‘Women Together’ educates, empowers young women in Ivory Coast
Soon after her arrival on the field, Kristin Isely, a young mother and CMF team member in Ivory Coast, began hearing difficult stories about the challenges faced by young women in her town of Abengourou.
“Many stories had to do with female circumcision, arranged marriages for girls as young as 13, and unmarried teenage pregnancies that often ended in the young woman contracting HIV-AIDS,” said Kristin. “I could tell you literally hundreds of these stories, so I decided I had to act.”
Kristin worked together with a couple of Ivorian friends, also mothers, who were also very concerned about their own daughters and these young women from impoverished families in Abengourou.
“We knew we needed to help these girls navigate the challenges they face, so we started a program called Women Together,” said Kristin.
In Women Together, a national midwife, a social worker and an accountant hold biweekly meetings for young women in the villages of Abengourou and Adoukoffikro. The teaching topics include sexuality, interpersonal relationships, communication and decision-making skills, the human body, puberty, reproductive health, female genital mutilation and advocating for sexual health, rights and gender equality.
A year of growth and change
The program launched in 2019, and they celebrated an amazing year of growth in July 2020.
“We went from 10 people on the first day to more than 75 girls who regularly attend meetings,” said Kristin. “These girls have been so engaged in the teaching and so eager to ask questions!
“To reward them for all their hard work, we held an end-of-school year party,” she added. “We gave gifts to the girls, set up a sound system so they could show us all the latest dances, and wrote notes of encouragement to them to continue their journeys of empowerment and finding their voices.”
Kristin and the other leaders also received a surprise at the party.
“The girls prepared poems of gratitude for all the leaders of Women Together,” she said. “I cannot even describe the level of pride I have in our girls for all that they have learned and how much they have grown in just a year.”
The Iselys are currently in the U.S. on furlough and plan to return to Ivory Coast in late February. And at the top of Kristin’s to-do list is expanding Women Together to another nearby town.
“We are just so excited to see where this next year takes us,” she said.
You can read more about this life-changing project for young women in Ivory Coast and donate to expand and continue its services here.