In an unsurprising move from the Trump administration it has recently been reported that the Let Girls Learn (LGL) program, an initiative started by Michelle Obama to promote the education of girls in developing countries, will be discontinued. Though there is talk about some aspects of the program continuing it appears that the stand alone program will cease to exist.
This announcement has, for obvious reasons, caused some discontent among PC Burkina Faso Volunteers as the initiative provided training and grant funds specifically for girls- some of the most vulnerable people in developing communities.
Personally, my greatest accomplishment as a Peace Corps Volunteer came on the heels of a LGL training. The LGL training provided enough information and support to spark my fellow teacher (Lea) into starting up our Sexual Education Club, something I have frequently referenced here.
Most recently my partner Lea and I had a session with a group of girls about the menstrual cycle, and a follow up session where we made reusable pads out of scarp fabric.
In Burkina Faso sexual education in schools doesn’t start nearly as soon as it does in the United States and students have usually already started engaging in sexual activity, or started their cycles, before they are given any sort of formal education on the subject. In light of that, sometimes Peace Corps Volunteers are asked to fill that educational gap with the help of host country nationals. In the case of the menstrual cycle sessions I conducted with Lea, the girls we worked with were between the ages of 16 and 21. Plenty old enough to have started their cycles but not yet in the correct grade to have a sexual education class.
In this instance Lea, who was motivated to start this club with me after attending a LGL training, were able to help fill an immediate need for these girls. With any hope the girls will show others how to create the reusable pads and the start of their cycles wont spell the need to pay for expensive disposable menstrual products or the fear of bleeding through their school uniforms – these issues can often lead girls to abstain from coming to class or participating to the fullest.
These are the types of activities that Volunteers are able to run if they have access to training and funding through LGL, projects that can help girls in the daily lives.
Though I truly believe that Volunteers will continue to do this type of work even if there is no official LGL program I also hope that aspects of LGL will continue to live on, because if anyone needs and deserves a program that exists solely for them it’s these girls.