Empower, Educate, Esteem: Supporting Girls’ Social and Academic Development through Sport
Teenage girls in Sierra Leone face numerous challenges that prevent them from completing education. Without secondary school education, young women are significantly more likely to; be unemployed; have untimely pregnancies; become victims of sexual exploitation, and ultimately reinforcing the vicious cycle of poverty in the country. Sierra Leone falls 181st out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index (2015), with women being the most affected. With approximately 34% of all pregnancies in Sierra Leone occurring among teenage girls (SLDHS 2008), such girls lose their chance of education. Moreover, with no regular or reliable sources of income, women become inherently dependent on men, thus marginalizing them further. With lower levels of education and economic dependence on men, women have little opportunity to speak up for their rights at home and their community, as well as little opportunity to engage with policy-makers. In addition, without women leaders and role models in communities, this environment perpetuates a cycle of disempowerment, poverty and exploitation. Reproductive and sexual health rights are violated on a regular basis, due to the lack of confidence and ability among many women, to adequately fight for these rights. There is little opportunity for teenage girls and young women in Sierra Leone to be involved in activities wherein they might build confidence and learn skills that can promote their physical and social development.
Programs such as the 3E’s and Girl’s education is the fundamental prerequisite for improving women’s chances for a better future. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) National Strategy for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy in Sierra Leone identified the increased earning power education provides: “every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10”.
Advocate Plus designed the Empower, Educate, Esteem: Supporting Girls’ Social and Academic Development program in 2014 with the overall goal of educating, empowering adolescent girls as well as helping them acquire leadership skills necessary for them to be involved in decision making that affect their lives. Additionally, this program provides a platform for young girls to exercise their basic human rights which are customarily exploited. Our program is based on three main components:
- Education and Livelihood training, which includes training young women in marketable livelihood skills and establishing income generating enterprises; and tutoring and scholarship for participants attending secondary school. The goal of this component is to increase the percentage of young women actively engaged in income generating activities and for those attending school to complete their secondary school education.
- Leadership and Community Initiatives, Community mentors are trained to educate young women on gender based violence issues, teenage pregnancy, and leadership skills. Not only will this initiative highlight positive female role models in the community, it will also inform women of their rights, help identify community-specific challenges, and develop support structures in each community, for women, by women.
- Promotion of Female Football as a tool for social development, which will include establishing a Girls Football League for the first time in Sierra Leone and promotion of technical skills development through training of coaches and team initiatives, with a goal of increasing self-confidence, whilst increasing the number of young women participating in sport.
Empower, Educate Esteem components work in a synergistic fashion, with women’s empowerment at the root of their system. When delivered together, the livelihood, mentorship, education, skills development and sport components will increase confidence in young women and girls, and raise awareness on their rights. Together, this will reduce the likelihood of teenage pregnancy, early marriage and sexual exploitation and further their political rights.
In order to alleviate the plight of young girls in Sierra Leone, Advocate Plus needs financial resources to successfully implement and expand the program to other areas of the country. Advocate Plus is therefore collaborating with Devxchange International to solicit adequate resources for project implementation.