Belief in oneself must be developed
Most girls in Niger leave school before they have finished their studies. The Sarraounia project (Enabel) tries to reverse this trend by boosting the girls' self-confidence. Chérifa testifies.
For Chérifa, a smiling girl of 16, things have already started to change. ”I am aware that I am fortunate that I can go to school,“ she says. ”Last year, I could not get my Junior Secondary Education Certificate, but this time, my parents told me to focus on my studies instead of helping with household chores. I took their advice at heart and you can see the result: I obtained my certificate!“
”What matters most to me is that I made new friends through this journey. In my village, many girls of my age are already married and stay at home. Consequently, I do not leave our yard myself; I do not find the courage to go for a walk on my own,” she adds. Actually, the legal age for girls getting married in Niger is 15, but in practice often girls are married at age 12. At age 15, one in three girls in Niger is already married and has had its first baby.
”Admittedly, often the high school drop-out rates are used as an argument not to invest in education. And instead, too many parents decide to marry their girls early,” adds Fati, the secretary of the pupils’ mothers’ association in Birni N’Falla. ”Yet, it is the parents who should take things at heart. If they know there are no desks or seats in their children’s class rooms, they should start saving to pay for them. If they know their daughter has to walk three kilometres before she gets to school, they must get organised and find an appropriate means of transportation. I am afraid that the early marriage tradition threatens the future of young girls. They rarely complete their education and their prospects are therefore limited and so they remain illiterate and poor, like their parents. “
It is important to address the root of the problem as well as the practice of early marriage itself. How the Sarraounia project addresses the issue of the education of girls from several angles – committing with parents and the community, and focusing on gender role perceptions, on empowerment and on self-confidence – is an important lesson from this experience. ”I now can argue with those who claim you do not need studies to be successful in life,” confirms Chérifa.