Our Scholarship program was our very first education program in Sierra Leone and it’s probably the one you associate most with One Girl. It was Brenda’s story — our very first One Girl Scholar — that sparked the creation of One Girl! Since then, we’ve been committed to making sure that all our programs are having the biggest and most effective impact for girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda. So much so, that we recently had an independent evaluator travel to Sierra Leone to review of our Scholarships program. We wanted this evaluator to take a good, in-depth look into our program; to analyse just how impactful it really is, and not just for the girls involved, but for everyone in their communities. Not to toot our own horn, but the results are pretty incredible! We know that when a girl gets an education, something extraordinary happens: her life, her community and her world changes. But for too long, the potential of girls has been squashed. Poverty, early marriage, teen pregnancy, violence, illness, disability and household responsibilities being seen as the priority are all barriers that have prevented girls from completing school. All a girl needs to thrive and succeed is an opportunity; an opportunity like a One Girl Scholarship. Our scholarships provide girls with essential materials like a school bag, uniforms, a solar lamp to study and school books. Her family and community supply her with emotional support, advice, encouragement and guidance through our Education and Women’s Committees and Fambul Toks (family talks).
The rest she does herself. This ain’t a handout — it’s simply opening a door that was previously closed and making sure it doesn’t hit her on the way through.After not being in school for nearly four years, Bintu* has become a One Girl Scholar and has been studying back at school for more than three years now. “I was going to school at first because my aunt was paying my fees … Later my aunt said she could no longer pay for me because she has no money. So I stopped going to school. “When I met One Girl I thought, ‘Oh, my dreams are coming to pass’. I know that by going to school and studying hard I can become that great person. “School is important because it helps each and every one in order for us to be able to achieve our dreams … If I stay in school I know that I’ll become a great person, I know that I will help my colleagues or even my family, my little siblings. I’ll help other people who are vulnerable and who cannot pay their school fees for themselves. If I am educated, if I have a job, I’ll be able to help them as well. “Going back to school has changed my life completely. Completely!” — Bintu, Sierra Leone
So what did we learn from the evaluation?
- One Girl scholar graduation rates are at 88.2% compared with national average: 16%!
- One Girl Scholars are paying it forward: Most of the girls we interviewed are sharing the knowledge they’ve gained from the program with their family members, their friends and their community!
- The barriers to education are real — but the program is helping girls to tear them down.
- The program is making girls more confident: Many girls said they now have the tools and confidence to know that what they have to say matters!
- Their communities are feeling the ripple effects: There has been a major shift in the way girls’ education is perceived in all of the communities we work with!