“If you teach a man, you teach one person. But if you teach a woman, you teach the entire community.”
Waraba is 16 years old. She lives in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, and due to bad grades and increasing domestic responsibilities, she no longer attends school. Her days consist of looking after her younger siblings, preparing meals, fetching water, cleaning their homestead and working the family’s fields. Although Waraba is not yet married, culturally there is a strong chance that she will soon be engaged. Her dream of becoming a doctor and serving her community will probably become a distant memory.
“If a girl doesn’t end up going to school, she is at a much greater risk of being exposed to early marriage. If a girl is attending high school there is a greatly reduced risk that she will be married so young. In this way, school is definitely a way of preventing early marriage. – Salif Diawara, teacher at Koumantou Secondary School.
Abibatou is 15 years old and attends Koumantou Secondary School. She is about to complete Grade 8. She lives nearby with her mother and father and siblings. Her parents have encouraged her to complete her schooling. Her favourite subject is English; she hopes to visit an English speaking country one day. Her dream is to become a doctor and to serve her community.
UNICEF has addressed the cultural demands placed on these young girls by helping with basic infrastructures, which frees the girls up to complete their homework and not to be too tired for school the following day.
Although Warabe and Abibatou come from the same village, their futures will probably look remarkably different. As UNICEF’s focus on educating the girl child in Mali continues, one would hope that these young girls are at least given the option of embracing a future they choose, not a route already mapped out for them.