In order for girls to succeed, they need safe spaces and a group of peers to guide them, both inside and outside of the classroom. That’s why all STF Scholars meet regularly in girls’ groups, a group of 8-20 participants led by a trained mentor. In The Gambia at STF Partner Starfish International, trained mentors are typically older STF Scholars and recent graduates, who’ve experienced many of the same challenges students are going through.
Graduated STF Scholars Haddy, Aji, and Rose (below) have now taken on mentor roles in their girls’ group, the Sisters Care Club. After completing their training, they work with STF Scholars to tackle personal issues such as goal-setting and female reproductive health. They also support their education, advocate for mentees as needed, and help to create projects around community service. Each student has personal check-ins with her mentor about her progress on a regular basis.
Fatou, a partner staff member, shares that the club originally came into existence several years ago when there was a need for mentorship. Today, they provide access to mentorship and supportive group conversations about emotional and intimate topics (such as personal hygiene or violence against women) that they otherwise may not feel safe speaking about.
In Fatou’s own words, “Communities should support girls’ groups simply because it is one of the most effective ways to uplift girls. The issues of violence, abuse, stress, and depression can be greatly reduced, if girls are given the space to have minutes of meditation, sharing and love. Girls’ groups do not only encourage sharing, but [also] taking action.”
Without these safe spaces and mentorship, girls living in social isolation experience dramatically higher levels of school dropout, gender-based violence, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection. But with girls’ groups, they learn instead how to navigate personal challenges and ultimately shape the world they want to live in—and the kind we want, too.