Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Aminata Diallo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Aminata has designed a support network for young pregnant girls that provides services to aid and prevent unwanted pregnancy and ultimately ensures these girls can continue their education. In an environment that remains intolerant of premarital sex, an absence of formal sex education and unreported sexual harassment, rape and violence, girls are often pressured to leave school when they become pregnant. While some organizations in West Africa have taken a service-provider approach to this problem, Aminata is the first to promote community responsibility for pregnant girls, engaging people from all sectors in her outreach. Aminata first needed to connect with female students who often kept silent on issues of sex and violence due to stigma and social pressure. She began with groupes de parole (“listening posts”) in schools as a social space for girls to make crafts and to talk about taboo subjects, such as pre-marital sex and rape. An informal atmosphere coupled with informative conversation was an ideal backdrop to reach out to those most in need of help. Aminata followed with other support and fundraising services involving young girls to both expand her reach and to support her growing project. The popularity of the “listening posts” and other programs necessitated their spread to other schools and then to villages in the region, leading to the creation of Aminata’s organization Maïa. By recruiting individuals close to young girls and students—mothers, teachers, school administrators and nurses—Aminata identified community members that could be discretely approached if a young girl was faced with pregnancy or sexual violence. Training for “listening post” discussions and mentorship to young girls was systematized as Aminata’s project encompassed an increasing number of people. Addressing a growing acknowledgement of teenage pregnancy as a problem, Aminata’s low cost, culturally appropriate and replicable model has proven extremely popular with school and government officials looking to improve the situation. Full support from the Ministry of Education will enable Aminata to propel her idea to schools across Burkina Faso and to villages in other regions where dialogue around youth pregnancy is taboo.