Service: Capacity Building
Expertise: Basic Education for Children and Adults, Girls' and Women's Education
World Education, Inc. (WEI) is supporting the Benin government's goals to improve access to and the quality of education to students (especially girls) in the most disadvantaged areas in educational terms in Benin. Girls' Education and Community Participation (CAEF in French), a project funded by USAID, involves work at 750 schools in 14 districts of the country. A key strategy in reaching these goals in very diverse settings is to involve the communities to the maximum extent possible.
CAEF aims to increase girls' access to education through increased community participation, with a strong emphasis on increasing women's participation and leadership. As a core strategy of this project, CAEF has facilitated the organization of more than 665 school mothers' associations (AME in French). AMEs are comprised of school mothers and other community women, and are a sub-group of the male-dominated school parents' associations (APE in French). Mothers are traditionally responsible for educating the young children in Benin, but in the past they have been largely excluded from the decision-making process in school management. Through WEI's work with AMEs, women have gained a strong voice and support from APEs to improve the learning environment, monitor student progress, and establish collaborative relationships with the local teachers. CAEF is building on WEI's AME work by helping AMEs to lobby APEs to address challenges for girls for school action plans and to undertake activities such as building crêches (pre-schools) that help alleviate the need to draw older daughters out of school to look after the young children; organizing city trips to retrieve youngsters who've been taken out of school to become vidomégan (usually domestic servants or market sellers for wealthy and middle-class families) and return them to school; and fighting against forced marriage, child rape, and other abuses. CAEF is also promoting AMEs to undertake a revision of outdated statutes, and to lobby government authorities on issues relating to girls' education in particular, and education in general.
CAEF also works closely with other major international organizations such as UNICEF, SNV, PLAN, and AIDE ET ACTION, as well as key national stakeholders (MOE, NGOs, and village-level community groups) to complement programs and establish strong buy-in for the project. Collaboration has included a national workshop, a presentation for International Women's Day in Kalalé, radio broadcasts in local languages (including a CAEF-sponsored national radio/TV debate on violence in schools), and site visits to various girls' education projects to share lessons learned and to strategize for future interventions. CAEF is also working in collaboration with ministry officials and its partner NGO, OSV-Jordan, to organize a march and public discussion of AIDS in far northern Benin (Malanville-Karimama) to correspond with International AIDS Day. Finally, CAEF has worked successfully with the Council of Imams in northern Benin to discuss strategies to improve access to education by girls from Muslim communities.