SEATTLE — The West African country of Mali has had many internal struggles during its existence that have hindered progress for its citizens. As of 2011, education in Mali was a low priority, as only 54 percent of children completed primary school. Sadly, 20 percent of Malian children did not even enroll in primary education that year.
The Gendered Problem
Education was nearly nonexistent for females in 2011, since only 16 percent of all women in Mali could read. In 2013, 66 percent of the total illiterate Malians were women. Although this number is appalling, it does show progress in the number of literate women, growing from 16 percent to about 33 percent in only two years.
There are consequences for women who lack a basic education. A local Malian NGO regularly provided women with money to aid them and their children, but the NGO soon discovered that Malian men were stealing a portion of the contribution without the women’s knowledge.
Because these women lacked the ability to read and calculate their earnings, men were capable of taking advantage of the situation and deciding how much the women received, if they received any at all.
Organizations to the Rescue
A local NGO, AADeC, addressed the issue by creating literacy programs and campaigns to promote awareness of the necessity for girls’ education. Their efforts resulted in women gaining the ability to sell the mangos they were once only able to pick for the men and make a living from them.
More women are now able to manage their own money and provide for their families. Even further, AADeC’s efforts to increase the number of girls enrolled in schools also surpassed their goals, since there were suddenly more girls attending junior high than boys. This was an outstanding rise in girls’ enrollment because previously, only 36 percent of girls moved up to junior high.
USAID also aids education in Mali. Their partnership with the government of Mali has brought necessary materials to classrooms and has also helped Mali’s nine local NGOs continue their efforts, guiding them towards success.
USAID trained a number of unemployed youth, resulting in 1,766 males and 2,227 females receiving both academic and vocational training. The results for 2017 stated that this training brought the rate of illiteracy down from 71 percent to 36 percent of illiterate females and from 85 percent to 59 percent of illiterate males.
A Malian Girl’s Goal
Education in Mali is beyond important for girls. Young girls were typically expected to spend their days fetching water for the community, spending hours of their time walking rather than attending school. The Orange Foundation responded in 2007 by installing several wells in Mali, providing easier access to water so that girls have time to get a basic education.
Malian girls are faced with a rising ability to act against traditions and seek education instead. For example, many girls in Mali marry between the ages of 14 and 16, but if they choose education instead, their marriage is pushed back at least by four years until they finish school.
A Malian girl named Korotoumou shared that her greatest fear is having to marry early. She has a goal to become a well-educated teacher in Mali and hopes to support her parents and her community by providing future children with a quality education. Through education, she will be capable of financially supporting her family, because each year of primary school she attends with raise her future income by 10 percent.
Local Malian organizations, along with outside support from USAID and the Orange Foundation, work diligently to make goals like Korotoumou’s a reality for all girls by focusing on education in Mali.
– Brianna White