Sep 24, 2014

Get ready to BE BOLD on the Int'l Day of the Girl!

Mariama, age 15, Sierra Leone
Mariama, age 15, Sierra Leone

“I want to BE BOLD and speak out without shame.  Then I can help and teach others.”  Mariama, a 15-year-old girl from Sierra Leone says confidently.  In her hometown of Songo, Mariama takes a proud stand for the rights of girls with disabilities, so they will be protect from abuse and included with all children in school and the community. 

Join Mariama and millions of people around the world on October 11th, the 3rd International Day of the Girl, as we celebrate the bold actions of girls, women, boys, and men who stand up for girls’ rights every day.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”

Because of your generous support of the Because I am a Girl program, over 30,000 girls in 8 countries have what they need to thrive: schools, water, scholarships, healthcare, financial knowledge, practical skills, and the support of hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, and community members. 

Here’s snapshot of what you’ve accomplished for girls around the world:

  • Burkina Faso: One new school complex and 8 new supplementary classrooms were constructed, and scholarships for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school year were awarded to 300 girls;
  • El Salvador: 1,396 girls and 139 boys were educated on violence prevention;
  • Ethiopia: 5 schools were equipped with water tanks and pipes, science equipment and library books; 400 girls received school uniforms; and 240 parents are saving money in Savings Groups;
  • India: 2,000 girls at risk of child labor were enrolled in school, and 2,000 parents of at-risk girls were connected with employment programs to support their families;
  • Indonesia: 150 adolescent girls learned to facilitate peer trainings on life skills and health;
  • Nepal: 139 alternative education centers are teaching 3,479 girls and boys to prevent trafficking;
  • Sierra Leone: 240 savings groups are teaching 3,114 girls how to save and manage money, in addition to confidence and life skills;
  • Vietnam: 566 Savings Groups are serving 9,326 members (90% women and girls).

But the change is even bigger than these numbers:  A local Plan staff member who works on the Because I am a Girl project in Sierra Leone says, “There is a change now in the way that girls are seen.  There was a time in these communities when they could treat girls badly, but now it’s different.  Girls eat with parents out of the same bowl.” 


Jun 30, 2014

Satellite savings groups in Sierra Leone show that if you educate a girl she'll uplift her community

Isha, pictured on left with her friend
Isha, pictured on left with her friend

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. 

Isha's mother Tokumbo at the marketplace
Isha's mother Tokumbo at the marketplace
Apr 16, 2014

What's even better than a scholarship for a girl? A mother who can send her daughter to school.

Sheway in her coffee shop
Sheway in her coffee shop

     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.”     


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