The Story of Bintou, A Woman Inspiring Change in Mali
Poor access to water hurts girls' education.
In Mali, only 73.8% of girls are enrolled in primary basic education, compared to 85.8% of boys. When it comes to secondary education, enrolment plummets, with only 15% of Malian girls and 21% of Malian boys attending.*
Even if schools in Mali had more inclusive infrastructure, such as gender-specific washrooms, existing social norms would still be a barrier to young girls’ education.
This is why women like Bintou are making their voices heard.
The SCOFI project in Mali focuses on boosting girls’ enrolment and addressing systemic hurdles to the sustainable management of sanitary facilities in schools. Alongside its partner, the Centre Culturel Kôrè (CCK), the One Drop Foundation continues to roll out its unique Social Art for Behaviour Change (SABC) approach in schools across the Ségou region. As a counselor for CCK, Bintou Soumbounou hosts group discussions at “teen clubs” where she discusses gender-related barriers, menstrual hygiene management, and the concepts of gender and women’s empowerment.
As Bintou explains, “There are social pressures here in Mali, the weight of tradition and gender variables... But as soon as someone tries to explain that gender is a source of complementarity and mutual aid between men and women, something that helps build the community and the country we cohabitate in, they [people in the community] begin to understand.”
Bintou notices that, little by little, teenagers are starting to take ownership of social art techniques and can facilitate conversations amongst themselves.
Social art opens the door to conversations, emotions, and awakenings around deep-seated individual views. “I see participants getting curious, attentive, and excited. They’re awestruck by the social art approach, which they find to be quite innovative and directly connected to their stories.”
Through stories that are rooted in local culture, Bintou and the “teen clubs” spread messages that reach the community at large, inspiring people to create a more inclusive environment that will respond to girls’ educational and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related needs.
It’s time we all acknowledge art and behaviour change as critical components of sustainable water access projects, and access to water as essential to fostering education, gender equality, and ultimately, to creating a better world.
*UNICEF, Education, https://www.unicef.org/mali/education