Guinean Girls: support, educate, inspire

Jackie Watkins profile

Project by Jackie Watkins

Total raised £1,810

raised so far



Provide a space where girls can be educated about their rights, inspired to stay in school and supported in avoiding FGM and Early Marriage.

We're still collecting donations

On the 9th August 2019 we'd raised £1,600 with 35 supporters in 28 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.

The aim

1) To give the Conakry Refugee School Health Club a home 

By resourcing a dedicated, attractive, safe and well-resourced room with laptops to access online content, an inspirational DVD and book library and camera to document their work and create content for social media. 

2) Educate and support and inspire students to avoid FGM and early marriage enabling them to  stay in school and achieve their educational potential.  

Achieved through the running of:  

  • Homework club as girls often have no space or light to work at home. 
  • Revision classes as girls can fall behind their male peers because of their domestic duties at home.
  • Mentoring sessions with female alumni where girls can share the problems they face and hear how others have addressed them.
  • A program of films, talks and visits to inspire and provoke discussion. 

Why girls?

Education is a universal right and a matter of justice; educating girls also drives poverty alleviation and development for the whole community.

  • Girls’ education strengthens economies and creates jobs.
  • Communities are more stable — and can recover faster after conflict — when girls are educated.
  • Educated girls are healthier citizens who raise healthier families.
  • Educated girls are less likely to marry young or contract HIV  — and more likely to have healthy, educated children. Each additional year of school a girl completes cuts both infant mortality and child marriage rates.
  • Investing in girls’ education is good for our planet.The Brookings Institution calls secondary schooling for girls the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change. 

Girls at Conakry Refugee School struggle to pay for school and exam fees as families support their male children's education. Girls struggle more with inadequate hygiene facilities when they hit puberty and the cost of menstrual hygiene supplies often keeps them from school. Poor families often offer their girl children for marriage as they hit puberty, believing that marriage is their only option, wanting to relieve the burden of feeding and housing their daughters and hoping to avoid the stigma of pregnancy outside of marriage.

Why Guinea?

Guinea has been largely forgotten by the West until Ebola broke out within its borders in 2014, but is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world (179th out of 189).   Ranked 33/51 countries in Africa for its progress against Sustainable Development Goals, Guinea has red lights for progress on poverty, hunger, health education and gender equality.

These poor poverty and health outcomes are driven by extreme gender inequality (source Unicef).

  • FGM rates are the second highest in Africa at 97% 
  • Early marriage is the norm with 20% of girls married by the age of 15 
  • Female literacy rates are low and are almost half those of males at 21.8% 
  • Female secondary enrolment is 25.9% (40.5% male) 
  • Girls attendance at secondary school is even lower at 17% (27% male)

Why Conakry Refugee School (CRS)?

Conakry Refugee School is more than an educational establishment. For the refugees that fled conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s the school is their community. It operates as an emotional, social and financial safety net in a country where state support is minimal and support is difficult to access, especially as a refugee. A large number of the staff were trained or educated in the IRC camps in the 1990s, meaning their expectations of education are that it is child centred, gender sensitive and open to all religions or none, a world away from the classes in the state run schools. In fact CRS's work around gender equality, early marriage and FGM is truly inspirational. Their personal stories have moved and motivated me to work to support them for 10 years now. The staff, both male and female are passionate about treating girls equally in the classroom and keeping them in school for as long as possible. Unlike many schools CRS has more than 50% girls on role and many class leaders are girls. Girls are encouraged to speak up in class and advocate for change in their communities. 

Girls who find themselves pregnant or married or both are encouraged to continue in school with staff often putting their hands in their own pockets to help them with transport or food. Girls' sports is a great success in CRS with the senior girls' football team beating all contenders, girls athletic achievement applauded by all and the girl's tug of war being the finale of two weeks of sport during Easter.

Over the last two years two CRS staff have run a Health Club in an attempt to educate senior students about issues that do not get fully addressed in the curriculum. 37 girls and 7 boys joined this after school club run by the school nurse Korta and biology teacher Musa. The club provides a safe space to discuss the overlooked but vitally important issues of  sexual health, Female Genital Mutilation and  early marriage. They have incorporated this learning into dramas about HIV, FGM and early marriage which they have performed for the staff and students. They would love to perform these in the community and at other schools but have no resources to do this.

Why me?

I began to volunteer  with Friends of Conakry Refugee School in 2008 and was immediately impressed by the sense of community, the work ethic of the staff and the progressive and inclusive nature of the school. I stepped up my involvement in 2011, becoming a Trustee while at the same time beginning a MA in International Development Management. By 2014 I had written my thesis on the value of community led education (focusing on CRS) and was asked to take over as (voluntary) Director. That same year Ebola hit West Africa so I had to wait until 2016 to be able to visit the school myself. Meeting the staff and students has been emotional and challenging. The conditions in Guinea are appalling; no running water, little electricity, and very little in the way of rule of law.  However the trips to Conakry allowed me to make amazing connections with my hosts and motivated me to do all I can to support  their work. In 2018 my term as Director ended and, as a Trustee again, less of my time is taken up with the day to day running of this volunteer led charity.  I now want to focus my time and energy on supporting the girls and staff whom I have come to know and respect so much over the last few years. I have known Musa for three years and have been impressed by his dedication to the students and determination to be the best teacher he can possibly be. Korta's enthusiasm and creative flare brings the Health club to life. She is a trusted and much loved friend for the female students, has the medical knowledge to help them make healthy choices in their life and is a role model as a strong, eloquent and independent woman. 

The money bit

Total budget £2500

  • £400     Decoration of room
  • £400     Tables and chairs
  • £400     Refurbished laptops and internet access
  • £200     Camera for videoing productions and to create content for social media
  • £300     Creation of a library of donated books /DVD TV and DVD player
  • £400     Programme of event, mentoring and classes
  • £400     Leadership/management training for Korta and Musa

Help me get past the finishing line so we can inspire female students, support their aspirations and work to change gender norms, escape poverty and make a lasting change in their community.

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This project offered rewards

£100 or more

Padded laptop/tablet case in West African fabric

A handmade padded case with feature fastening to keep your laptop or tablet safe. I will be in contact to find out the exact size of your tech and show you the many vibrant fabric designs we have brought back from trips to Guinea. You choose the fabric and we'll get started on the make. This piece will be unique to you.

£20 or more

10 note cards featuring images from the school

A pack of 10 note cards featuring images from Conakry Refugee School, great for thank-you cards or to add some West African vibrance to your correspondence.

£50 or more

Tote bag in West African Fabric

A4 tote bag made from vibrant West African fabric. Big enough to be used for college or school folders but light enough to be folded up and put in your bag for when you need it.

£500 or more

Your words on our wall!

Do you have a favourite quote, song lyric, image or design that you think would inspire the students at CRS? We can arrange for this to be featured in the design of our room. If you are a company we can use your logo. A framed photo of your words on our wall with the students of the the Health Club will be sent to you in September when school returns.

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