Because I am a Girl - Plan International USA

by Plan International USA
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.” 


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
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.”     


New school complex in Namentenga Province!
New school complex in Namentenga Province!

     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.  

Without you, Passekdo wouldn
Without you, Passekdo wouldn't have gone to school
Carina explains how to prevent child marriage.
Carina explains how to prevent child marriage.

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. 


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Organization Information

Plan International USA

Location: Warwick, RI - USA
Website: https:/​/​
Project Leader:
Judithe Registre
Warwick, RI United States
$14,666 raised of $70,000 goal
322 donations
$55,334 to go
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