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The Chance to Thrive

Would you be where you are today if no one had believed in you? Would you be where you are today without the opportunities you’ve had?

Belief. Encouragement. Investment. Opportunity. These are pivotal in our development as girls, and essential in our lives as women.

Ninety-three million kids in our world today are not in school - most of whom are girls. Most of them are poor and living in developing countries. Most of them must instead help their families survive. The majority of them will marry at a young age.

Unless…unless they are given a chance to do otherwise. When education becomes a viable option, girls can blossom. Their minds are fed. Their confidence is fueled. Their dreams can be unlocked.

Possibility is born.

This is precisely why Girls to School exists. Girls to School works in partnership with non-governmental organizations in West Africa that take a holistic approach to creating access to education for low-income girls. We are currently supporting Amenons Nos Filles a l’Ecole – ANFE (or Bringing Our Girls to School), in Mauritania, West Africa.

ANFE was conceived in 1996 by Coumba Dieng. Coumba saw the face of injustice in a young girl who was about to be married that month but said she wished she could be educated just like Coumba. It was at that moment that Coumba’s heart broke and she decided to do something for girls like this. Only 23 percent of Mauritantian females make it to the secondary level of school!

Today, 92 girls are enrolled in primary school, and six girls have gone on to high school, thanks to Girls to School and ANFE. Hawa Ba is one of the girls in the program who has blossomed with such support. She said:

“…This project has changed my life. My mother died while giving birth, and I was there. I have six brothers and sisters but two sisters who were married at the age of 14. My father is nearly blind and works as a guard at a school. We have only one room in our house. We didn’t eat but once per day and I must help all my brothers and sisters because my two big sisters are married and in the village. I don’t even have many clothes to wear.

ANFE gave me clothes, books, and paid for my school. Today I am at school! I am a volunteer in the group of big sisters and I help the smaller girls succeed because…without [Girls to School and ANFE] I’d be a prostitute or a beggar. I asked my father to never force his daughters to get married because getting married so young is horrible. My dream is to become a midwife to save the lives of mothers during birth and help women learn how to give birth safely. I want this project to continue because it saves a lot of lives…”

Our goal with Girls to School is to be able to tell more and more stories of hope and transformation like Hawa Ba’s. It is through lives like hers that we can fulfill our mission:

1) To alleviate poverty and support economic development through programs empowering women
2) To educate those in the US and other developed countries about the role of girls’ education in alleviating global poverty and improving gender equity

This is also being successfully achieved by investing in mothers. Coumba learned early on that you couldn’t really help the girls without also helping their moms, so she began a microloan program to give mothers the opportunity to begin an income generating job. Today, 300 women have learned basic accounting and business skills through established neighborhood microfinance groups.

The tools that we are using to empower girls and women– education, mentoring, microloans, and fellowships – are helping each of them break the cycle of poverty in their communities. These opportunities are fostering the reality that for each of them, another world is possible.

I am proud to be on the Board for such an astonishing organization. As I learn about and advocate for the dignity of my sisters around the globe, I am equally empowered and inspired by their lives.

Learn more at



Katie McDonald's picture

Great work

Hello Erin,

Thanks for sharing with us some information about the work of Girls to School. It is great to read about your successes. Hawa Ba's story is testimony to the importance of education and skills development in creating opportunity.

Best wishes,


ExplodingSoul's picture

Much appreciated

Thank you Katie! It is one of those life-changing opportunities that surprised me...those are the best, yeah? :)
I hope to meet some of these girls in the next year.

All the best,

Erin Swanson

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