grandmother cries when she sees me going to College in the morning. She says she never dreamed she would have a granddaughter have this opportunity!
OUR SCHOLARSHIPS IMPACT IN 2016
Through Business Brains we want to give girls and women access to financial literacy and life skills education, to empower them with tools to support themselves from youth to adulthood, and beyond!
Here are some highlights of 2016.
GIRLS CLUBS GROWTH AND BUSINESSES
Girls Clubs were implemented in 10 communities, targeting girls not currently in school, or at risk of dropping out due to factors including child marriage and teen pregnancy. Girls Clubs were given Business Brains training and provided with grants to start small businesses – sharing profits among club members. Some of the enterprises included groundnut and rice plantations, and soap production. We were also excited to learn that 76 out of the 200 girls involved were encouraged through the program to return to school during the year.
REACHING THOUSANDS IN SCHOOLS
Business Brains was also implemented across schools in 10 communities, reaching a total of 7433 secondary-aged students: both boys and girls. Boys and girls are taught the same curriculum over a period of 8 months, and through these weekly lessons, they are given the opportunity to learn alongside one another as equals – fostering an environment of shared understanding, respect, and equality. In these weekly sessions they get to have important conversations, share information, and learn from each other.
TAILORED CURRICULUM FOR MAXIMUM IMPACT
Our implementing partner organisation, Restless Development, works alongside representatives of the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone to ensure the Business Brains curriculum is relevant and culturally appropriate. We then tailor the curriculum based on the unique needs of each of the communities we’re in, and also according to the students’ age, to ensure it is the most effective and appropriate content.
Restless Development equips young people within communities to carry out the implementation of the Business Brains curriculum and run the actual training in schools and clubs. This is so that the training can be carried out in a culturally sensitive way, but it’s also a way to empower young Sierra Leoneans to contribute to lasting change in their own community – creating positive ripple effects that carry on for generations.
FROM THE STREETS TO SCHOOL: AMINATA’S STORY
Teenage pregnancy is a major factor keeping girls out of school in Sierra Leone. When there is little education around sexual and reproductive health, girls can easily fall victim of an early and unexpected pregnancy.
That’s what happened to Aminata. At 16 she fell pregnant to her boyfriend. She was living with her Aunt at the time (her mother had passed away, and her father had abandoned their family many years before). But when she learned Aminata was pregnant, her Aunt threw her out of the house.
Aminata was out of school, out of home, and seemingly out of options.
But she was determined. Aminata began a small business selling fried cakes at a local school, hoping to earn enough of an income to support herself, her baby daughter, and hopefully get her back in school.
While she was at the school she met one of Restless Development’s Community Peer Educators who was running Business Brains training at the school. After hearing Aminata’s story, the Educator met with Aminata’s Aunt and convinced her about the importance of Aminata returning to school.
Aminata then joined the local Girls Club, so she was able to connect with a community of other girls who were in a similar situation to herself.
After seeing the positive influence of the Business Brains training on Aminata, her Aunt decided to support her return to school. She’s now enabling that by providing for Aminata’s school materials, as well as caring for her daughter while she’s in class.
Aminata’s now back in school and thriving. She’s gained vital knowledge on her own body, as well as planning for the future, entrepreneurial skills and life skills. She’s happy to be back in school and looking forward to fulfilling her dreams.
OUR BUSINESS BRAINS IMPACT IN 2016
LaunchPad exists to empower women and girls to become leaders in their communities, who fight for equal sexual and reproductive health rights for everyone, and who drive important conversations and education around menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
Here are some highlights of 2016.
NEW CHAMPIONS TO REACH MORE COMMUNITIES
In 2016 we trained 5 new LaunchPad Champions, adding them to the 10 existing champions in Mile 91. These new champions are based in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city – our first expansion outside of rural communities. We also trained 14 school-based champions in 7 partner schools, in order to pilot LaunchPad in schools to reach more girls, keep them in school during their periods, and empower them to educate their peers.
MULTIPLYING THE SAVINGS GROUPS
Last year we learned that two of our LaunchPad communities had created Savings Groups to extend on the project – a group of women in each community pooled their profits from selling pads to use as grants and loans to community members, as the group saw fit. Seeing the success of these groups inspired us to multiply them – so now every LaunchPad community and school has its own Savings Group made up of 20 women.
In October 2016, we officially launched the LaunchPad program in Sierra Leone – with ceremonies being held in Mile 91 and Freetown. The launch events involved our LaunchPad Champions, Savings Groups members, representatives from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Social Welfare, other organisations working in MHM, teachers, community leaders, and our Sierra Leone staff.
A DEDICATED LAUNCHPAD OFFICER
With LaunchPad expanding quite rapidly over the course of 2016 and beyond, we knew we wanted to invest resources and time to maintain its success and ensure its growth was sustainably managed. So we employed Zainab, a full-time staff member in Sierra Leone, to take on the role as Project Officer for LaunchPad. Zainab’s role is to oversee all of our LaunchPad activities across Sierra Leone, and we’re excited to build on the growth in 2017.
N’MAH AND THE ORIGINAL SAVINGS GROUP
After a couple of years of selling sanitary pads in their rural community of Maworr, two LaunchPad Champions, N’Mah and Aminata (right, holding the box) decided to join forces with other women in their community to scale their impact.
Rather than just keeping the individual profits for themselves, 20 community women decided to work together and sell the pads, and pooled all their profits together. They put them in a special box and use the collective profits to provide grants to members of the group – whether they use it to pay for school fees, food, or medicine if one of their members becomes sick.
All decisions about grants are made as a group, and no one woman owns or controls the box of profits. It’s such an incredible example of women supporting women – and in turn building up their community!
“Being a LaunchPad Champion makes me feel happy because of the knowledge I’ve gained through the project. I’m also happy because my community now knows the dangers surrounding the old method [pieces to manage menstruation].”
OUR LAUNCHPAD IMPACT IN 2016
LAUNCHPAD IN UGANDA: A RESEARCH PROJECT
In 2016 we began a 12 month research project in collaboration with the international NGO, BRAC Uganda. The research would examine education, awareness, and distribution of menstrual products in rural and urban districts of Uganda – and help us inform our future expansion of LaunchPad in Uganda. Specifically we wanted to understand the influential factors in menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in the Ugandan context.
We also wanted to look at the concept of individual choice when it comes to personal health, and explore alternative methods for menstrual hygiene management (disposable pads, reusable pads, cups, etc) and what influences women’s decisions in choosing these products. Naturally, the reasons that make disposable pads in Sierra Leone a great option, may not be significant factors in Uganda. The ongoing research project (to be concluded mid-2017) featured the following:
EMPOWERING LIVELIHOODS OF ADOLESCENTS (ELA CLUBS)
These Girls Clubs across communities in Uganda have an average of 25 members, all aged between 13-22yrs and are a mix of girls in school, out of school, and young mothers. They meet 6 days a week to learn and discuss issues important to the groups, including health and hygiene and social support.
MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT (MHM) MENTORS
Mentors are trained on menstrual hygiene management, as well as sales and promotion, to then spread awareness and knowledge about MHM and the choice of products available within the ELA Clubs. Trained mentors are also given a range of menstrual hygiene products to sell in order to make a small profit for themselves.
SURVEYS AND OBSERVATIONS
ELA Club members are surveyed on factors that influence decisions around how to manage their periods, and the overall impact of providing increased knowledge and access to safe menstrual hygiene practices. Surveys are also conducted on: decision-making in the household, MHM knowledge and practice, and how peers influence decision-making.
Through School Awesomisation we want to create effective, inclusive, and safe learning environments that cater to the needs of all children, no matter their gender or their ability.
Here are some highlights of 2016.
A NEW SCHOOL FOR RONIETTA
Our School Awesomisation project had identified the Ronietta community in rural Sierra Leone as being in urgent need of a new school building, as their current one had fallen into disrepair and was unsafe to use. Though the construction process was hampered by the Ebola outbreak, in 2016 the new Ronietta School was officially opened – giving hundreds of students in the Ronietta community a safe place to learn, grow and be educated for years to come.
COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION FROM START TO FINISH
One of the reasons we love working with our implementing partner, CORD Sierra Leone, was their emphasis on community participation at every stage of the project – from the design of the school building, to the construction, and training on school management and education policies. This hands-on involvement of the community ensured ongoing and sustainable support for the school building, that will continue well after construction has finished.
We know that mothers play a vital role in creating an environment where students can thrive – so we established Mothers’ Clubs to encourage all children, with an emphases on girls, in the community to be educated. Mothers in the Ronietta community agreed to monitor girls’ school attendance, and to ensure girls in the community were supported to continue their education through to the end of secondary school.
CATERING FOR CHILDREN OF ALL ABILITIES
Along with the three classroom blocks built – all furnished with desks, benches and a blackboard – we also built a toilet block that featured a toilet for girls, boys, and an ambulant toilet so that children with disabilities were also able to access the facilities. We know that the presence of accessible toilets plays a major role in keeping girls in school, particular during their period, and allows children of all abilities to have a toilet during school.
OUR SCHOOL AWESOMISATION IMPACT IN 2016
TOP PROGRAMS CHALLENGES
Following Ebola, the Sierra Leone academic year was condensed so time lost could be made up more quickly. For our Sierra Leone staff, this meant having a very narrow time-frame to select and organise 39 new scholarship girls before the beginning of the new academic year. In 2017 this process will start much earlier, allowing enough time for all scholars to be selected and provided with the Scholarships Package in plenty of time to start the school year- stress free!
Community consultation is key at every stage of the project implementation in order to ensure our success. Across all our projects, whether it’s Scholarships, Business Brains, LaunchPad, or School Awesomisation; making sure we have parents, students, teachers, and community leaders involved is paramount. As our projects scale and involve even more communities, making sure we are involving all those stakeholders is a challenge that we prioritise.
IN-COUNTRY CAPACITY BUILDING
With LaunchPad expanding quite rapidly, we had to ensure we were maintaining the quality and desired impact of the project, while keeping up with the increased need for this type of support within the communities we work in. We’ve employed a full-time staff member in Sierra Leone to take on the role as Project Officer for LaunchPad in order to increase our capacity on the ground and ensure the continued expansion of LaunchPad is managed well.
TOP PROGRAMS ACHIEVEMENTS
A GROWING TEAM
To respond to the growing nature of our programs, we expanded our One Girl Sierra Leone team from one full time staff member to three – in order to manage our programs in Sierra Leone. We give local people in Sierra Leone employment and training opportunities to ensure the continued sustainability of our work there. We also brought on a dedicated part-time staff member, Micaela, to manage our Sierra Leone projects from One Girl HQ in Melbourne.
STRENGTHENING STAKEHOLDER RELATIONS
Through our Business Brains partnership, our partner Restless Development, has been working alongside our One Girl Sierra Leone team to encourage greater dialogue and cooperation between schools, parents/guardians, and community leaders, in order to support our scholars to make the most of their opportunity to be in school and thrive. We know that maintaining these relationships are key to our programs’ success.
In 2016 we saw the largest ever group of One Girl graduates. One of our scholars, Fatmata, achieved the highest score of ANY One Girl scholar, passing all 9 of her subjects, and 8 with a score higher than a Credit. These are truly exceptional results in Sierra Leone where most do not even reach the end of high school, let alone pass. We’re excited to see how our projects are empowering girls to be role models and leaders in their communities, and across the country.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR PROGRAMS?
ALUMNI & BEYOND
We’re looking to further develop the Alumni program to support our growing number of One Girl Graduates. Not only will it provide a sustainable support base for scholars to reach out and seek assistance from their peers, but will represent the powerful impact girls’ education can have, from the individual to the community.
TOILETS & WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
We know that infrastructure is a huge barrier that prevents girls from attending school. We’ve already built 2 schools (with toilets) in Sierra Leone, and now we’re planning to expand School Awesomisation to put more toilets and water facilities in existing schools, as well as implementing a WASH training program.
A NEW PARTNERSHIP IN UGANDA
At the end of last year we signed a new partnership with Bulogo Womens’ Group – a grassroots NGO working to provide girls in rural areas access to education and business skills training. We’re piloting a program with them and plan on reaching thousands of girls in Uganda this year. Watch this space!
For working with us to change the world, one girl at a time. Here’s to 2017 and beyond!