Mothers in Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) are clubbing together to raise cash to pay to send local girls to school.
Across the west African country, women’s groups are making massive strides in funding girls’ education through their own businesses.
In Abobo, on the edge of the capital Abidjan, a ‘school girl mother’s group’ is working to raise money to improve the local school and to support families who can’t afford to send their daughters to school.
Habibata Ouattara was 17 years-old when she was taken out of school and forced to marry a man her family had chosen. Today, as the leader of a local school girl mothers’ club, she is working hard to make sure girls in her community stay in school and finish their education.
Ms Ouattara heads up a group of about 30 mothers who have opened a rice shop in Abobo. Every day the mothers take turns to sell their bags of rice with each of them working about four five hour shifts a week.
They set up shop a year ago with a micro-credit loan of about £250 ($400). For every bag of rice they sell, they repay part of the loan and get another bag to replace it.
They make about £6 a day – which is ploughed back into local girls’ education.
In Ivory Coast, girl’s schooling can’t be taken for granted. A boy living there has on average a 76 per cent chance to attend primary school while a girl has only a 66 per cent chance, according to a 2009 state report. Only about 20 per cent of Ivory Coast girls have chance to go to high school. Girls are also often enrolled in school for a few years but then drop out to work or get married. Some suffer sexual violence by fellow pupils or teachers while they are there.
The mother’s groups put pressure on families to keep all of their children in school.
“Families have to understand that even if a girl gets married, she can still go to school,” said Ms Ouattara. “Marriage is no excuse for a girl to stop going to school,” she told the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef.
Across Ivory Coast, there are 40 mother’s school girl groups like the one in Abobo, backed by Unicef. The Abobo group has so far been able to help about 10 families send their girls to school.
“We have to take the education of our girls in our own hands,” said Ms Ouattara.