The cycle of poverty keeps many girls and young women from realizing their true potential. But this cycle is difficult to break when adolescent girls become pregnant before they finish their education, which happens often in communities where we work.
That’s why Plan’s programs around the world include adolescent sexual and reproductive health education, and provide support to those who do become pregnant, enabling them to raise healthy babies and have the opportunities they need to break the cycle of poverty. These initiatives contribute to a delay in the timing of first pregnancy, and girls who do become young moms have more resources to help them continue their education and raise healthy children of their own.
Jenny lives in a community in Ghana, where Plan's maternal health project has helped to change her life.When Jenny became pregnant, she was uncertain what her future would bring. This project, made possible with your support and the support of the Government of Canada through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, helped Jenny to find hope and pointed her on the path to success.
It was through this Plan project that Jenny met Maggie, a leader of the local Mother Support Group funded by Plan. Maggie took Jenny under her wing, going with her to the health centre for her first prenatal check-up, encouraging her to stay in school, and talking to her parents and teachers about how to help.
Since then, Jenny has received incredible support.
“My teachers and I are ready to lend her any help she needs to complete school and move on to the next level of education,” says the head teacher at Jenny’s school.
Jennys father, too, has offered her support by going with her to her remaining prenatal check-ups, while her mother ensured she was eating nutritious food and getting the rest she needed.
Jenny went into labour earlier than expected, but with the assistance of midwives and a doctor at the local health centre, she had a safe delivery and gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy.
Jenny is now back in school, thanks to Plan and her parents, who are actively supporting her and caring for the baby when she’s in class. Most importantly, the baby is thriving and receiving all the love and care he needs from his family, with support from his community.
“I am motivated to complete school to ensure a bright future for my child,” says Jenny. “I know my situation would have been different without Plan.”
Girls like Jenny have unlimited potential to improve their lives and pass that on to their children. Thanks to you, they’re getting the chance they deserve to make that happen.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and food insecurity and malnutrition are widespread. When there’s scarcity like this, children and women fare the worst, and girls are the most likely to go without. When it comes to food, girls are three times as likely to be malnourished than boys, and women are more likely to be malnourished than men – which only compounds the problem for children, who are carried, cared for and fed by women.
To address the devastating effects of malnutrition on children and girls, and on pregnant and breastfeeding women, Plan has partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme to implement a nutritional support program that reached more than 65,000 girls and 12,000 women and their children in just three months.
One aspect of this project includes a component that gives girls essential food items to take home, such as cooking oils or grains, when they attend 80% of their classes. These take-home rations improve food security at home and act as an additional incentive for families to keep their daughters in school.
Thanks to Plan's school- and clinic-based food distribution program, those most likely to suffer from malnutrition are getting the support they need to stay healthy, so they can grow up strong, get an education, earn a living and make a life for themselves and their families.
Quality education, economic security, and poverty reduction are inextricably and cyclically linked. Without access to education, a person’s opportunities to earn and sustain an income are limited. Without a secure income to live off of, families struggle to meet their basic needs and cannot afford to send their children to school. Their children, denied schooling, will struggle to make a living as they mature, and the generational cycle of poverty will continue.
Most recently, 53 members of school student governments also received training in how to support a gender-sensitive environment among their peers. In addition, nearly 400 school community members participated in training on how to develop and maintain education policies that uphold these values.
In order to reinforce the relationship between microfinance groups and improved education, Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) formed by this project are organized around school communities. This way, the training received by women in the VSLA groups reinforces Plan’s awareness-raising efforts around the importance of education. Also, as mentioned above, VSLA activities help to mobilize resources for the local schools.
Plan works with children, youth, and families, helping them to overcome extreme poverty and build more secure futures for themselves. Quality education and economic security are key to reducing poverty and improving lives. This is why Plan works with communities to create quality learning environments and remove barriers that prevent children from realizing these basic rights.
When parents are living in poverty or do not understand the value of school, children are less likely to be able to attend. In order to address this barrier, Plan’s five-year project in Senegal is improving education and economic opportunity. In addition to improving school facilities, Plan is providing training to local governments, school management committees, parents and children on sustaining quality education, and supporting the formation of Village Savings and Loan Associations to improve income-generating knowledge and resources for families. Your gift to this project, now in its fourth year of implementation, is helping to ensure that quality education is accessible and that the value of that education is understood at all levels of the project communities.
Construction has been completed on new classrooms, latrines, water points and playgrounds across 60 schools. Training has been provided to over 400 teachers and school directors in classroom and school management, gender equality, and child protection, and more than 700 local government education staff have been trained so that they can monitor the schools’ successful integration of child rights and gender equality into lessons and code of conduct.
Village Savings and Loans Associations
Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) members pay a nominal membership fee to create a group fund, from which they can take out low-interest loans to support their income-generating activities and household expenses. VSLA members also receive training on financial literacy, improving their understanding of different borrowing options, how to take out loans with caution, and planning for unexpected expenses. These groups are comprised predominantly of women, providing a much needed opportunity for women to contribute to their household income and improve their decision-making power within their homes and communities.
To date, 706 VSLAs have been formed, and members have received training in financial literacy and accessing market opportunities. What’s more, many of the VSLAs have developed partnerships with their local schools to collaborate and offer mutual support. Partnerships have also been formed between different VSLA groups, allowing members to come together to take on opportunities in the area. These developments are further proof of the impact of these groups on economic empowerment, and how economic empowerment can, in turn, improve access to education.
The five-year project you have supported in Senegal is now in its fourth year of implementation. Since the project’s inception, new classrooms, latrines, water points, and playgrounds have been built across 60 schools in three regions of Senegal (Thies, Saint Louis and Kaolak) to improve the quality of education and maintain high enrollment and retention rates. In addition, thousands of women are augmenting their assets and livelihoods with loans from Village Savings and Loan Associations. With greater economic security, parents are better able to support their children’s education, nutrition, and health care.
The “cine-bus”!Plan Senegal used an innovative approach to raising community awareness on child rights, gender equality, hygiene, and sanitation. Instead of holding conventional community meetings, project facilitators screened messages and skits on a film. The film screen, however, did not reside in a fixed spot. It was carried around in a vehicle (top, right photo), which traveled from one community to the next, educating children and their families in an engaging, interactive way. Community members gather around the cinebus, to watch the film (middle photo), and have a chance to ask questions and discuss issues after the presentation (bottom, right photo). Information shared by the cinebus was also disseminated through radio broadcasts and theatre productions.
The forward momentum of microfinanceIn the third year of this project, 291 new Village Savings and Loan Associations were formed by community agents trained by Plan’s local partner, APROFES (Association for the Advancement of Senegalese Women). In addition to undertaking financial training, many VSLA members have participated in training on gender equality, child rights, or school gardening. The 156 groups established in the first two years are no longer being supervised, as they have been through several lending cycles and have mastered the financial and operational knowledge to function on their own. The table below presents a breakdown of the all VSLAs’ progress across the three regions:
Actual TargetGroup meeting attendance rate 94% 80%Members holding loans 64% 30% Retention rate of members in groups 100% 95%Average savings balance (USD) $20.41 $20
As you can see from this table, VSLA groups are performing above target levels across all measures, indicating the motivation, diligence, and success of the members. The 100% retention rate is particularly impressive, as it is common for a few members to leave the group after a year or two due to factors such as family migration, or time-consuming duties in their homes or farms.
VSLA meetings are run in a strict, systematic way, to ensure that the group fund is secure, and all loans and repayments are accounted for. The money box is guarded and managed by a group treasurer, and a record keeper enters all transactions in each member’s financial passbook. By joining VSLAs, women are not only accessing loans, but also learning about financial management and accountability - essential knowledge that creates a transformational impact on women’s role and influence in their homes and communities.
Plan has worked with students, teachers and community members to create learning environments that offer quality education and protection, over the past three years. None of this transformational work would be possible without your generous support and concern for children and their families in Senegal. Thank you!
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Coordinator, Individual & Corporate Philanthropy