Engaging Grandmothers to Promote Girls’ Development and Success at School in Senegal

Project location: SENEGAL
Project start date: January 2013 - Project end date: December 2013
Project number: 2012-116
Beneficiary: The Grandmother Project (GMP)


The three key activities in the community program are:

Activity 1: Intergenerational (IG) forums to discuss issues related to girls’ health and development.
-    Involve influential community leaders in reflection on issues related to the development, education and well - being of children in general, and specifically of girls;
-    Promote mutual respect between elders, adults and young men and women;
-    Help communities to discuss taboo issues related to Girls Holistic Development;
-    Acknowledge and reinforce grandmothers’ role as culturally designated teachers and advisors in families and communities.
The intergenerational forums bring together community members who represent the following categories of community actors: traditional community leaders, religious leaders, grandmothers, grandfathers, men, women, older adolescents, health workers and teachers as well as the team of project facilitators. Each of the forums last for two full days and bring together approximately 30 participants. During the forums, particular attention is paid to encouraging participation by grandmothers. In the past, they were rarely involved in community meetings organized by development programs and for this reason at the outset they tend to be rather shy. When encouraged to contribute to the discussions and when their input is acknowledged, they gain the confidence to participate and to actively express themselves in a group setting.
The forums allow for phased introduction of dialogue between categories of individuals who are not accustomed to having in-depth discussions with each other on sensitive issues, including early and forced marriage and teen pregnancy. For each of the topics addressed in the forums the first step involves peer-group discussions on the issue; the groups are organized by age and gender, for example, a group of grandmothers and another of young men. At the conclusion of the small group discussion, the discussion is opened up to a plenary session involving all categories of participants. Everyone actively participates in the small group discussions, while not everyone speaks out in the big group. With this system, everyone feels comfortable to speak at one point or another, while no one is forced to do so at any time.
The IG dialogue process allows community members to come to their own conclusions about how to deal with various issues related to girls’ well-being and development.
The project will carry out 8 intergenerational forums involving members of 8 communities and teachers in Velingara district. The forums will take place over an 8 month period.

Activity 2: Under-the-tree non-formal education sessions with girls, mothers, grandmothers and boys to discuss early/forced marriage, teen pregnancy, and excessive domestic chores for girls, etc., that limit girls’ school success.
-    Encourage dialogue on issues related to the development, education and well - being of adolescent girls, and promote girls enrolment and maintenance at school;
-    Facilitate open communication on sensitive issues, such as early pregnancy and sexuality, between grandmothers, mothers and adolescent girls, in order to build a supportive environment for girls and reduce early/forced marriage of adolescent girls;
-    Acknowledge and reinforce grandmothers’ role as culturally designated teachers and advisors in families and in the communities.
-    Promote more respectful relationships among adolescent boys and girls, contributing to the prevention of early pregnancy, which continues to be seen as a risk for girls continuing their education.
 “Under the tree” non-formal education sessions are participatory education sessions conducted by animatrices, trained and supervised by Grandmother Project, that occur in the afternoon, involving grandmothers, women, and adolescent girls or boys (there are separate under-the-tree groups for adolescent girls and adolescent boys), as well as grandmother and adolescent girls, grandmothers and women and men (parents of adolescent girls).
The sessions are based on a participatory communication and decision-making approach and the tools utilized are developed by Grandmother Project and include card games, discussions of pictures, stories-without-an-ending and skits, all of which help participants address sensitive topics with the facilitation of the animatrice and, at times, with the participation of other resource persons, such as teachers, health workers  (matrones) and other local cultural actors.
The sessions help participants to open-up in a safe and culturally respectful environment; sitting in a circle “under the arbre à palabre”, they can share their opinions about early marriage, teen pregnancy and boy-girl relationships, learn new information about sexual and reproductive health and discuss how they can create an environment which encourages girls’ education and their protection from harmful influences. 
Three animatrices will cover 16 villages; two animatrices will cover 5 villages and one animatrice will cover 6 villages.  Every month the animatrices will facilitate 3 sessions in each community, for a total of 48 sessions per month.  A total of 240 “under-the-tree” sessions will be carried out over a 7 month period.

Activity 3: Radio programs on the local community-run radio station to discuss the importance of children’s/girls’ education including interviews of girls, grandmothers, women and adolescent boys supporting this topic.
Radio programs will highlight all the issues related to keeping adolescent girls in school (previously discussed above): teen pregnancy, early/forced marriage, excessive chores for schoolgirls and the importance of a strong community-school partnership. 
Radio programs were used in Phase I to inform community members of GMP project activities and to educate everyone about these very important and sensitive issues.  GMP utilizes the services of a journalist to interview participants in the intergenerational forums, particularly grandmother leaders, GMP staff, girl leaders, headmen and religious heads to discuss their participation in the project and to speak openly about these difficult issues that the communities face related to adolescent girls. 
The programs offer an opportunity to transmit traditional cultural knowledge, particular in the area of storytelling, to an expanded audience.  In a series of 10 radio programs listeners will have the opportunity to listen to traditional stories told by grandmothers from the communities.  After telling the stories the grandmothers will comment on the importance of the story and how its moral can be used in the daily lives of all community members. 

In Phase II, the project area will include a total of 16 communities, some Phase I communities and some additional new communities. It is anticipated that the intergenerational forums will contribute to the following outcomes:

- Increased communication and understanding between generations and between various community groups;
- Strengthened relationships between adolescent girls and grandmothers;
- Greater respect for grandmothers among other community members;
- Greater sense of confidence on the part of grandmothers themselves in their roles as advisors in the family and community;
- Strengthened communication and collaboration between communities and schools;
- Greater confidence on the part of communities in their own capacity to act to improve the well - being of children, families and communities.

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