In Sierra Leone 3 out of 10 girls have dropped out of school after an early pregnancy (Unicef data as of 2017). Early marriage or pregnancies are among the leading causes of girls’ dropout from school and stigmatization prevents young mothers to go back to school after they give birth.
Salamatu, 23 years old, is a young mother and her story is like those of many other girls in Sierra Leone. Once her pregnancy became visible enough, she wasn’t allowed to attend school anymore. Even if going back to school after childbirth was formally possible, Salamatu decided not to continue, so as many other young single mothers that are strongly discriminated.
Exclusion from the educational system is the first step towards marginalization. For this reason, it is fundamental to give young mothers like Salamatu the technical skills needed to include them in the job market, but also in the cultural and social life of their community.
Salamatu is one of the 42 youth at risk of marginalization that received an education through training and vocational courses thanks to the three-years project “IMAGES: Improving Management of CSOs in Education Sector” funded by the European Union and implemented by AVSI and its local partners Family Homes Movement (FHM) and Saint Mary’s Home of Charity (SMHC). Another 153 will enjoy this opportunity in the coming years.
Thanks to AVSI and its partners, Salamatu now has a job as a bartender at Gigibontà, the first ice cream and pizzeria in Sierra Leone doing social business.
Before I was selling clothes walking down the streets. Now, I feel like a new person. I am not ashamed as I was before; I am happy and proud of myself. I’ve worked hard since the beginning because I knew that I would have had a better future with these new skills
The core of IMAGES is to educate, which goes from training marginalized youth, to improving the quality of education and of teaching, while reducing the rate of absenteeism in school.
Indeed, more than 1000 children in 20 schools are benefitting from the recreational activities organized by AVSI, FHM and SMHC’s social workers, and the active participation of more than 350 teachers from the schools and the Freetown Teachers College. In the meanwhile, AVSI is also strengthening the role of local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in local schools to make them become real actors of the sustainable development processes.