Women's Global Education Project (WGEP) believes that universal education, gender equality, and the empowerment of girls and women are critical to a society's development. Our mission is to empower young people in rural areas of Senegal and Kenya, particularly women and girls, through education to build better lives and foster equitable communities. WGEP collaborates with locally-based organizations that lack the financial resources to implement or expand a program on their own and builds their local capacity to promote girls' education and literacy. This approach ensures that the program is community-led and community-focused. WGEP's partners possess strong relationships with community leaders and a deep and essential understanding of local politics, protocol, and people.
Based on the qualitative data (random sampling and surveying) in the service areas conducted to improve retention, a range of strategies have been developed to address retention and success in school, including:
--Scholarships for tuition, school fees, supplies, tutoring, mentoring, and room and board if necessary;
--Adult literacy classes for women;
--Health education to prevent health-related absences and promote healthier living practices;
--Educators' training to strengthen the ranks of women teachers, build their capacity, earning potential and status in the community;
--Community Awareness programs for parents, village leaders and other residents toward building continued and broadening support for girls' education;
--Empowerment programs, including an alternative “rite of passage" program to combat female genital mutilation and help girls, to equip women and their families with the tools and agency needed to make the most informed choices possible for the future.
The WGEP model was chosen as a “Best Practice" in girls' education for the Sisters to School program at the 2010 UNGEI global conference in Dakar. In 2014, WGEP was awarded a 4-year cooperative agreement with USAID, which builds on its success and significant experience to implement Our Sisters Read, (OSR) which focuses on literacy, quality education and learning outcomes of elementary school students in Senegal. Since 2004, WGEP girls' education and literacy programs have impacted over 14,000 women and girls in 73 of the most impoverished communities in Senegal and Kenya.
Continuous program evaluation is critical. The program has evolved to include a unique combination of interventions addressing multiple obstacles to girls' education. We continue to assess these strategies on the ground, fine-tune our program, adding or adjusting as necessary. WGEP's evaluation methodology is organic and responsive. WGEP is engaged in a community-oriented, nimble program structure that encourages flexibility in the approach to design interventions and changes necessitated by circumstances as they arise. Programs have endured the ethnic violence in Kenya, the concurrent drought in Kenya, and dramatic fluctuation in pricing of commodities in both countries due to the worldwide economic crisis. The research draws on narrative reports from teachers and outreach staff, highlighting findings from qualitative data collected from participant observations and interviews.
Having already identified careers for themselves, girls in our programs are imagining a new path for their futures. By providing a range of services, WGEP helps our scholars flourish and succeed, opening a world of opportunities for them and their families. As the world accepts women in leadership positions and honors women role models, these girls are developing a sense of possibility, knowing that with an education under their belts, they can pursue their dreams. WGEP plans on extending this model to other regions within Senegal and Kenya. With experience and lessons learned, we are now well placed to dramatically increase the number of girls attending and succeeding in school.