Arabe Touré has built trust with girls in communities around Mali’s large Sadiola Gold Mine. Most of the girls have little knowledge of menstrual hygiene practices. In traditional Malian society, parents do not discuss such sensitive topics with their children, especially with girls. Menstrual hygiene remains very sensitive in Mali, with many girls dropping out of school due to the start of their periods when they become victims of teasing and bullying. The lack of communication and information can lead to unplanned pregnancies and early marriage.
To help communities end early marriage and underage pregnancy, and to help girls stay in school, the United States Agency for International Development supports community mentoring through the Girls Leadership and Empowerment through Education (GLEE) project. Arabe is a shining example, winning local girls’ confidence and the support of their parents as well. She is not only ready to listen to girls’ concerns and issues, but also helps the girls to defend their legal rights.
With passion and commitment, Arabe organizes weekly mentoring sessions on various themes including unexpected pregnancy, family planning, menstruation management, and many other relevant and sensitive topics for teenage girls in their villages and at school.
One day Arabe was approached by the mother of N’Deye who pleaded with her: “I need your help. Please, take care of my daughter. Once she sees her period, the whole family realizes because she does not know what to do.” Thanks to Arabe’s health and hygiene training, this family received the information they needed with the utmost discretion. According to N’deye, “Now I know that all the girls share this problem. When it first happened to me, I thought I was sick until I met with the mentor who helped me to understand.” Having seen the positive impact of mentoring on her daughter’s life, N’Deye’s mother started encouraging other women in the village to send their daughters to mentoring sessions.
The women and girls of Sadiola have faith and confidence in Arabe due to her dedication and the consistency of her mentoring sessions. She organizes an average of four sessions each month, with 20 to 25 attendees per session. Her sessions are popular because of the trusting, safe space she has created, and her courage and skill as a mentor. Her success with the girls led to Arabe being appointed in late 2019 as the Sadiola Mine Village women’s representative to local government.
With support from the American people, GLEE, a three-year 15-million-dollar project, will support more than 50,000 adolescent girls. To date, nearly 14,000 girls who were not attending school now have access to education through GLEE-supported accelerated schooling centers. GLEE has also renovated hundreds of school latrines to include a “private corner” for adolescent girls and provided training to teachers and school management committee members on management, the prevention of school-related gender-based violence, and emergency planning.
This story was originally published by USAID Mali on March 19, 2021.