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Benin: girls’ power to change the world, Ramatou’s story

Thanks to her friends, 11-year-old Ramatou avoided being forced into a child marriage. | Daniel Djodjouhouin | CARE

What is the power of an 11 year old girl?  CARE knows that with the right support, an 11 year old girl can change her community. She can save a friend.

Ramatou Sambo is 11 years old, enrolled in public primary school in the village of Maréguinta in Benin. Fatherless, Ramatou lives with her mother. Last year, she had a narrow escape:  Ramatou’s friends at school prevented her family from forcing her to drop out of school to get married.

During the past school year, Ramatou was often absent from school. Her family told the teacher that she was sick.  But girls at Ramatou’s school participate in CARE’s EDUFIG project, which focuses on keeping girls in school, and builds leadership skills with girls and community awareness with their families.

Building networks of informed, capable girls can help girls work to solve their own challenges.

These girls know about their rights, and how to ask for help. Some of the girls in this programme visited Ramatou’s home, and revealed the real reasons for Ramatou’s absence from school. In fact, Ramatou’s parents were preparing for her wedding. This was the reason for her long absences and repeated delays in the classroom.

Once they found this out, the girls supported by the Students’ Mothers Associations and the Students’ Parents Associations—initiated school exchange meetings with Ramatou’s parents to build their awareness of why it is important for Ramatou to stay in school.

Ramatou’s parents have now publicly renounced of the project of marrying their daughter early.  They have also committed to support Ramatou in continuing her schooling. Ramatou has gone back to school and attends classes regularly. At the end of the last year, Ramatou had a good academic standing, and was planning to continue school.

For the 39,000 girls who are married before the age of 18 every day, school can be a powerful tool to prevent the loss of their childhood.  Building networks of informed, capable girls can help girls work to solve their own challenges.

About CARE

In Benin, CARE’s  EDUFIG project aims to contribute to the national effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in terms of equity in primary school for children in Kalalé and Nikki Communes, especially girls, to access to quality primary education, by

(1) increasing the enrollment of children in Kalalé and Nikki especially in 20 targeted villages ;

(2) increasing the rate of retention of children in school in the 20 targeted villages ;

(3) developing leadership skills among children, especially girls in Nikki and Kalalé ;

(4) increasing the income level of students’ mothers to support and keeping children in school.

Globally, CARE works in 83 countries to protect the rights of women and girls, including helping girls and women find community solutions to problems of child marriage and gender based violence. To read more, check out CARE’s website.