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Mali’s girls put education first May 15, 2011

Posted by chezanni in Relief Work.
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By: Krsna Harilela | http://www.cnn.com

Bamako, Mali (CNN) — For many young girls in Mali the reality of life is to stay at home and help with the housework or be sent to work in the gold mines.

But one group is trying to change the lives of girls in this West African country and provide them with an education and dreams for a brighter future.

Plan International has launched a worldwide campaign in the hope of tackling issues affecting young girls in developing countries.

The primary aim of the organization’s “Because I’m a Girl” campaign is to keep girls in education. According to Plan a staggering 75 million girls around the world are not in school.

Mali is one of Africa’s poorest countries and Plan hopes to spread the message that an educated girl is more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children.

It supports a community group in Mali called “Fight for Girls” that meets regularly in a village not far from the capital city Bamako.

The group of girls range from primary school age to university age. The group’s protection and participation program encourages girls to talk about pertinent issues in their lives.

My schooling is not a priority for the family and my family prefer me to marry.
–Korotoumou Diarra, aged 13

Amita is one of the girls that attend the group; like many she has a desire to learn and wants to go to school.

“My favorite subject is biology, it is very important to me because I want to become a doctor,” she said.

Plan says a quality education could dramatically improve a girl’s chances in life and sees it as key in helping lift millions out of poverty.

But as many of the girls will point out it’s domestic demands that hold them back.

“Because I am a girl I am not able to go early to school every day because of the house work,” explained 12-year-old Aminata Traore.

Another girl, 13-year-old Korotoumou Diarra, says it is not in her parents’ interests for her to go to school.

“My schooling is not a priority for the family and my family prefers me to marry,” she said.

The group says that a girl is less likely to marry and have children when she is still a child if she gains an education. It recognizes that at times all it takes is basic infrastructure to relieve the strain of domestic life and provide girls with more opportunity.

One of its initiatives is to encourage mothers to take their children to early-leaning centers. Young children can play there, meaning their older siblings don’t have to stay at home and care for them instead of going to school.

However, in a village just three hours away there is another lure for them.

Many here go to work in the gold mines, following in the footsteps of their parents, instead of staying in education.

Like many, 14-year-old Fantakita is from a large family of more than 20. Both her parents work in the mines and they have asked her to join them to help support the family.

“My teacher didn’t want me to drop out to school but my father wanted me to double the income,” she said. “My mother wanted me to continue to study but I kept on thinking about my mum and her suffering in the heat of working on the mine so I need to help.”

Another mine worker is Ymenkoru. She wasn’t performing well in school so she felt working in the mines was a better choice.

For many girls, the prospect of a regular income is more attractive than going to school — another challenge for Plan to take on.

For now, though, the community groups initiated by the “Because I’m a Girl” campaign have created an environment where children can be themselves, while finding solutions to the problems faced by girls in Mali for generations.

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