Today, Adama is a young woman, but when we were visiting a friend in Senegal in 2005 and first heard about her, she was only twelve. She was timid and shy but her will power to stay in school was so strong --she left her small, rural village for the summer to work in Dakar, the chaotic capital city of Senegal. She worked that entire summer earning money so she could stay in school. We asked our friend to tell her family that if she retained high marks, we’d support her until she finished her studies, including university. That was the beginning of Women for Girls. Adama, was in her last year of elementary school in 2006, when we met her for the first time. Each student must pass a difficult exam at the end of elementary school in order to continue to the next level. Students receive two chances to pass this exam, if they fail the first time, they can repeat the year, but if they fail again, unless their parents have the money for a private school, they have no hope for the future and girls risk early marriage. That is part of Adama’s story. She failed twice, WFG helped her enroll in a private school but she still she did not pass. Three years in the same grade were enough. Even though Adama didn’t have high grades, Women for Girls could not abandon her, she’d be destined to a lot of early marriage, probably to a much older man, and bear all the consequences that go along with it. Who knows why Adama failed? It could have been because when we first met her she was in her last and decisive year and had 89 classmates -- she might have needed more personal attention, or perhaps she’s not just cut out for conventional learning. Growing up in a village in which everyone is illiterate couldn’t have helped her in school.
The solution for Adama was a three-year community program in which she could learn skills to help her get ahead. She’s currently in her last year and is learning advanced techniques in cooking and sewing, she’s taking French language and Information Technology and learning how to make batik, a traditional art from in Senegal. She’s flourishing and not only is she at the top of her class with perfect attendance, but last year she was selected as one of the best in Dakar, to attend a State organized advanced training session. More importantly than succeeding at school, Adama is gaining the powerful self confidence, that women desperately need, to make her proud of whatever she chooses to be.
17 APR 2011A baby's shirt hand-sewn by Adama: Adama’s mother proudly showing off her daughter’s beautiful tablecloth. Adama brought home all her completed work. And lastly, her grades: