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Winrock International
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A Safe Space for School-Age Girls in Côte d’Ivoire

Young children in a classroom.Winrock International promotes access to safe education by improving children’s physical safety and emotional well-being, and fostering an enabling environment in which children can thrive. This means helping communities and schools create safe, supportive spaces for girls and boys alike; empowering families and communities to monitor children’s safety; and improving families’ livelihoods so they are more likely to keep their kids in school. As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, Winrock International is highlighting its programs that bring attention to this year’s theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!” The 16 Days Campaign begins on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and ends on International Human Rights Day (December 10) and emphasizes that gender-based violence in its many forms is a human rights violation. More information here.

In many parts of the world, school can be a place of danger for both boys and girls. The disadvantages experienced by girls are particularly severe: they may face the threat of sexual violence and abuse on the way to or in school; a lack of adequate and safely accessible sanitary facilities; and the risk of early or forced marriage, which can cut short their education. Because of this, many families choose to keep girls and young women out of school and actively prevent them from continuing their education. In rural areas, pressure to forgo an education in favor of work on family farms can have additional negative effects on children working with harmful pesticides, sharp tools, or through exposure to other hazardous labor practices.

A crowd gathers around a school in Côte d’Ivoire.In 2012, the children of Goboué, a remote, rural cocoa growing community in Côte d’Ivoire composed of multiple ethnic groups, were in dire need of a primary school. Because the children of Goboué were forced to travel to a neighboring village four kilometers away to attend school, many families opted not to send their children because the journey included a dangerous walk on a main road. With substantial participation and leadership from the community, Winrock began implementing the Nestlé Schools Project in Goboué and 35 other Côte d’Ivoire communities. Efforts included: training school management committees, clearing construction sites, digging wells, recruiting volunteer labor, and raising community funds for teacher salaries and housing.

Through the efforts of dedicated community members, Goboué now has its own school, demonstration farm, and teacher housing. Parents in the community can monitor the safety of their children and can even take part in trainings at the demonstration farm, which showcases modern cocoa growing and vegetable farming techniques. Involving the community in these activities creates community buy-in to the development of program activities and helps ensure continued support for children’s education after the program concludes.

By providing children with a safe, attractive, and healthy learning environment, Winrock’s programs in Côte d’Ivoire—and across Africa, Asia and Latin America—address key barriers to children’s education so that parents may feel confident and secure in sending their children to school.

Read more from South Sudan in the second blog from this series of three.

Read more about our global work in the third blog.