Aretha Dunbar – Liberia
Sister-to-Sister Education “On-the-Go”
In a society with a very high rate of illiteracy amongst the population, the majority of this ratio being comprised of young girls who have either been victimized by stereotypical gender role assignation of being only fit for the position of ‘homemakers’ which does not require any level of literacy, or economic constraints, or just basic inaccessibility to education due to geographical location; it is highly imperative to use an innovative outreach method that would not be hindered by boundaries and borders of a set stage. Many young women today whether in rural or urban Liberia now feel the urge to want the basic skill of being able to just write their own name; cutting across a vast range of age groups. Yet taking initiative to address these issues in educating the girl child cannot be done in isolation of other key factors, i.e. life skills centered on self-esteem building as well as other forms of empowerment.
My idea for a comprehensive plan which addresses all aspects previously mentioned is an outreach to girls by their gender peers. Initializing a network, sorority styled that would initially focus on capacitating fifteen (15) girls as peer educators over a three-month period inclusive of facilitation skills, life skills, and basic counselling. Sequentially, these fifteen girls would each reach out to five uneducated girls, working with them for a period of six (6) months with the intent to provide basic reading and comprehension skills that would jump start their educational voyage, allowing them access to a classroom without the feeling of awkwardness in a new environment. In a snowball effect, these seventy-five will then target five persons each to whom their gained knowledge can be transferred over the next six months, thus empowering at least four hundred and fifty girls within one year.
After a year, the initial trainers would have more confidence and can increase their tutees to ten persons each, while the tutees maintain the same impact number of five persons each. By the third year, the initial trainers become monitoring and evaluating officers who strive to ensure sustainability of the program, while tutees who’ve completed their six-month cycle keep the educational ‘snowball’ rolling by impacting an additional five respectively, after each six month cycle. The long-term projected impact will thus empower over two hundred thousand (200,000) girls within a three year period. Such an empowerment initiative that can be ‘owned’ by the women within a society will in turn impact the erection of more schools, enhance the capacity of teenage mothers in pursuing education for their children at appropriate ages, as well as redefining the societal stereotyping of assigned female gender roles. Initial lobbying and donations can kick-off the project, while community ownership would provide measures of sustainability; with direct costs being allocated for educational tutorial materials, while initial fifteen trainers be recruited on a volunteer basis, with slots always open to volunteers to be trained to fill in when an active volunteer stops.