The Barrier Girls Face Going to School We Forgot

The Barrier Girls Face Going to School We Forgot

Year by year Sherbro Foundation has worked to remove the barriers girls face going to secondary school, starting with school fee scholarships.

When the Sierra Leone government began paying school fees in 2018, we shifted our scholarships to buy school uniforms. No textbooks? We provided notebooks for students to copy notes teachers write on blackboards.

Girls have trouble passing the senior high entrance exam? We helped our partner CCET-SL run an after-school tutoring program preparing 9th graders for the exam.

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 18 (3)But we forgot one important barrier to girls regularly attending school.

We were thinking of school as a program or a project.

We weren’t thinking about the girl.

Girls have menstrual periods.

If a girl can’t afford a $25 school uniform – or three meals a day – she can’t afford Western style feminine hygiene products.

When I started asking about this, the stories came out. Girls use rags or whatever else they come up with for their periods in place of feminine pads. If they have a heavy flow or painful day, girls stay home and miss school. Every month.

Think of the girls like Humu who walk many miles and have long days away from home. How can you walk 7 miles with menstrual cramps? And on a road where there’s no place to deal with their makeshift “pad.” Staying home from school is too often the solution.

IMG_4363 (4)Schools at best have a few latrines. Some schools don’t have on-site water – there’s no well or the pump doesn’t work. Forget sinks or wash stations at the latrines.

I asked the Ahmadiyya Islamic school principal, with an all male staff, what they encounter with girls and their periods. Yes, it can be a problem, Mr. Sesay said. As the only local Islamic school, most girls walk 3 miles to school, and some as far as 7 or 8 miles each way.

Every woman can relate to being caught away from home and unprepared when their period starts. If a girls starts her period unprepared at the rural Ahmadiyya school, she has to inform a male teacher who takes her to a stream to wash herself.

Sierra Leone students already miss enough school: bad weather; they’re needed at home on the farm for planting and harvesting; they’re sick. Think of how a girl can get further behind in classes if she misses school every month for her period.

All these things chip away at a teenage girl’s self-esteem – and her confidence and commitment to continue her education. She’s at risk of dropping out.

OK, we now got it. We’re adding Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kits to this year’s scholarship package.

DfG 3 (2)Every girl will get a kit in a colorful bag with 2 washable shields, 8 washable pads of an absorbent flannel type material and zip lock bags to hold soiled pads.

They can be reused for 2 or 3 years.

 

Days for Girls is a global organization addressing girls and menstrual hygiene in developing countries.

They help local groups hand-make the menstrual hygiene kits with materials proven effective after years of experience. And they supply educational materials on menstruation and sex education.

To understand more of what African girls face in handling this every-month reality of life, watch this Days for Girls video.

period-end-of-sentence_710x400xtIf you have Netflix, you’ll want to see the 2019 Oscar winner for short documentary, Period. End of Sentence. It’s an uplifting film on how rural Indian women took charge of their menstrual dilemma and turned it into a cottage industry business, hand-making feminine pads for their community. 

More good news. Just as we were grappling with how to pay for the Days for Girls kits for our 460 scholarship girls, Schools for Salone contacted us. Another former Peace Corps Volunteer-led nonprofit for Sierra Leone, they started a workshop in Freetown making the DfG menstrual kits.

DfG 2 (3)Through their own fundraising, Schools for Salone offered us a steep discount on the kits. They know Sherbro Foundation has a successful grassroots program that will ensure the kits get to the kind of rural Sierra Leone girls we both work to serve.

We’re grateful to partner with Schools for Salone and enable Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to be beneficiaries of their successful fundraising efforts.

What can you do? Now that you get it, send a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl to school with a $30 scholarship that includes a Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit.

You’ll not only send a girl to school, you’ll help keep her in school every day of the month.  Thank you.

Send Sierra Leone Girls Back to School, Improve the World.

Send Sierra Leone Girls Back to School, Improve the World.

We’re kicking off the 2019-20 Girls Scholarship campaign to keep Bumpeh Chiefdom girls in school – and send more to senior high than ever before.

The 460 girls you sent to secondary school this past year are counting on us to return them to class in September. In our seventh campaign, we’re optimistic with your help we can meet – and hopefully beat – this goal. 

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 3 (4)Educating girls is one the highest impact things we can do to lift women and their communities out of poverty.

“No single change can do more to improve the state of the world.”            — Melinda Gates on elevating the state of women.

Education is where it starts.

It’s amazing that for Sierra Leone girls it can start with a $30 scholarship. But you already know that.

With your generosity, Sherbro Foundation’s scholarship program has grown year by year. More Bumpeh Chiefdom girls are entering junior high and advancing to senior high.  We even started two college scholarships.  And we gave an additional 10 percent of scholarships (46) last year for the most vulnerable secondary boys.

Imagine the impact we’ll have in one community by returning 506 teens (460 girls plus 46 boys)  And keep our college students moving through their degrees. We would be thrilled to do even more this year with your help.

Girls like Humu are waiting. You’re helping her beat all odds.

Huma Kamara BASS jss3 orphan grandparents Mokebbie 8 (2)When I first saw Humu’s photo I thought, there’s a tall, slender, poised girl.  A 16-year-old often shoots up in height, thin until she fills out. But I found there are other reasons why Humu is so slender.

Humu is an orphan living with her grandparents, left, subsistence farmers in Mokebbie village, seven miles outside Rotifunk. She walks there every day to attend secondary school. Walking 14 miles a day, every day, would make anyone rail thin.

Humu gets up before dawn and leaves home before 6:30 a.m. to reach school by 8. It’s the rainy season; downpours often start at dawn. She could be soaked when she arrives at Bumpeh Academy. When the heaviest monsoon rains fall, she may be forced to stay home and miss school.

Scholarships keep Humu in school. Quiet and serious, Humu is completing junior school with her second Sherbro Foundation scholarship. She’s intent on finishing school and going beyond.

20190128_170706 (2)Humu attends our partner CCET-SL’s after-school tutoring program, left, also funded by Sherbro Foundation, that prepares girls for their senior high entrance exam.

Given the distance to her home, she must stay in town until the 4 p.m. classes begin.

This means Humu can’t go home for the day’s main – and perhaps only – meal. She’ll go twelve hours or more without eating, after walking 14 miles.

Road to MokebbieI was concerned for Humu’s safety walking this distance alone in the dark. I was relieved to hear she walks with several other Mokebbie village students.

It will be 7:30 P.M. before she returns home and can finally have her main meal for the day.

Humu is focused on what she can do after graduating. “I want to become a bank manager, to repay my grandparents who brought me up after the death of my parents.”

Humu is thinking in practical terms of how she can earn a living. Beyond teaching and nursing, banking is one of the few wage-paying professions a village girl like Humu can observe and aspire to.

Scholarships reduce dropouts. Support to continue beyond 9th grade is critical in a Sierra Leone girl’s education, when many parents can no longer afford to keep her in school. Younger children may need their chance for education.  Girls may already have had an interrupted education, and at 16 to 18, they’re seen as old enough to work on the farm or trade in the market. Early marriage and pregnancy typically follow, ending a girl’s chance for a better life.

A very modest $30 scholarship changes that. Sherbro Foundation has supported 789 girls over the last four years with 1684 scholarships. Because of your help, nearly 800 girls have had a chance to reach for their potential and embark on new lives.

Of these, 252 received repeat scholarships for three or four years, enabling many to complete junior high or senior high. A record 170 made it to senior high on scholarship this year alone. 

Huma Kamara BASS jss3 orphan grandparents Mokebbie 4 (2)Humu wants to move out of the endless cycle of poverty that’s trapped her family for generations. Her grandparents care for ten children in their three-room mud brick house. With a total of sixteen in their household, it’s packed at night with children sleeping on straw floor mats. Subsistence farmers, her family grows most of what they eat and barters much of what’s left. That leaves little cash to pay school expenses. They sent their deep thanks for the scholarships that have enabled Humu to stay in school.

Humu’s science teacher says she’s a very good student and does well in math and science. She’s always ready with answers for biology, chemistry and physics questions. He told her grandparents to encourage her to pursue the sciences. The Sierra Leone government is encouraging girls in STEM fields by offering college scholarships.

But for now, Humu needs a $30 scholarship to advance to senior high and stay on her path to college.

We’re increasing the cost of a scholarship this year from $25 to $30. Prices keep going up in Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola economy with a 17% annual inflation rate. But we’re also expanding the award package.

DfGThis year’s $30 scholarship package includes a wonderful addition to the school uniform and notebooks we supplied last year.  All girls will get a Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit with washable shields and pads to keep girls in school every day of the month. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like girls like Humu to manage their monthly periods when they can’t afford Western style feminine hygiene products.

We are blessed to be the beneficiaries of Schools for Salone, another nonprofit for Sierra Leone led by a former Peace Corps volunteer. They funded a Days for Girls workshop hand-making the kits in Sierra Leone. They’ve offered us kits discounted from $8.50 to only $1.25 each! We are grateful Schools for Salone is sharing their good fortune so Bumpeh Chiefdom girls no longer need to miss school every month because of their periods. 

There’s no better way to change a girl’s life than to send her to school.

The lives of nearly 800 girls you’ve sent to school have been immeasurably changed — 460 last year alone. Through their educations, they’re changing Sierra Leone, too, and speeding its development as a country.

We know our seventh annual Scholarship Campaign will be more successful than ever with your support. Join us now with your gift and send a girl to school. Every dollar goes to students. SF is all-volunteer and pay our own admin costs.  Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski,  Executive Director 

P.S. Stay tuned to meet our college scholarship awarded we want to return to college and more of our secondary-school scholarship awardees.

P. P. S. SF supporters have given in many ways. As you think about giving, consider these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#GivingTuesday: Plant a Tree That Will Educate Sierra Leone Girls. Make it a gift.

#GivingTuesday: Plant a Tree That Will Educate Sierra Leone Girls. Make it a gift.

Rotary GiveTues Flyer.pdf convert 10-21-18

On Giving Tuesday when you plant a tree, you’ll educate Sierra Leone girls. You’ll protect the planet, too.

Where else will $35 do as much on #GivingTuesday2018?

You can make your holiday gifts more memorable this year. Give a living tree, an investment in Bumpeh Chiefdom and its girls.

Skip the mall and online sweater orders. Give someone the gift of a tree in their name. You’ll be giving them the experience of changing another person’s life. The tree’s fruit income will fund girls education for many years to come.

It will provide scholarships for girls to go to secondary school. It will fund important extra programs not found in rural schools, like computer training. And special after-school classes helping girls prepare for the senior high entrance exam.

It will pay for some the chiefdom’s very first female high school graduates to continue on to college!

A tree will fund classes for young women dropouts to catch up and return to school, or move on to vocational training. Other women learn to read and write for the first time.

Choose how your gift will change someone’s life: Gift Suggestions

Added bonus: trees help combat climate change. Tropical trees mature quickly absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They prevent erosion and protect drinking water sources, too.

Now that a holiday gift that’s meaningful and memorable. 

Yet another bonus: a Rotary Club grant will match your gift by 50%. $35 becomes $52.50! $50 becomes $75.  $100 becomes $150.

On Giving Tuesday, give a tree and send Sierra Leone girls and young women to school and to brighter futures. Donate and give gifts here.   

Read more about the Rotary Club partnership to plant new fruit tree orchards for education and everything your gift will do.

Make this Giving Tuesday special – give a tree that will keep on giving.

Thank you!

P. S. One more way you can help. Pass this on to a friend.