“I escaped early marriage thanks to the FAWE Center of Excellence”
”I was only 15 when my parents announced the news of my impending marriage with one of my cousins. I was desperate and did not want to get married this early as my friends were still going to school and having fun. I was really traumatized by the idea of having a husband who would decide everything for me”, said Aminata Traore, a 16 year old girl from a FAWE center of excellence, at Linsan, near Kindia, Conakry Guinea.
Many girls in this West African country, just like this young girl, are being forced to marry at a very tender age for various reasons: some parents do so out of ignorance, not knowing the consequences; some are very attached to their cultural practices; others just want to get rid of another mouth to feed and gain little money from the dowry; and others are driven by fear of having their daughters impregnated. This girl lives in a city located at an intersection along one of the main roads of the country. In the city of Linsan located 5 hours drive from the capital Conakry, school enrollment is at around 23% as opposed to 77% at the national level. The city of Linsan is known to be a risky place for girls, and for good reasons: the village is located along the country’s main road, where there is a famous intersection that has become a popular meeting place for drivers to stop by and eat, rest, and often find a young girl for a few hours of sex before returning to the road. As a result, HIV prevalence is high and parents with girls prefer to marry them early (13-15 years) to avoid them waiting on the streets for travelers. Amanita’s parents are a case example. They did not understand the importance of her going to school and so had opted to marry her to a cousin to avoid her getting pregnant or contracting a disease.
“When I heard the news of the opening of a school in this village, I just ran away and came to my aunt who lives here. I asked her to let me stay with her so that I could go to the FAWE center of excellence school nearby. I promised to do all the household chores in the morning before hitting the road for almost an hour's walk to school. She accepted and let my parents know that I was staying with her. This is my second year here and I am very happy to be attending school, despite the fact that sometimes, things get a bit difficult, especially for us girls, because the toilets are still not finished and the water drill does not have water”.
"I am Amie Diallo. I am 14 years old and in 10th grade. I am from Linsan and my family is really poor. We are 8 in the family and I am the only girl who attends school. My father was among those who built this school. I was supposed to get married very soon, like my other sisters who married when they reached 14, but when I saw my father busy building the school with other community people, I used the argument they used in the sensitization sessions to convince him to let me continue attending school instead of giving me up for marriage, as my sisters were. It is true that sometimes, I used to go to the Linsan crossroads with other girls and I had a boyfriend like my friends, but when my father accepted to let me go to school, I decided to stop going to the Linsan crossroads and joined the TUSEME club so that I could be a leader who knows how to speak out and defend herself", says an outgoing young girl whose dream is to become a doctor someday.
The TUSEME (Let’s speak out) club is a component of centers of excellence established by FAWE. Youth are organized into clubs, where they learn how to speak, defend themselves, be sensitive to gender and learn the need for equality within society. To date, five high schools and colleges in addition to the FAWE School in Linsan have implemented the TUSEME program (with over 800 students involved).
These two girls were able to escape early marriage, thanks to the FAWE Center of Excellence at Linsan, where the community around the school participated in the workshop organized by FAWE vision and completely adhered to the idea of transforming the school into a center of excellence (a school that is more gender sensitive and with assets that can encourage and facilitate the enrollment and retention of girls in school).
Aminata and Amie were lucky, but countless other girls could not escape such fates in Guinea and elsewhere in Africa. The fight must continue to give all girls the chance to go to school and finish their studies in order to win the battle for gender parity.
By Fatoumata Thiam Diallo, Communication FAWE, Nairobi
Mrs. Ramatoulaye Diallo, National Coordinator of FAWEGUI