My fledgling experience at homestay has already opened my eyes to the many cultural and societal differences between Mali and the United States. The gender roles within Malian society have been the most noticable to me thus far. From the time the women wake up till the time they go to bed, they are continually doing domestic work and taking care of the family. Without running water or electricity, working around the home is arduous and time consuming. This on top of the large family sizes which average 12 people, requires the help of all the young girls of the family. In my family of 10, my 13 year old sister has a long list of daily chores. Her tasks include fetching water and fire wood, hand washing clothes, preparing meals, going to the market and child care. As a result of this demanding role, young girls education in Mali has been hindered. On top of going to school for the day, the young girls are expected to come home and fulfill their daily duties. This leaves very little time for studying or doing homework. For this reason, many girls fall behind and drop out of school after 6th grade. Also, as it is common for girls to get married around age 14-15, this greatly increases the drop out rate.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Educate a man and you educate one person. Educate a woman, and you educate a nation." The education of young girls is so crucial to the overall development of a third world country such as Mali. As an education volunteer, I hope to be able to promote girls education as part of my 2 years of service. It is an initiative that I have become more passionate about in my short time here. While the overall education and literacy of Mali is in major need of help and improvement, it can only happen dooni dooni (slowly). I believe that reaching the youth of the nation is the best place to begin. Wish me luck!