Raichatou Youssef is sixteen-years-old. Like many of her peers, she has long stopped attending school. She spends her days helping with the cooking, housekeeping and helping to care for her numerous younger siblings. And like many of her peers, Raichatou has already been married.
Only days after her marriage, Raichatou fled her husband’s house and returned to her family, asking her father to let her stay. She didn’t want to go back. This was not a new story for their family. Raichatou’s older sister, Fatimatou, had already fled from four marriages by the time she was 24.
Raichatou was sent back to her husband several times, but each time she returned home in tears and was finally able to convince her father to request a divorce on her behalf. At the young age of sixteen, Raichatou has already been through one failed marriage
When a Tamasheq women’s literacy class, known as Hut Class, began in her community, Raichatou became a faithful attendee and was one of the brightest girls in the class. After her marriage, she continued to come, although her husband preferred for her to stay home and care for the house. Raichatou didn’t want to give up her studies. And she certainly wasn’t ready to settle down into the routines of married life—cooking and child rearing.
Raichatou’s story is not uncommon. It describes the experiences of many of the girls in this community. Opening a sewing center to train these girls in practical skills has the potential to change them from a liability to an asset for their families, thereby delaying marriage until they are of both a physical and emotional age for marriage. Their participation in hut class has shown their desire to educate themselves and broaden their horizons. We believe the addition of a sewing skills centre in our community will give even more opportunities to many young girls who find themselves in exactly the same situation!
- By Rebecca