Strong mothers, strong girls

In Chad, very few women can read or write. This will only change when mothers like Angéline Yakeneloum stand up for their girls. Because strong girls need strong role models.

In a country plagued by famine, education often falls by the wayside. Average school attendance in Chad is one and a half years. The situation is particularly problematic for women: 86 per cent of women are illiterate, legally disadvantaged, economically dependent on their husbands and threatened by various forms of violence – genital mutilation, forced marriage and domestic violence are commonplace.

Nevertheless, women often shoulder full responsibility for the family. Their economic independence and being better-regarded in society are therefore crucial – they are essential not only for caring for the family, but also for the community’s economic development.

Girls also belong in school

Angéline Yakeneloum’s example shows the considerable impact which modest support measures can have on women. The mother of eight children, including four girls, is a member of a women’s group who received a cow and an ox as gifts. The animals help with work on the field; the family can harvest more and sell any surplus produce on the market. Finally, Angéline has her own money.

With her own income in her pocket, Angéline is more independent and self-confident, which particularly benefits her girls: their father didn’t want to send all the children to school. But Angéline made a stand and was able to cover most of the costs with her income, so all eight girls and boys can attend school. It is important to the 45-year-old: “I want my girls to have it easier and not stay illiterate like me.”

Those acting against girls’ interests are excluded

Angéline’s example is setting a precedent in the region. The SWISSAID coordination office in N’Djamena is working closely with six local women’s organisations in southern Chad to ensure that women take part in literacy courses and are informed about childhood marriage, genital mutilation and the importance of school attendance for girls.

About 1,500 women have already attended a course and send their girls to school. The educational measures ensure sustainability. For example, there is no longer any excuse for women who advocate child marriages and circumcisions of young girls or don’t want to send their daughters to school: they are excluded from membership of the women’s organisations.