It is undeniable that girls who stay in school longer, have less teen pregnancies and a lower rate of early marriage. Keeping girls in school globally is one of five UN development goals for this reason and many more, such as improved economic and social outcomes for the girl and her family. At SGUW, we support and work to keep girls in school as long as possible however, higher educational attainment alone is not a magic bullet, it will not change the broader cultural norms overnight.
Girls from higher income households and communities within Sierra Leone, have fewer early pregnancies and tend to marry years later than poorer girls. The reasons for the lower rates of both seem clear, the girls from these households can consistently pay the school fees, are not removed from school to work, tend to be in families where educational attainment is valued, and these girls are generally less exploited within society.
Here are three of our Freetown graduates with the Principal of their school. They successfully completed the SGUW Adolescent Health class this year and are receiving a certificate of completion and congratulations from teachers, family members, SGUW staff and volunteers. Through their experience with SGUW, these girls received science based sex ed, health information, contraceptives trainings and more. They also created an honest and open community where they were free to discuss their dreams, hopes and fears. And, they were valued and given mentorship by our volunteers and staff. In many respects, these girls are the lucky ones, as we'll explore in the next blog post. SGUW and our allies need to expand all of these efforts to reach the 'hard to reach' girls, the poorer ones, the out-of-school ones, the exploited.