Village Savings and Loan Groups have been used in a number of countries throughout the world, including Sierra Leone, to introduce low-income communities to the basics of saving money and planning for future expenses, particularly when banks are not easily accessible. These skills are especially valuable for young women in Sierra Leone, as more than 70% will be single mothers at some point in their lives.
Plan’s Because I am a Girl Program in Sierra Leone teaches these skills to girls as young as 7 years old, in Girls’ Savings and Loan Groups, in order to prepare them to manage money before they even get their first job. As with adults, these Savings Groups build confidence and provide a platform to teach other skills, such as public speaking, violence prevention, and business skills.
15-year-old Isha joined the Savings Group in her community of Songo, and was selected as a Girl Ambassador to teach her peers what she learned. “The most important thing I learned was how to talk in public,” she says. “I used to be quiet and not speak out, but now I am bold and confident.”
After a year of saving money, Isha gave the money that she’d saved to her mother, Tokumbo, who used it to pay for her school fees and invest in the family business. Tokoumbo, was impressed by what she saw.
“What was interesting to me was that the children really prepared for the Savings Group meetings — they washed up and put on their best clothes to go meet with each other,” says Tokumbo. “I admire my girl when she is bold now to stand up for her rights.
“And all of us parents were impressed by the money that the children could save. We decided that we wanted to do this Savings Group as adults. Now every Wednesday on market day, 10 of us meet together, and we each give 10,000 leons (about $2) to one person in our group. We’ve been doing this now for 15 weeks. Every week we give to a different person. This is all because of the girls who first started doing this.”
Girls’ Savings Groups in Sierra Leone build confidence and lay a practical foundation to help a girl thrive in the future. Moreover, these girls share their knowledge and skills with their families — revealing that if you educate a girl, you can change the world.
Shewaye is a mother of two who lives in Akaki Kality, a slum on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are thousands of people but very few ways to make money, and many are homeless.
“I have always been looking for ways to support my children since my husband died,” Shewaye confessed. “A friend gave me the idea to go to another country and be a nanny for other children, and I even got the visa to go.
“But I couldn’t leave my children here. Right before he died, my husband told me, ‘If you get remarried you have to find someone who really loves the children.’” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Taking care of my children is more important than anything else in the world.”
Adolescent girls are at a critical point in their lives, and your support has provided scholarships to make sure that these girls, like Shewaye’s daughter Mebrate, receive the vital education that they need to thrive in the future. But we don’t want girls to be dependent on scholarships—ideally, loving parents like Shewaye would be able to provide for their children.
That’s why your gifts to the Because I am a Girl project in Ethiopia provide scholarships for girls AND business training and microfinance opportunities for parents through savings groups.
“When I was first invited to the savings group, I wasn’t interested in it,” Shewaye admitted. “I was so busy raising my children as a single mom, and I thought it was a waste of time. But when I listened to the ideas behind the savings group, I thought I would give it a try. I was selling coffee to try to make money, and after I joined the savings group, I’ve been able to start selling food as well. I rented more space with a loan of 500 Birr (about $25). I only wish I had learned these business skills earlier so I could have beneitted even more. I can manage my money well now.”
Shewaye is the cashier of her savings group and says that everyone in the group is doing well now. They are making plans to join together to create a larger business as a group selling juice and food to hotels.
“Because of the savings group, I can care for my children right here with them,” says Shewaye. “I hope that your support will continue to reach others like it has reached me.”
A secondary school education is life-changing for a girl in rural Burkina Faso. Without this opportunity, a girl will marry at the age of 15 or 16, become pregnant before her body is ready to give birth, and face a life of hard domestic or agricultural labor.
However, in rural parts of Burkina Faso, there simply are no secondary schools, and girls never get the chance to continue their education after primary school. If schools do exist, they are often overcrowded, over 100 students into one classroom. They are located far away for many students, who often walk 8 to 10 miles to get to school and have no way of getting lunch at midday.
But thanks to your dedicated support, the rural province of Namentenga, Burkina Faso, welcomed a brand new secondary school complex, including four classrooms, a library and canteen, a teacher’s meeting room, and separate latrines for boys and girls - an important safety issue for girls at school. At full capacity, the school will house 210 new students.
Additionaly, eight new classrooms have been added to schools in other communities of Namentenga. Over the next two years, this will provide an additional 1,120 students with access to an education.
Both the school complex and the classroom projects are carried out in full partnership with the local government, who has committed to training and hiring teachers and managing the school completely.
With your support, Namentenga is looking forward the future construction of a girls’ dormitory, libraries, and laboratories in existing schools to make sure that a quality education is available for all students. In addition, teachers will be trained in gender-sensitive methods, and girls will continue to receive scholarships to offset school fees.
Passekdo, a 14-year-old girl in Namentenga, would never have gone to school if it weren't for you. Her father died when she was just a toddler, and her mother has struggled every day to feed Passekdo and her four sisters and brothers. When Passekdo became pregnant at the painfully young age of 11, her fate might have been sealed. However, her mother was determined to give her daughter a better life. She helps to look after Passekdo's baby, and thanks to the scholarship and the new school in the community, Passekdo can continue her education. She is now ranked second in her entire class.
Passekdo now dreams of becoming a math teacher. She says, "In life, if you stay behind, you will only be able to pick among what others have thrown away. I don't want to be left behind."
And thanks to you, she won't be.
It’s tempting to think of child marriage as a bizarre ceremony arranged by distant family members and forced on girls in the middle of the night.
Although this sometimes does happen, child marriage and union are far more common than that. One in four girls is married by the age of 18 in 50 countries around the world. The true nature of child marriage is subtle, making it all the more insidious. Preventing child marriage, therefore, must happen at a personal level.
El Salvador is one of these countries where child marriage/union is commonplace – while it is typically not an arranged marriage, the abuse that a girl endures is no less damaging.
Carina’s* mother died a few years ago, and she is being raised by her grandfather and her grandfather’s wife Rosa* in their community in La Libertad. Like most mothers in the world (biological or not), Rosa wants nothing less than the best for her daughter.
But in La Libertad, it is easy for a girl to slip between the cracks.
Carina says, “I used to think it was normal for a 13-year-old girl to live with a man who is 25 or 30 – it happens all the time. He’d threaten her and bully her, and say, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll do something bad to you or your family,’ so girls think they have to go live with him. We’re taught to put up with it."
Through the Because I am a Girl project, Carina learned that this abuse is not normal and can be prevented. What's more, she learned how to communicate with her peers and help girls who were falling into the trap of forced union.
“I’m learning that boys and girls both have value; we are equals. We should all work together to make a better life. And now I can help my friends who experience violence. I have one friend who came to me; she’s 15 years old and has a baby and lives with her boyfriend who is a lot older than she is. He was beating her, and she didn’t know what to do. She came to me, and I helped her to understand how to talk to him. I explained that they have to think about their baby boy. As he grows up he needs good role models; he can’t see his father beating his mother, because he’ll do that too. So she talked to her boyfriend, and he doesn’t hit her anymore.”
“Our house is like a clinic!” Rosa says. “We always have girls now coming to ask for advice, and we help them get out of bad relationships.”
“It’s true,” Carina agrees. “I wish I could tell all of the girls in my community, ‘We’re not less! Sometimes men look down on women, but we have to stand up and be confident. We’re worth it!’”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
We are so excited about two new partners!
Girl Rising Coming Soon to Theaters
“I will read. I will study. I will learn…. If you stop me, there will be other girls who rise up and take my place.
“I am change.”
When we heard these words on the film Girl Rising, produced by the global social action campaign 10x10, it was clear that Because I Am A Girl and 10x10 were meant to be partners.
Since 2010, Plan has been collaborating with 10x10, together reaching wider audiences to promote our shared vision of girls’ education. Their film Girl Rising tells the individual stories of girls around the world who confront overwhelming odds every day. Narrated by renowned actresses including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Selena Gomez, the film is a powerful spotlight on the world-changing potential that each girl possesses.
At the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, attended by Because I Am A Girl Global Ambassador Freida Pinto, the official trailer for Girl Rising was released. This beautiful documentary, years in the making, hits theaters in March around the country.
One of the girls featured in Girl Rising is Yasmin, whose real identity is protected due to safety concerns. Yasmin has been involved with Plan’s non-formal education programs in Egypt. While her story is yet to be fully written, she can teach us all a thing or two about courage and inner strength. Although she may be limited by gender roles in her country, her imagination and dreams know no bounds.
In the words of Freida Pinto, Yasmin—and countless other girls like her—“do not see themselves as victims, but they definitely want and need our help to achieve their full potential.”
Together with 10x10, Because I Am A Girl is raising awareness about the challenging cultural and economic situations that keep girls out of school, and working to break down these barriers to give girls like Yasmin the opportunity for an education.
Welcome to Kate Nash, Our Newest Global Ambassador!
We’re delighted to welcome singer/songwriter Kate Nash as our newest Because I Am A Girl Global Ambassador. Kate’s powerful and passionate voice will be an incredible channel to spread the word about the transformative power of investing in girls.
“I'm so happy to be a part of this campaign; it feels like the perfect charity for me to join forces with. I love empowering women and girls, and being able to do this in developing countries in parts of the world I have never been to is so exciting,” says Kate. “I can't wait to help give girls the opportunities they deserve and see them realize their full potential."
In March, Because I Am A Girl will join Kate Nash on her 11-date North American tour coinciding with the release of her new album “GIRL TALK.” The tour will begin in Boston, making stops across the Midwest and Canada, then returning for a grand finale in New York City.
Thanks to Kate, everywhere you turn, people will be talking about girls.
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