Young girls who survived Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s are the people who will develop the nation in the future, according to Christiana Thorpe, the founding chair and former CEO of Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) in Sierra Leone. Thorpe, who spoke recently at Claremont McKenna College’s Leadership Conference, said men in Sierra Leone are “beginning to realize its not business as usual,” as women take on new roles in the culture.
FAWE, an African NGO founded in 1992, offers scholarships to young women, provides workshops for parents and teachers, promotes girls’ education in science, math, and technology, and teaches sex education. It also works to empower girls through TUSEME, an arts based program that uses theater to teach girls to voice their concerns. “Education in the US is a right, but to [girls in Sierra Leone] it is such a big privilege,” said Thorpe, who is determined to make it a right for African girls as well.
Thorpe launched the Sierra Leone branch of FAWE when she was Minister of Education; five other female ministers of education followed suit and launched branches in their own African countries. FAWE still uses this link to the ministries of education to successfully lobby at the governmental level for policies that support girls’ education. It now has national chapters in 35 countries in Africa and has helped 15 million girls.