COVID-19 Struggles

Microfinance Group Limited Gathering with Handmade Face MasksWhile all of us have been impacted by COVID-19 this year, the pandemic has been disastrous to the lives of girls and their families in Mauritania.

Mauritania closed schools early at the end of March 2020 due to the Coronavirus. For the majority of the students, this meant the end of the school year without the option to do remote learning. For the 2020-2021 school year, schools reopened for in-person learning because the majority of families do not have access to computers and the internet at home.

Coumba shared with us:
“Not only the lives of our girls but their families have completely changed. The 150 women in the ANFE self-help groups that are the girls’ mothers and family members have also suffered because all of them are involved in informal income-generating activities and are responsible for supporting many family members, typically 12 to 15 people.

During Mauritania’s lockdown, markets were shut down and people were given only a three- to four-hour window to shop for food each day. The government put a curfew in place for two months and no one could travel between parts of the country, and all the schools closed.”

All of this has had harmful effects on the economy, especially on our women’s income-generating activities.

  • 30% of our women are in the restaurant business.
  • 40% of our women are juice sellers in markets and in front of schools
  • 20% are vendors of vegetables and fish
  • 10% are housekeepers and linen workers

Until recently, all restaurants were closed and gatherings were prohibited. These women are now facing bankruptcy and they can no longer repay their loans due to lack of income. These additional income-generating activities all involve contact with people, which was prohibited and is still limited so all the activities of ANFE women had to stop.

ANFE Response

ANFE organized funding to buy food and share it among families who cannot meet their food needs. ANFE has been contacting different food factories, supermarkets, and individuals for donations but so far they are still waiting. Coumba, the director of ANFE, has personally provided additional money to help the girls and families.

The microfinance groups organized a neighborhood and community center cleaning day and 3-day educational event around the importance of hygiene practices like handwashing, mask wearing, and staying socially distant to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

One of our high school students learned to sew cloth face masks by hand. She has taught other girls and women at the community center how to make the masks which they sell for additional income.

Your Help

Donations to Girls to School have provided programming and support for 264 girls and women during an extremely challenging year. Your donation will help girls and their families be resilient in the face of COVID-19.

Will you help us send more girls to school and support these women and families through COVID-19?

Donate to Girls to School

More coverage of COVID-19 in Mauritania:

Girls to School 2017 Newsletter

We’re excited to share with you the impact you had and what we were able to accomplish together over the past year in Mauritania, West Africa!

Since last September, Girls to School has:

  • Educated 106 girls across nine schools (four public schools and five private). These high-quality schools are all within walking distances for the girls.
    • 40 elementary students
    • 42 middle school and high school students
    • 12 university students
    • 12 professional school students
    • Six girls in the program were awarded the “Best in Their Class” this year, earning the highest grades
  • Empowered 30 “Big Sisters” to support younger girls in school. The Big Sister program helps supplement conditions at home where parents with no education are unable to help their daughters out with their studies. The Big Sisters also serve as mentors around personal issues, school, and home life.
  • Provided a safe place for girls to meet and gain strength from each other! At the Community Center we helped build three years ago, the girls continue to go and get help with their homework, have the opportunity to relax, and have fun. The Center hosts weekly volunteers that provides tutoring and support to the girls. This upcoming year we will begin to support maintenance and security expenses.
  • Facilitated five neighborhood microfinance groups with 150 members. The members are primarily mothers of the girls in school. The group members take out small loans to enhance their economic activities, ranging from cooking and selling couscous, washing clothes, dying clothing, and selling grain and food at local markets. This year, the groups decided to set up larger loans for each member to buy land, and then a future loan opportunity would be to build a house. This is especially important as many of the girls’ households are rented, tiny and holding huge families, and are in very poor condition.

Invest in girls’ education – Join Us!

You have the chance to change the lives and futures of more than 250 girls and women this year. The next school year begins in October. Will you help us send girls to school this year?

Any amount you can give makes a significant impact:

  • $200 sends a girl to school for a year
  • $100 gives a girl a tutor or “Big Sister” for a year
  • $75 provides much-needed school supplies
  • $50 provides new clothes to wear at school all year
  • $20 supports a women’s microfinance group

“The more a girl or woman is educated, the more choices she has in her life.”

Click here to donate. Thank you for being part of Girls to School. We couldn’t do this important work without you. Gratefully,

Heather Arney and Coumba Dieng
Left: Girls and their mothers at the Community Center. Right: A microfinance group meeting.


Aminata: It’s So Important, I’m Going to School No Matter What!

Aminata had an early marriage and her husband made her leave school by taking her away to a village for two years. But she fled and went back to hide at her teacher’s house for one month. She only agreed to leave the teacher’s house with the condition that she could go back to her parent’s house and remain at school. Today, Aminata has returned to school and advocating to girls and parents never to make early marriages.

Halima: Determined to Attend School Despite Sickness, Chores, and Poverty

Halima is from a very poor family. Her father does not work and her mother sells juice. They live in a house with two rooms, with no water, with 10 brothers. She is the only girl in her family. This year, Halima was ill and absent from school for one month. But she still became first in her class by waking up 6 a.m. to wash the dishes and swept the house before 7 a.m. so she could work on her school lessons.

Mariem: Smart, Wise Beyond Her Years, and Working to be a Lawyer

Mariem is a very determined 10-year-old girl in her studies because her dream is to become a lawyer. She goes from class to class, speaking for 10 minutes on the role of women’s rights and their protections. She speaks like a 20-year-old woman! She impresses the whole school and in her neighborhood they already call her the lawyer. She is the second in her class this year.

The Guardian: “Arming” Girls with Education

The Guardian’s Global Development blog posted an excellent article today titled, Education is a Powerful Weapon, So Let’s Arm Young Girls With It. They explain, “Reducing child marriage, providing access to health services, and getting more girls to stay in education will save many lives.”

Read the full article >

Girls from Ecole Savior

GIRLS-FROM-ECOLE-SAVOIR-post2Girls in school! These are the girls who have been sponsored through Girls to School, thanks to our amazing donors.

Read More

Microloans + Education = An End to Poverty

Almost half the children in the world are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, over 93 million children are out of school – the majority: girls.

Girls to School is addressing this injustice in West Africa through established local organizations that create opportunities for girls to obtain a quality education, and women to obtain access to credit to catalyze income-generating activities.

The education and microcredit programs also have indirect effects on the community. Both men and women are seeing the importance of girls’ education and how it can help alleviate the realities of poverty. The mothers in the microcredit programs are teaching other women in the community the skills they’ve learned. A husband of one of the mothers laughed the first time he heard about his wife joining a microcredit group. Today he works with her at her stand in the market because he saw how she has been earning a steady income.

Be a part of the movement >