Educating Girls, Feeding a Community
February 18, 2015
Submitted by Greta Knapp, Story Bank Coordinator, Counterpart International
Where Maïgawassie Sylvie lives, in Northern Cameroon, school attendance is low, especially among girls.A third of Cameroon’s children under five suffer chronic malnutrition, and widespread poverty force many families to arrange early marriages for their daughters.
Maïgawassie, who turned 12 this year, was just one of many girls whose future was in jeopardy.
Luckily, Maïgawassie’s school is part a program implemented by Counterpart International and its on-the-ground partner, Cameroon Network for Girls Education (RECAMEF). The program helped people build better lives and more durable futures by reducing malnutrition and increasing school attendance, especially for girls.
Students receive breakfast and lunch and girls with a 90 percent attendance rate at the end of each month are rewarded with 22 pounds of rice for their families.
“I have grown in size and height because I eat to my full in school twice a day,” said Maïgawassie. “I’ve become interested in schooling to the point that I get up as early as 6 o’clock by myself, I take my bath and rush immediately to school.”
The food program, implemented by Counterpart and RECAMEF, is also having an effect on the entire community. Maïgawassie says she’s helping her family reduce hunger. “I’ve noticed,” she says, “my mom didn’t need food money from my dad because of leftover rice. Many families here are poor and the money we save on rice can be spent on other important things.”
Her parents were so impressed with the program that they donated to help keep it going — first a batch of firewood and then 100 Central African francs from their savings. They also paid full dues to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
“My parents are so happy,” says Maïgawassie. “The whole community sees the importance of school.” Counterpart has helped more than 150 communities like this one build problem solving capabilities that are now embedded in the fabric of their community.
More than 1,000 PTA and Student Mother Organization volunteers have taken agricultural trainings and are maintaining 146 community gardens to supply school cafeterias. These communities are now taking the lead in improving the lives of their children. And girls have a chance for a better future.
Every girl deserves to be in school and well fed. And now 14,000 families across Cameroon have girls like Maigawassie staying in school – the rate in school attendance for girls doubled in just one year. Counterpart’s program keeps girls in school, helps feed families, and creates community support for education and better nutrition. Communities are now establishing a full cycle of sustainable growth, on their own.
Counterpart International’s Food for Education program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Program partners include the U.S. Potato Board, World Bank, Helen Keller International, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Food Program. For more information, please visit Counterpart’s website.