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Côte d' Ivoire:
In Côte d'Ivoire, mothers start a club to invest in the future of girls' education
Girls in Côte d’Ivoire and around the world still face many challenges when it comes to completing a quality education. Increasingly however, women’s groups like CMEFs are making important contributions towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on access to education and women’s empowerment.
The Agnikro CMEF in Abobo, a populous suburban area in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, was founded last year. Its goal is to raise money for small improvements in the local school and to support families who do not have the financial means to send their daughters to school.
With this arrangement, the CMEF makes a profit of about $10 per day – which is automatically invested in girls’ education.
Obstacles to education
Girls’ education is not taken for granted in Côte d’Ivoire. According to a 2009 ‘State Report on the Situation of Education,’ a boy has on average a 76 per cent chance to attend primary school and a girl only a 66 per cent chance. Only about 20 per cent of girls have access to secondary education.
Since the beginning of Côte d’Ivoire’s socio-political crisis in 2002, basic social services delivered by the government have largely collapsed, especially in the north-central and western parts of the country. This includes birth registration facilities.
According to a recent national survey, birth registration dropped from 72 per cent before the crisis to 55 per cent today, which means that only about one birth out of two is registered. Children who are not registered with birth certificates can attend school, but they are not allowed to sit for final primary examinations because they cannot prove their identity.
“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.”
Change from the bottom up
UNICEF is supporting more than 40 CMEFs in Côte d’Ivoire. Since 2006, it has also led the establishment of a national United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) network which brings together government, local, UN and civil society partners to ensure that girls have access to safe, high-quality education.
For its part, the Agnikro CMEF in Abobo has been able to provide financial assistance to about 10 families since its inception. In particular, the funds help to facilitate the administrative procedure for registering girls. The cost of registration ranges from $10 to $20 – a huge sum of money in a country where half of the population lives on less than a dollar per day.
The group’s success has encouraged its expansion into the sale of other products such as cooking oil and soap. Its members hope to convince more mothers to join, or to set up similar clubs throughout the country.
“We have to take the education of our girls in our own hands,” said Ms. Ouattara.