With 1,500 incredible young women now enrolled in our program, each and every moment with our girls is special.
There's nothing as gratifying as watching a mother proudly walk her daughter to our table to find her name on the list, knowing that she no longer has to worry about how she will keep her daughter in school.
There's nothing quite like watching one of our students put on her new school uniform for the first time and turn proudly to her mother.
And there's just nothing like watching our girls walk confidently into another year of school, with the cheers of their community following them every step of the way.
As our program has grown to serve 1,500 amazing girls across 21 village communities, we, unfortunately, can't share every single moment with you. So we've narrowed down some of our team's favorite moments from this year's events.
First up, is our Mother-Daughter moments. (and our dedicated dads)
Our moms are some of the hardest working people we know. They work tirelessly to support their families, and they want what every mom wants: the best future for her children. When one of our S H E mothers spoke to the crowd at a back-to-school event, she had some very powerful words to share with her community:
"As parents, it is our responsibility to encourage our daughters to study because we now know that our daughters can become so much in the future. They can even become the Prime Minister of our country.
I am more eager than ever to provide advice and encourage my daughters because today I see the great women of S H E in my community. They travel to our town in big vehicles, they conduct all of these services, and this impresses me very much. And I know that my daughter will be like them someday.
I, unfortunately, did not get the chance to go to school. And it is something that I bitterly regret for my parents. But I will do everything in my power to ensure my daughters don't suffer the same fate."
In each of our communities, mothers and fathers echoed these sentiments to encourage other community members to educate their daughters and not overwhelm them with house chores so they can be successful.
We speak often with our families about how empowerment starts in the home. When girls hear constant encouragement from the people the love and trust most, they know they are in a safe environment to explore their potential. We're proud to partner with such dedicated parents who are doing their very best for their children.
2. Our amazing students in their new uniforms and backpacks
At our kick-off celebration, one of our students was interviewed by the national media in Togo. When asked why she has joined S H E, our student replied:
"S H E is the only NGO that comes back every year to help us by providing school kits, school clothes, and by paying our school fees.
Every year I am part of S H E, I grow as a person, and I see good changes that we make together in my family. My parents know before the school year begins that S H E is going to pay for my schooling, so then they can plan to take care of my siblings.
It's thanks to S H E that I am in school. And it's thanks to this that my brothers are also benefitting by being on the school bench."
We cherish every opportunity we get to hear from our students about what support is most meaningful to them. We're seeing such rapid growth among our students, and there's no doubt that they are inspiring their surrounding communities.
3. Our Junior High Students starting the new school year.
Whenever you see a girl in a white shirt and khaki skirt, you know she is in secondary school. When our girls are in primary school, they are required to wear the khaki dress, but when they move on to junior high, their school uniform changes to the white top and khaki bottom. This year, we revamped our secondary school uniforms. Our girls have requested more modern designs, and you guessed it, more pockets!
Our junior high enrollment events are especially meaningful because only 33% of girls in Togo continue their education beyond primary school. This is especially true in rural communities because while most villages have elementary schools, the majority do not have junior highs or high schools.
For instance, of the 21 villages we serve, only 6 of them have a junior high school. None of them have high schools. We are still gathering data from our school principals, but we aim to reach 100% continuation from elementary to junior high school at S H E.
4. These full-circle moments
If you've been following our journey for a few years, you may recognize these two special S H E team members. Their names are Sefako and Elolo, and they are both graduates of the S H E student program!
Sefako just graduated high school in July, and she is one of very few girls who successfully completed the sciences track in high school! We're so proud of her achievements, and we're especially proud to announce that she has joined our staff for the next year to save money for university.
Their smiles say it all.
5. And finally, all of our community members celebrating their girls
Our work would not be successful without the amazing communities we partner with. Every year, our communities show their continued dedication to their girls' futures by hosting spirited back-to-school celebrations.
These events allow our girls to start every school year knowing that they have their entire community behind them. We're deeply honored to work alongside our Chiefs, school principals, teachers, community authorities, parents, boys, and girls in our mission.
And as always, we thank you for making our work possible. Because every girl deserves to do more than survive, they deserve to flourish.