Women's Global Education Project

Women's Global Education Project was founded on the idea that everyone is entitled to an education, regardless of gender or economic status. We believe that universal education, gender equality and empowerment of women are critical to a society's development. Our mission is to provide access to education and develop training program that empower women and girls, particularly those in developing nations, to build better lives and foster equitable communities.
Feb 7, 2011

73 Girls Say "No!" to genital cutting

When Women's Global set up our Sisters to School Kenya program in 2007, we found that many girls in the Tharaka region quit school as soon as they underwent female genital mutilation (FGM), which is still widely practiced in the Tharaka region and other parts of Africa.

Women's Global believes that in order to successfully combat the practice of FGM, solutions must address the cultural and social underpinnings of FGM on multiple levels.

With our partner organization Ntanira Na Mugambo Tharaka Women’s Welfare Project (TWWP), we have developed a community education program aimed at helping communities in Tharaka eradicate this harmful practice by working through these cultural and social issues.

Called Circumcision with Words, our program also seeks to weave together the themes of girls' education, empowerment and the eradication of FGM in our awareness efforts and to offer families and communities alternate ways to celebrate a girl's rite of passage into womanhood without genital cutting.

Peace Corps Volunteer and WGEP Intern Hayley Webster spent 10 days in Tharaka, Kenya in December 2010 with WGEP Kenya, helping to facilitate the 2010 annual “Circumcision With Words” Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony. Hayley has been an intern with WGEP since 2008 and is currently serving as a public health Peace Corps Volunteer in Kakamega, Western Province, which is about 230 miles from the WGEP site in Tharaka.

Alternative Rite of Passage Program to combat female genital mutilation (FGM)
The 2010 “Circumcision with Words” Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) ceremony was attended by 73 girls ranging from Class 3 (3rd grade) students to secondary school students. Originally, more than 100 girls had registered for the ARP, but a local Methodist church decided to also host an anti-FGM program, and girls from that church opted to participate in that program instead.

The participants in our ARP program became involved in the ARP after being WGEP Kenya scholars and through their participation in activities run by WGEP Kenya partner Tharaka Women’s Welfare Programme. Many of the girls in this year’s ARP also have older sisters who have undergone FGM, but after participating in WGEP Kenya programs, these girls decided not to follow in the tradition of their sisters. Three families pulled out their girls at the last minute because they wanted them to be circumcised; TWWP went to visit and talk with the families and succeeded in persuading them to let their girls opt out of circumcision. These girls will participate in the 2011 ARP program.

The 5-day ARP program was designed to mimic a traditional circumcision ceremony in which girls are first secluded for several days with other women and girls for the cutting, capped off by a celebration with family and friends at the end of the seclusion. The girls in the ARP were “secluded” for four days of awareness and empowerment workshops, after which a formal ceremony was celebrated with family, friends and neighbors with songs, dances and speeches.

According to TWWP member and WGEP Project Coordinator Aniceta Kiriga, a significant change in attitudes in the community since TWWP was first founded, with children now taking the initiative to refuse FGM and many men publicly supporting ARP programs. The program has seen great success in the immediate area, and TWWP is hoping to replicate the program in the interior of Tharaka, where FGM is still widespread.

The Tharaka Women’s Welfare Programme (TWWP) is a local , woman-led community organization that facilitates the WGEP Kenya Sisters-to-School program. TWWP was established in 1995 with the aim of eradicating female genital mutilation in Eastern Province and was the first such program in Kenya. To date, TWWP has helped more than 2,500 girls and their families to say “No!” to female genital mutilation.

Drip irrigation, IGAs and sack gardening
During her visit to Tharaka, Hayley also worked with TWWP to investigate opportunities within the community for drip irrigation, sack gardening and other income-generating activities (IGA). Drip irrigation can allow farmers to grow crops using a minimal supply of water, which can be especially helpful to families in an area like Tharaka which has been plagued by drought. Sack gardening can help families easily grow additional vegetables to improve nutrition especially during times of drought, famine and failed harvests. Additional income-generating activities, such as developing handmade goods from easily obtainable local materials for tourists/export, can give women an additional source of income for their families.

In addition to enhancing the financial stability of local families, these practices can also help keep students, especially girls, in school, since many parents in the area will have their children drop out of school during times of financial hardship or famine so they can assist with providing for the family. The hope is that practices such as drip irrigation, sack gardening and other income-generating activities will help families stay financially stable and allow them to keep their children in school. 



Dec 8, 2010

Making a Personal Difference: scholar Diama Gaye

Diama and her father Oussman
Diama and her father Oussman

Thank you for your support of Women's Global Education Project-Senegal in 2010!

You have helped us touch the lives of girls in remote, rural areas of Senegal and help them have the chance for an education--a chance that they might otherwise never get. Because they are now able to go to school, our scholars can have hope of a changed life and of building a brighter future, and they in turn are also changing the minds and hopes of family, friends and communities around them.

One such girl is Diama Gaye.

Although unusual for their rural community of Diossong, Senegal, Diama was sent to school at a young age. This was because her mother valued education and wanted her daughter to have opportunities in life that she herself never had. But when her mother suddenly died, Diama's father, Oussman, withdrew his daughter from school and kept her at home to take over the house chores.

The young Diama was befriended by Maimona Ndong, a teacher at the local school, who began to mentor her. Maimona saw how much Diama wanted to go back to school and decided to talk to Oussman. At first, Oussman was unwilling to send his daughter back to school, especially because he could no longer afford the school fees.

Maimona, however, wouldn't give up. She told Oussman about Women's Global Education Project and our Sisters-to-School scholarship program and promised to help Diama apply for a scholarship to pay for the school fees.  It took some time, but eventually, Oussman agreed.

Now 12 years old, Diama is doing well in school and is aspiring to become an entrepreneur to help her community. Her father is proud of her success and has now become a strong advocate in the village for girls' education. As a religious leader, Oussman has been key in helping to change minds and in persuading other families to send their own daughters to school.

"School has been very positive for my daughter," Oussman says. "After seeing what it has done for her, I now believe that it is very important for girls to go to school."

Oct 13, 2010

Senegal kicks off new school year with law change to help more children stay in school

Peace Corps Volunteer Elida Lynch, currently serving in Sokone, Senegal, and helping WGEP's program there, blogs about recent changes to the Senegalese education system.

Beginning with the 2010/2011 school year, the Ministry of Education in Senegal has eliminated the exclusive national entrance exam for the grade 6iéme, which will allow more grammar school students to continue their secondary school education!

In past years, students were required to pass three rigorous exams at different points in their academic career in order to be allowed to remain in school. The first exam, the entrance exam for 6iéme, took place after the sixth year of school and was required for continuing to the secondary level. The second, the BEFEM, is required for entrance to high school, and the third--the Baccalaureate--is taken at the end of high school. If a student fails a test he/she is allowed to repeat the year and the exam once. After failing for a second time, the child is automatically excluded from school for the rest of their school-age years.  

This policy has prevented many children from continuing their education past the elementary level, particularly impacting children from poor rural communities who have fewer resources and less access to the quality education and academic tutoring needed to pass the exclusive examinations.

The État Général de l’Éducation of Senegal has recognized that this policy conflicts with the legally recognized right and obligation of children to attend school for at least 10 years.  Therefore, the government has abolished the entrance exam for secondary school because it automatically limited anyone who didn’t pass to only six years of schooling. The government has long recognized that the entrance exam for 6iéme prevented children from attending school but could not afford the costs associated with maintaining all children in school through middle school. Starting this school year, the government will implement changes to honor its obligation to provide schooling for every child. Because this will increase the number of students in middle school, the government has pledged to construct new middle schools. In the past secondary schools were located only in certain towns and students who lived in villages outside of walking distance to the town were forced to find lodging in the town if they wished to continue their education. The new schools will be located so as to enable children living in villages to attend school without leaving home.  

These changes have been made possible through the partnership of local communities, the international community and the Senegalese government. Local communities have donated land for the new schools, and the international community and NGOs are funding the construction and equipping of new schools. The government will then provide teachers and staff for the newly built schools. With the help of NGOs and international aid, the government is able to support more schools and educate more children.  

Other future changes planned for the Senegalese education system include the provision of school supplies to each student by the government, school uniforms, the replacement of the first year of secondary school with a preparatory year to help students transition between elementary and secondary school, and an increase in the number of high schools and universities throughout the country. All of these changes are projected to increase access to education, as well as the quality of education throughout the country and were possible only through the engagement of NGOs and the international community.   

With more children given the opportunity to access secondary education, programs such as WGEP's Sisters-to-School can make a real difference in helping families overcome the financial, cultural and academic barriers that can keep their children from taking full advantage of these opportunities.

Thank you for supporting us in this important work!




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