News

Girls’ Clubs enable out-of-school girls to access vital education and training in Sierra Leone

10 December 2018
Hawa Sannoh (in green) with colleagues at the Levuma Kandu Community Learning Centre, Kenema district, © UNFPA Sierra Leone 2018/Ellen Donnelly

 

BO, Sierra Leone - Hawa Sannoh is a determined nineteen-year-old woman.  Wearing a pair of trousers with the slogan “Just do it” written on one leg, reflects precisely Hawa’s outlook on life. As a participant in the national life skills training programme taking place in Bo district, Hawa confidently stands in front of a group of people presenting a session on goal setting; an activity Hawa knows all too well.

By attending the five-day ‘Training on the National Life Skills Manual’ in September which is part of the  Girls’ Access to Education and Services (GATES) project, Hawa is taking her first step in becoming a mentor to 50 young girls aged 10-18 in her community in Kenema district. The training which is organized by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education is supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with funding from Irish Aid.

In 2015, at the height of the Ebola crisis, like many of her peers, Hawa fell pregnant. Having lost her father when she was just 12 years old, Hawa was fortunate to have a supportive mother who ensured she accessed antenatal care services during her pregnancy and delivered her baby girl in the local hospital. “My mother encouraged me. She said that this is not the end of my life. I am not the only person that has gone through this situation,” explained Hawa.

With her mother’s support, Hawa had the opportunity to attend the Levuma Kandu community learning centre which provided access to education and services for pregnant girls who are not allowed to attend school in Sierra Leone. Hawa says this opportunity really helped her, “I didn’t want to stay at home and not learn anything. When I went to the centre I learnt a lot, so when I went back to school it was easier for me to continue with my studies.” 

Standing in a room of 60 participants at Bo Teacher’s Union building, Hawa is taking part in one of four training sessions under the GATES project. The training bring together coordinators, facilitators and youth mentors from 40 community learning centres across the country to develop their facilitation skills and prepare them to deliver life skills sessions. The training sessions were conducted in four regions, with a total of 240 participants, as a key part of the 80 girls’ clubs which were launched in September 2018.  Topics such as sexual reproductive health information and referrals; menstruation; prevention of gender-based violence and response services; and teenage pregnancy and critical thinking skills are covered in the sessions.

As a previous participant of phase one of the Community Learning Centre Programme for out-of-school girls, which was funded by UK aid and Irish Aid, Hawa is regarded as an ideal young female to become a mentor. When asked why Hawa was chosen as a mentor, the training coordinator Mr. Vandi Musa said, “Hawa had benefited from the Gates Project and she is a good example for every other girl in the community." He added, “She fell pregnant and left school for a year, but she returned to continue her education, and this determination shows other girls that you can always continue your education.”

Hawa now works at the Levuma Kandu community learning centre in Kenema, which accommodates out-of-school girls who for various reasons (such as poverty, pregnancy, child-rearing responsibilities) are unable to access the Government’s free quality education initiative.  Mentors are a key component of the girls’ club model in the community learning centre. In a society like Sierra Leone where gender inequality has led to lower educational attainment among women, the majority of teachers in community learning centres are older males. As a younger female, Hawa along with Kadiatu, another female mentor, bring a gender balance to the team at the community learning centre.

“I enjoyed the training programme because it helped me to gain knowledge. I especially liked the facilitator because he was very good at teaching us how to mentor others, which provided me with key mentoring skills,” explained Hawa.

When asked about being a mentor, Hawa said as a young person and especially as a young mother, that she feels she would be a good role model for young people in her community. “I want to talk to my friends and tell them that if they have goals in life, they can go back to school and get educated,” said Hawa. “If an elder talks to them, they will most likely just ignore them. They are more likely to listen to me because I am in the same age group and I will encourage them,” she added.

Speaking of her future, Hawa said, “I want to be educated so I can take care of my mother in her old age and my child." Having her personal goals already set, Hawa aspires to become a nurse in the future.

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UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. UNFPA reaches millions of women and young people in 155 countries and territories. 

 

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Angelique Reid, Communications Specialist

UNFPA Sierra Leone  

M: 078 340044               

E: areid@unfpa.org