Protecting a girl's right to an education

Mar 13, 2024

Sister Helene is giving girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a second chance at an education.

The Catholic nun founded a small community-based organization called Association Dibaya Tuye Kumpola to support girls. Many of them were forced to leave school and even their homes.

“These girls, and many others like them, had been left to the world at a time when they did not know what to do. Some even considered taking their own lives,” Helene explains.

Through the Equality for Girls’ Access to Learning (EGAL) project, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, Helene received training to be a community advocate for girls.

A woman in a nun’s uniform sits and smiles with a young, smiling boy at her side.

After receiving training from the Equality for Girls’ Access to Learning (EGAL) project, Sister Helene advocated for girls like Marie to go back to school.

Culturally, when girls show signs of puberty, it can result in them being having to leave school, while boys are allowed to continue their education. Girls become home help and collect firewood, fetch water, cook food and care for the sick. If a girl is a victim of sexual abuse or violence, some parents don’t let them leave home or go to school.

Thankfully, EGAL’s work is changing this belief.

“When World Vision started the EGAL project, they taught us about child rights, especially for girls,” Helene says. “They reoriented us on the potential of girls. We have recovered and returned many young girls to schools in the area. Contrary to negative norms, girls are taught to say, ‘No,’ and boys to respect girls. Many have learned not to put themselves in harm’s way and they now know where to report cases of abuse.”

Helene and 140 other members of local women’s associations held a "Back to school" awareness campaign and went door-to-door to determine which girls and boys were not in school. They worked with parents to send their children back to school, especially girls, and successfully reintegrated 544 girls.

Nine-year-old Marie is one of those girls. She says she doesn’t know her father or where her mother is. “I did not have anyone to register me in school, but Sister Helene helped me go to school,” she says. “I love going to school, and I am happy to learn reading and writing.”