According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO,) in Burkina Faso, whereas 92.93% of female children (ages 6-11 years) are enrolled in elementary school, only 37.58 remain enrolled in secondary school (Age 12-18 years.) By the time of college (Age 19-23 years,) only 4.09% of women are still in school. The drastic drop of females enrolled in school from elementary to secondary school by nearly 60 percent is explained by multiple factors: 68% of the population in Burkina Faso remains rural. Elementary schools are often built even in rural areas whereas secondary school education requires most adolescents to leave their village and move to a bigger town. Most families lack the financial resources to support their children during this transition. In addition, parents are more likely to send their sons off to a secondary school than their daughters because they are afraid the latter may get pregnant while in school. One of the most critical factors in girls’ school retention from primary to secondary education is the fact that Age 11-12 is a critical time period in their lives: With puberty and the start of their menstrual periods, girls are often taken out of school by their families for early marriage. Of the few girls who make it to secondary school, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that menstrual hygiene, care and education are of significant need for those adolescents. The lack of hygiene often leads to adolescents girls missing school every month during their menstrual periods; compounded by the end of the school year they’d miss enough school days to considerably fall behind their school work and ultimately drop out. Also today, the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso makes adolescents vulnerable to extremist groups. In this present situation, a predictable almost certain future for the girls affected by those factors is early marriage, poor health outcome, financial hardship, subordination, and stagnation.
The Mission of Sahel Girls Empowerment (SAGE) project is to promote the retention of adolescent girls through secondary school and by so doing create the possibility of empowerment, health, financial freedom, and creativity of women in the Sahel. The rising up of fully alive, empowered, free, accomplished and healed women at this time of human history speaks to the possibility of a real civil society, in which love and compassion are the foundation. One woman rising affects countless individuals, by supporting their families, communities and countries. To educate a woman is to educate a nation.