"I live in the Lusenda refugee camp. It was following the birth of my child that Projet ÉDUFAM intervened, because even though I still had the will to study, my parents could no longer cover the school fees because of my pregnancy. Thanks to Projet ÉDUFAM, I was able to go back to school and received all the materials I needed to support myself. Since then, my classes have progressed well, even if I still have difficulties in maths. I live alone with my child, and after high school I’d like to go on to university. What I can say to all those girls who give birth at an early age is never to give up and give up studying."
- Justine, a young Burundian woman living in the Lusenda camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The project in brief
The project is implemented by Fondation Paul Gérin-Lajoie (FPGL)- Canada and the CECI in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. It began in 2020 and is currently ongoing.
The ÉDUFAM project stands out for its innovative and holistic model, notably through family and community support system—community relays. These local women relays, trained in a feminist approach, regularly engage with 3,300 vulnerable girls and teenagers across three countries. Through monthly visits, the relays address educational barriers, supporting access and retention, and tailor solutions to each girl's educational goals. This impactful initiative ensures a targeted and individualised approach to uplift refugee girls and teenagers, fostering positive educational outcomes and overall well-being.
The individualised support system allows for the individualised follow-up of 3,300 particularly vulnerable girls and teenagers by a network of 100 community relay women trained in feminist intervention. For each of the targeted girls and adolescents, an individual support plan is developed with them, according to their situation, specific obstacles and aspirations in relation to their educational path. The regular follow-up offered by the women community relays allows these vulnerable girls to be accompanied in various ways, either to return to or join school, notably through remedial education initiatives, to participate in vocational and professional training programs for young and older women who have dropped out of school and for whom it is not possible to return to school, or to continue schooling for girls who are particularly at risk of dropping out of school.
Main activities of the Good Practice
At the beginning of the project, community awareness-raising sessions have been organised to inform stakeholders about the project and local authorities have been contacted to enlist their support. Then, the identification and recruitment of community interviewers and relays have been carried out in collaboration with psychosocial facilitators, the local administration and other stakeholders in the refugee camps. In addition, key actors (partner organizations, village committees, community networks, local authorities) have been trained on the assessment methodology of vulnerable girls and adolescents, including a protocol of ethics and confidentiality. Once the census is completed, an analysis of the key indicators for each girl has been evaluated, to target the 3,300 girls.
For each of the girls and teenagers targeted, an individual support plan was drawn up with them, according to their situation and aspirations. To support them, 100 women have been trained in the approach, tools and feminist intervention developed by the project team to act as community relays offering transformative and emancipatory support. These relays make regular home visits to support each girl's personalized support plan, whether for vocational training, remedial education or academic support, and work with them to resolve the various obstacles at family, community and school levels. Mechanisms have also been set up (school equipment, scholarships, catch-up learning, tutoring, girl’s clubs, safe spaces in schools, protection mechanism) to ensure that girls and teenagers attend regularly and stay at school.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
- Strong community and local authorities’ ownership: the refugee camps authorities, local authorities and community leaders were involved from the beginning of the project allowing better ownership and easier recruitment of the local women network supporting girls and adolescents. The individualised support was also strongly connected to other approaches initiated by the project (social contract with community leaders and local authorities, gender trainings, positive masculinity approach, girls' and women's leadership and advocacy).
- Community sensitisation: sessions and trainings for communities (families, boys, leaders from both refugee and host communities) on gender equality, girls’ education obstacles and ending VAWG towards refugee are essential to place community responsibility at the heart of the actions and to encourage social accountability so that girls' education and the respect of their rights become a priority for the entire community.
- Technology: all “relais communautaires”/community relays are equipped with touch-screen tablets and trained on IT skills to ensure efficient and sustainable follow-up with girls as well as better data tracking and analysis.
- Fondation Paul Gérin-Lajoie (education expertise)
- Centre d'étude et de coopération internationale (Women empowerment expertise)
- Concertation des Collectifs des Associations féminines de la région des Grands Lacs
- CAFOB-Collectif des associations et ONGs Féminines
- COFAS-Conseil des Organisations des Femmes Agissant en Synergie
- CARITAS Goma
- Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe
- Maison Shalom
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
- population movements and voluntary returns: some young girls and community relays have left the camps (either through forced or voluntary return) impacting the individualised monitoring activities.
- the focus of the project on girls left young boys with the sense of injustice of not being supported as well (i.e., working on change of social norms)
- The individualised support plans and follow-up sheets started on paper which led to monitoring difficulties and a lack of possibility to analyse why some girls are followed or dropping out from the individualised support.
How they were overcome
- The partners organisations are trainings regularly new refugees’ women (community relay) to support new girls individually (that have been identified previously via the census) ensuring a continuity of the activities
- Community awareness sessions have been led in boys’ clubs in schools and father clubs in the community on gender equality and girl’s education to improve their understanding of the project. In DRC, boys have also received scholarships and participate in the catch-up learning sessions.
- The support plans and follow-up sheets have been digitised allowing a more effective monitoring and actors have been trained to follow young girls with the digital tools. In addition, an analysis tool is currently being built to analyse the data collected and monitored in the plans/sheets to better understand the reasons for dropping or not returning to school or vocational training despite the individualised support.
Results of the Good Practice
Almost 2 000 girls and adolescents have been helped to enter or re-enter school. 99% of girls and adolescents noted an improvement in equity of access to education. 99% of parents and community leaders are now in favor of schooling for girls and adolescents (compared with 87% at the start of the project). Over 500 out-of-school young women receive vocational training support.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
By providing targeted support to vulnerable girls and adolescents in refugee camps while making common activities with host populations, the project contributes to easing the pressures on host countries and creating links with host communities. By addressing the specific needs of this demographic, there is a potential reduction in the burden on local resources and services.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The project's focus on individual support plans, vocational training, remedial education, and academic support to enhance the self-reliance of the targeted girls and teenagers. Empowering them with skills and education increases their capacity to contribute to their own well-being and the well-being of their communities. The project also ensures that following professional training, girls and women have access to the job market.
The project is currently under negotiation for an extension until the end of 2024 (originally ending March 2024) allowing it to support young girls until the end of the 2023-2024 scholar year. A sustainability strategy and three actions plans for the three countries of the project have been finalised this November 2023 and are being implemented to ensure that both communities and local authorities continue the individualised support of young girls beyond the ÉDUFAM project.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
- Ensuring individualised monitoring by partner organisations. In order to ensure that other partner organisations in the areas of interventions continue the individualised monitoring, there needs to be increased:
- Coordination and Communication: strengthen communication and coordination mechanisms with partner organisations to ensure a consistent and collaborative approach to individualised monitoring.
- Training and Capacity Building: provide ongoing training and capacity-building sessions for partner organisations to enhance their skills in individualised monitoring and support.
- Institutionalisation of the individualised approach by educational Actors:
- Advocacy and collaboration: engage in advocacy efforts with key educational actors in the three countries and the region to promote the ownership, institutionalisation of the individualised approach.
- Collaboration with education authorities: work closely with education authorities and technical services to integrate the individualised approach into existing educational systems, policies, and practices.
- Documentation and Evidence: Compile and share evidence of the success of the individualised approach, emphasising its impact on educational outcomes and overall well-being.
- Increasing visibility of the approach and Its success:
- Partnerships and networking: forge partnerships with media outlets, NGOs, and influential individuals to amplify the visibility of the project's achievements.
- Conferences and events: participate in relevant conferences, events, and forums to present the project's outcomes and share insights with a wider audience.