It’s Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Badialan 1, a popular district in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The clouds overhead threaten rain. Standing in front of a group of parents and teachers, Jeff Kadiatou Tabouré explains the importance of girls’ success for families and for the country. Mrs. Tabouré is the head of girls’ education for the School Management Committee at a local school called Amadou Ly.
In this district, women’s modest incomes do not allow them to hire people to assist with housework, so daughters help their mothers. This means that girls have less time to spend learning and doing schoolwork. This negatively affects their school performance, sometimes causing expulsion.
Mrs. Tabouré organizes meetings with parents, school authorities, and other stakeholders to encourage them to get involved with their daughters’ academic efforts. For her, this means reducing girls’ household duties so that they have time to study. She says, “Today, I help my community because I was able to continue my studies.”
Mrs. Tabouré is an example of the kind of success that educated women can enjoy in her community. She uses her own story to raise awareness about how girls have more time for their studies when they don’t need to devote as much time to household duties.
Djénèbou Dembélé’s daughters are students at Amadou Ly School. Ms. Dembélé says she is involved in her daughters’ education. She explains, “I don’t give my daughter chores when she has to go to school. She only helps me during the weekend. I would also like her to take private lessons, but unfortunately I don’t have enough money.”
Ms. Dembélé had the chance to go to school. But she could not continue her education because of an early marriage, and wants her daughter to have a different fate. Thanks to her commitment, her daughters are succeeding in school. She says they are always in the top five of their class.
Alimatou Traoré is one of Ms. Dembélé’s daughters and in grade nine. She says, “My mother encourages us a lot in our studies. When we are at home, she asks us to learn all the time.”
Local teachers are also committed to easing girls’ household duties. Seydou Diarra is the Director of Amadou Ly School in Badialan 1. He and his colleagues organize at least one meeting a month with parents and traditional and religious leaders to encourage them to support girls’ education.
Mr. Diarra explains: “We make parents aware of the need to reduce the burden on girls so that they have time to devote to their studies. This is important for their academic success. In addition, the school, with volunteer teachers, organizes evening classes for girls at least four times a week.” These classes improve the girls’ education and reduce the time they spend on housework.
Despite these efforts, there are many challenges in the fight to reduce girls’ domestic duties. Kadidiatou Coulibaly is a homemaker in Badialan 1 and lives with her husband and two daughters, who are both in school. She says, “We don’t have enough money. My daughters sell my wares. They also help me with other activities. I am aware that this affects their studies. But I don’t have anyone else to help me.”
As for Mrs. Tabouré, she encourages other mothers to support their daughters’ education. She says, “When girls fail, the whole community has failed, because it is our duty to ensure a better future for them.”
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 Alinea, 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: Sara Frizzell, 2013.