Fighting for Girls’ Education in Senegal
As a buildOn Education Coordinator in Senegal, Aminata Ndiaye’s goal is to bring children back to school. By working with rural communities across Senegal as part of buildOn’s Enroll program, Aminata is making sure that children who have never gone to school before are stepping into the classroom for the first time and that children who have dropped out are returning to their studies.
In the two years since launching buildOn’s Enroll program in Senegal in 2015, Aminata has had incredible success—more than 2,000 children have gone back to school. And yet, despite her successes in bringing students back to school, Aminata is also acutely aware of the challenges children face in Senegal—especially the girls.
In Senegal, as in many of the developing nations where buildOn constructs schools, there is a stark difference in literacy rates between genders. The female literacy rate in Senegal is only 43.8 percent, while the literacy rate for males 68.5 percent. “Girls are out of school at higher rates than boys,” explains Aminata. “This is often because of the distance they have to travel to school and extreme poverty. Often times parents will prioritize sending their boys to schools and keep girls at home to clean and help out in the home.”
In the two years since launching buildOn’s Enroll program in Senegal in 2015, Aminata has had incredible success—more than 2,000 children have gone back to school.
Aminata, who is 30 years old, is no stranger to this type of discrimination. She was often discouraged from pursuing her education when she was younger because of her gender. “I faced challenges,” Aminata says. “Everybody told me that a girl does not need to make advanced studies and that I had to get married and start a family. I overcame these challenge with the help of my mom and my own determination.”
Above: Aminata helps a young girl with her schoolwork. In 2015 alone, 630 girls in Senegal were brought back to school through the Enroll program.
Even though Aminata’s own mother was unable to finish school because she was married at the age of 15, she always stood up for Aminata’s right to continue her education and pushed her to study at a university. “The woman I have been most inspired by in my life is my mom,” Aminata says.
By meeting with parents in rural villages and convincing them to send their girls to school, Aminata is paving the way toward gender equality in Senegal.
Now, as an Education Coordinator, Aminata is standing up for the young girls of Senegal as her mother once stood up for her. As part of her work, Aminata visits parents in rural communities and convinces them to send their daughters to school along with their sons. “Most of the time (when I speak with parents), I give myself as an example along with many of the famous women in Senegal. I explain how important they are, the responsibilities which they have, and the roles which they occupy. At the same time, I explain to them that their daughters can be like one of these women one day, if they agree to send them to the school and to let them finish their studies,” Aminata explains.
By meeting with parents in rural villages and convincing them to send their girls to school, Aminata is paving the way toward gender equality in Senegal. She is also raising expectations for girls across the country, as she knows that education is the key to a better life for all.
“The thing that I like best about my work is the fact that I am helping girls realize their dreams,” Aminata says. “Those dreams were typically confined to housework, but now many girls have the opportunity to be at school and aspire to a better life.”