AMANDA HAUSMANN ’21
2017 Trinity alum Fatima Al Ansar spoke about the school for young women she is staring in Mali during a common hour event on Tuesday, April 3. Al Ansar is calling this new project the African Women Access Lab. The Access Lab will serve approximately 25 young women between the ages of 16 and 20, providing a three year educational path to increase girls access to higher education and decrease the amount of victims of early marriage in Mali.
Al Ansar is not new to the world of education advocacy as this is the second school for girls she is building in Mali. The first, the Tilwate School, was founded by Al Ansar in early 2012, two years before she started at Trinity, and aimed to serve girls between the ages of 5 and 14. Unfortunately the school was destroyed by a rebel group from Northern Mali a year after it was built and the school was not able to reopen until the summer of 2014. Presently the Tilwate school is in collaboration with other educational rights based organizations in Mali and UNICEF to give girls in refugee camps in Mali access to a primary school level education.
Prior to founding the Tilwate School, Al Ansar remembers educating girls in her village in Mali with her twin sister when they would return home for the summer. As a young girl Al Ansar and her family moved to a city when her father joined the army and were then able to attend school, something much more difficult and stigmatized for young girls living in rural areas in Mali.
However, when her twin sister died, Al Ansar completely stopped going to school. After a year, Al Ansar found her passion for education once again and decided that she would find a way to build a school for girls in rural Mali; this was the beginning of the Tilwate School. At 18, Al Ansar went to her local education leaders to begin the process of starting her school. Al Ansar admits she did not even know how to build a curriculum, let alone an entire school, but due to her passion and confidence was given the opportunity to start as a principal of a summer school to learn the ropes of running a school. Shortly thereafter Al Ansar was given authorization for a land grant and the Tilwate School was built.
Now Al Ansar is looking to expand young women’s access to education in rural Mali through her newest project, the African Women Access Lab. The Access Lab will serve as a three year long educational program to provide young women with more advanced general education, as well as specific and applicable vocational skills.
Girls in their first year at the program will focus on math, writing, and language skills, while during their second year they will focus on a program of their choice. There are four areas a student can choose to concentrate in: automotive technician, ICT technician, arts and fashion technician, agriculture technician, and women rights advocate. During their final year, each student will be paired with a local organization or business based on the area they concentrated their studies in. At the end of their last year, the students will be given the option to join the business they partnered with or start their own business with fellow classmates.
Al Ansar’s projected start date for the Access Lab is December of 2018. However, it will cost $800 for each student for a year of study and Al Ansar and her colleagues are in need of all the support that they can get to help as many young women receive an education as possible. An education and entrepreneurial skills are vital to becoming financially independent, which is the goal Al Ansar has for the girls she educates. To help Al Ansar and her students in Mali, or to simply find more information on the Access Lab, please visit www.fattyalansar.wixsite.com/awalab.