As we posted earlier, 60 million girls president Wanda Bedard and 3 other members of the 60 million girls team recently went to the Koinadugu region of Sierra Leone, where 60 million girls is supporting a 2-year project with CAUSE Canada.
We asked Wanda to report back about their experiences on the journey. Here is part I.
February 9, 2013
We woke up at 5:30 am to get an early start for Makeni to attend the second convocation of the University of Makeni (UNIMAK). It was a 3-hour drive from Lungi to Makeni on roads that were sometimes paved and sometimes almost impassable. 30˚C and lots of dust!
The 3-hour ceremony was truly an important occasion for the graduates, their parents and the university community. 78 students received degrees from various faculties. Sierra Leone’s Minister of Education was the keynote speaker and spoke at length about the vital importance of education for the country’s future. Paul Carrick, co-founder of CAUSE Canada, received an honorary doctorate for his foundation’s 25 years of work in Sierra Leone. The foundation has supported communities in the Koinadugu district, without interruption and despite the country’s 10-year war when so many other NGOs left. Paul spoke of CAUSE’s work supporting education in the remote areas of the country and the impact of working with the communities, listening to them and then working together to find solutions. It was an inspiring story of commitment, respect, trust and deep caring for the people of Sierra Leone: sentiments that were clearly reciprocated.
Following the ceremony, we were invited, as Paul’s guests, to a VIP reception where we met a number of the CAUSE Canada staff, as well as other partners and development specialists who work closely with CAUSE. We were deeply appreciative of this chance to hear how much CAUSE Canada’s interventions have been both innovative and effective.
We spoke to a number of people – from a sister with the Congregation of Notre Dame, to the mayor of Makeni (only the second female mayor in the country) to the UNICEF regional representative for education. We talked at length about obstacles to girls’ education, new initiatives to ensure girls can complete their education, the difficulty of retaining qualified teachers in rural areas and the ever-present problem of early marriages and pregnancy. The problems seem overwhelming when you understand just how complex and deep the issues are. But change is happening and, beyond doubt, supporting girls in school pays enormous dividends to the country.
Tomorrow, we are off to spend the week in Kabala. A week of visiting elementary schools, high schools, health clinics and birthing huts, as well as meeting with peer literacy educators and speaking to some of the 2,000 female members of the microfinance projects. A jam-packed week to better understand how 60 million girls can be part of an effective movement to empower girls and women through education.
Many thanks to Wanda for keeping us up to date on her busy trip. Stay tuned for Part II!