Peace Corps Guinea Celebrates International Girls' Day

By Joann Faith Chen
Oct. 31, 2017
October 11 marked International Girls’ Day, and Guinea volunteers celebrated this special day with the international community of Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs).

Guinean girls: a symbol of courage and resilience

As volunteers, our lives are closely intertwined with girls in our communities. Whether it’s teaching them in the classroom, creating safe spaces in girls’ clubs, coaching a girls’ sports team, sharing information about women’s health, or preparing a meal together, it’s safe to say that Guinean girls play an integral role in the life of each volunteer. A common topic brought up in conversation among PCVs is the amazement at how strong and competent girls in our communities are. School-aged girls manage to take care of nearly every household need, the needs of family members, and attend school—day in and day out.

The Peace Corps volunteer's role

Women and girls serve as the glue that holds communities and families together. Yet, girls in Guinea and around the world are underserved in the education system and often lack the autonomy to make important life decisions. Factors such as poverty, forced and child marriage, strict gender role expectations, and the lack of understanding about the importance of girls' education contribute to high drop-out rates of girls from school. In fact, of the 70% of primary school-aged girls who attend school, only 22% graduate. Of these 22%, 29% continue onto middle school with only 9% graduating. 16% of this 9% continue on to high school, and 25% graduate (Source: Secretariat Technique du Comité Genre et Équité). Much of the work that PCVs in Guinea are involved with is focused on increasing these numbers and equipping young girls to be strong advocates for themselves. Although many girls in our communities face barriers to achieving a brighter future, volunteers have the privilege of witnessing their courage on a daily basis and walking alongside them in their journey to rise above these challenges.

Charting the way forward together

During the week leading up to International Girls’ Day, volunteers celebrated by sharing stories and experiences of girls from their communities on social media platforms. The goal was to focus these stories on their identities as girls—what do they love most about being a girl? What does education mean to them? What are their future goals? Girls in Guinea usually work behind the scenes, and their opinions and stories are often overpowered by the cultural and social contexts in which they live. The primary objective of this initiative was to celebrate and honor the individual experiences of each girl in a tangible way by creating a platform for their voices to be heard. Additionally, sharing and listening to their stories allowed us volunteers to enrich our understanding of the complexities behind gender equity and girls' education in Guinea. As much as volunteers and girls in our communities enjoyed telling their stories publicly, this was just the start to a much longer, more important process. As we move forward, volunteers continue to deepen conversations with key stakeholders, while fostering strong, healthy relationships with girls in their communities. International Girls' Day served as a reminder for volunteers to continue investing in the holistic wellbeing of girls and appreciating the unique opportunity we have of living among such inspiring, powerful individuals. To read all the stories posted from PCV's in Guinea and other countries, you can find them by searching for the hashtag #GirlDayPeaceCorps on Facebook

Joann Faith Chen