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Dakar, Al-Hadji Ibrahima Thiaw High School, 3 February 2018

The visit at Al-Hadji Ibrahima Thiaw School was the first of two visits made by the UN Secretary General’s Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake on the day. The visit to the school sought to showcase Sexual and Reproductive Health Interventions in a school setting, with young people highlighting the key challenges they face, and how they are working with teachers and adults in the community to address in issues such as child marriages, early pregnancies, female genital mutilation and gender based violence.

Children and young people at the school welcomed the Youth Envoy and the UNFPA Delegation with songs and a stage performance that underlined the importance of going to school, share information within peer groups, build a strong voice against harmful practices. Students at the school displayed and shared key messages calling for their right to sexual and reproductive health and calling for the protection of young girls.

One the main highlights of the visit was the voices of role models and teachers in the community and how they are shaping attitudes among the children and young people at the school. Mr Mamadou Mbodji, who taught at the school for 36 years spoke about the progress that has been made over the years with respect to the number of young girls now enrolled in school. In his words, the large increase of young girl in school was indicative of how proactive steps like in working with community leaders and parents can improve the situation and lives of young people.   

“Just like you I come from a developing country, and attended a school just like yours. Seeing you today made me imagine my days in school as a young girl growing up in Sri Lanka” Jayathma said, in an emotional message to the children. She added that that they must remember that they were in the right place and have the opportunity for education and will impact on society positively.

The Envoy impressed on the children and young people who joined her at the school on the need to consider the empowerment of the next generation as a broader and all-encompassing goal, which does not isolate but also involve young boys and men. “Young boys and men also have a responsibility of standing against child marriage, of promoting education for the girl child, and standing in solidarity with their sisters.” It is against such a background of solidarity and collaborative effort can a world that respects the rights of young girls to education, which empowers all young people and leaves no one behind, be achieved.