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Mali: Azahara Amadou Maïga fights for girls’ education in Gounzoureye

Azahara Amadou Maïga lives in the village of Sadou-Koira in Gounzoureye commune, 18 km from the city of Gao in Mali. Ms. Maïga is the mother of six children, including three daughters. She understood very early that her daughters’ development depends on a good education. So Ms. Maïga sent her daughters to school. She is also involved in educating other girls in the village, and is the president of the village schools’ management committee.

The illiteracy rate among young girls is high in Sadou-Koira, and the estimated school enrollment rate is only 9%. This is what motivated Ms. Maïga to get involved in raising public awareness of girls’ education by going door-to-door and writing media press releases.

Ms. Maïga uses her own story to convince people of the importance of girls’ education. She explains that her two daughters work and earn their living with dignity thanks to attending school. She says: “If they had not been to school, they would not be able to work today and be in good condition. Educating your daughter means preparing her for her future so that she can be independent and help you later.

Mohamed Attaher Dicko is the Orientation Advisor of the Educational Facilitation Centre in Gounzoureye commune. Mr. Dicko says: “The number of children, and in particular the number of girls, in school is low. This is why the Educational Facilitation Centre has initiated awareness sessions to encourage parents to send their children to school.” These efforts have resulted in the enrollment of more than 2,000 children, including 500 in Gounzoureye.

Ms. Maïga’s message is sometimes understood, but there are always some parents who hesitate to send their daughters to school.

Ahoudou Idrissa is a farmer and resident of Gounzoureye who is not yet convinced of the need to educate girls. He says: “I don’t see the importance of sending my children to school because school does not contribute to children’s education. If I send my children to school, who will help me in my field? Even if I wanted to, I can’t afford it.”

Zaliha Maïga is a resident of Gounzoureye. Despite difficulties, she was able to continue her studies. Today, she has a bachelor’s degree in human resources and works at a local company. She explains: “I had many difficulties while I was in school. My father didn’t want me to go. He wanted to marry me to a man, so he wanted me to stop my studies. But thanks to the advice of people close to the family, he let me attend. Today, I work and I am independent.”

Despite some misgivings, girls’ enrollment rates have begun to rise in recent years in Gounzoureye, thanks to the work of Ms. Maïga, the school management committees, and the Educational Facilitation Centre.

Abdoul Kader Younoussa Maïga is the mayor of Gounzoureye. He supports educating young girls in the commune by raising awareness. He says: “Thanks to the awareness campaigns we are running, the school attendance rate has gone from 15% to 22% between 2019 and 2021.”

Sadou Salihou is a community leader in Gounzoureye, and also supports girls’ education. He sent all six of his children to school, regardless of gender. Mr. Salihou offers this advice: “I invite parents to send their daughters to school for their future.”

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada as part of the DEFI project implemented by the consortium of Alinéa, Farm Radio International (FRI), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Education International (EI), in partnership with the Ministry of Education in conflict-affected areas in Mali.

Photo: A female student writes on a chalkboard in Sadou-Koira in the commune of Gounzoureye, Mali in July, 2021. Credit: Cheick Coulibaly.

This story was originally published in July 2021.