Our Sweet Salone, is a country known for its rich cultural diversity and breathtaking landscapes, and it has made significant progress in recent years towards women’s empowerment and gender equality. However, challenges still persist, and the journey to empower women and ensure their full participation in all aspects of society is ongoing. I returned home in October 2023, and it was a pleasure to visit EducAid’s Strong Girl Incubator (SGI) project.
There is much to love about Sierra Leone, and far more to this beautiful country than a complex history marked by civil conflict and socio-economic challenges. However, we must also confront the brutal truth which is that these challenges have disproportionately affected women. Sierra Leone is one of the most challenging countries in the world to be a girl, ranked 162 out of 170 countries on the 2021 UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is also commonplace with 9/10 girls affected (UNICEF:2019) in the country and corporal punishment and violence in schools is widespread. More than half of the population in Sierra Leone lives below the poverty line and many girls and young women still unable to access or continue their education. This is why the work EducAid do is so important.
EducAid’s Strong Girl Incubator (SGI) project
I visited EducAid Lumley, 23 Sheriff Drive Lumley, Freetown. I was met by one of the students, who gave me a tour of the school. It was really interesting, hearing how the school works. The Educaid Moto is “Love and do as you will”.
The children do not pay school fees. The fee for education is:
- Excellent Attendance
- Excellent Effort
- Excellent Behaviour
I could see the children are really well behaved, well spoken and have beautiful handwriting. The girls can relate to the teachers because many of the teachers are past Educaid students and are now able to give back themselves.
Women have been at the forefront of peace and development initiatives, demonstrating resilience and strength in the face of adversity. This initiative provides girls and young women who are vulnerable to dropping out of school with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to successfully join mainstream secondary education. The SGI is an accelerated learning programme that also includes mentoring and peer support. In addition to the academic work that begins with basic literacy and numeracy before progressing to mathematics, language and arts, participants enjoy workshops, sisterhood circles and other activities designed to create support networks, to increase self- esteem, and to build resilience. The SGI provides a safe, judgement-free space for girls to learn together, creating a built-in support network led by female role models. Working with some of the most vulnerable women in Sierra Leone, the project also removes other barriers by providing shelter, hygiene supplies, school materials and other necessities when needed.
These deliverables lead girls and young women to build a stronger and more equal future for themselves and their communities. With mentoring and peer support to increase self-esteem and build resilience, girls and young women form connections and create shared values surrounding their common mission; to overcome poverty through education.
EducAid expect 70% of SGI students to successfully return to mainstream education within 1 year and to enjoy and display increased confidence and take on leadership roles within school, participating fully in meetings and in class.
Last year the project achievements exceeded expectations as 48 out of 50 (96%) of girls and young women enrolled in the SGI successfully transitioned to mainstream secondary education. Qualitative data collected from interviews with students and teachers show that the SGI has a remarkable impact on positive social behavioural change among its beneficiaries. After a few weeks of participation, most girls and young women display increased self-awareness and improved relational and communication skills.
Women’s Empowerment in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has made significant strides in women’s empowerment, but the journey towards full gender equality is far from over. To continue this progress, it is crucial to address the remaining challenges, including gender-based violence, healthcare disparities, and cultural norms. Empowering women is not just a matter of justice; it is a catalyst for socio-economic development, peace, and stability in Sierra Leone. Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international partners have played a vital role in advancing women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone and having visited I am certain that Ecudaid’s efforts are integral to the progress being made.
As Salone continues to invest in the potential of its women, it paves the way for a brighter and more equitable future for all!
There are many ways that you can get involved with EducAid. It can be a small contribution or a big contribution; support them with your time or a donation. You can reach out to me directly via any of my social channels or this website. I will be more than pleased to connect you directly to folks on the ground or simply get in touch with them via their website.