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Girls save to stay in school

Girls from Sierra Leone are saving money through Plan International-backed groups to pay school fees and continue their education.

Isha, a member of a youth savings group
Isha used her savings to pay for her school fees.

In Sierra Leone, girls face a number of barriers that stop them going to school. Many families struggle to make ends meet and can’t afford to keep their children in education. If money is tight, families will often prefer to pay for their sons’ school fees. As a result, girls can be expected to perform domestic tasks or earn money to support their families. According to estimates, 33% of girls from 12-17 are out of school (PDF)* in Sierra Leone.

Savings and loans groups have been introduced in Sierra Leone to help girls and their families save the money needed to pay for school fees. These groups are used throughout the world to introduce low-income communities to the basics of saving money and planning for future expenses, particularly when banks are not easily accessible. 

Savings skills help girls thrive

Girls from a youth savings group in Sierra Leone
Girls are learning invaluable skills through youth savings groups.

Plan International Sierra Leone’s savings programme teaches these skills to girls as young as 7 to prepare them to manage money before they get their first job. As with adults, these groups build confidence and provide a platform to teach other skills, such as public speaking. The skills and confidence girls gain from these savings groups will help them thrive when they get jobs and start earning money.

Isha, 15, joined the savings group in her community and was selected as a girl ambassador to teach her peers what she had learned. “The most important thing I learned was how to talk in public,” she says. “I used to be quiet and not speak out, but now I am bold and confident.”

After a year of saving money, Isha gave the money that she had saved to her mother, Tokumbo, who used it to pay for her daughter’s school fees and invest in the family business. Tokumbo, was impressed by what she saw.

Inspiring communities

“What was interesting to me was that the children really prepared for the savings group meetings - they washed up and put on their best clothes to go meet with each other,” says Tokumbo. “I admire my girl when she is bold now to stand up for her rights.

The most important thing I learned was how to talk in public

“And all of us parents were impressed by the money that the children could save. We decided that we wanted to do this savings group as adults. Now every Wednesday on market day, 10 of us meet together, and we each give 10,000 Leones (€1.60) to one person in our group. We’ve been doing this now for 15 weeks. Every week we give to a different person. This is all because of the girls who first started doing this.”