Cycling to Success
In the tiny commmunity of Bricama, 8 miles from the regional capital of Bafata, Guinea-Bissau, 13-year-old Odete Sana wheels her bike out of the thatch hut where she lives and takes it for a short spin.
Typically, she stores it at her father's house on the other side of the highway. She prefers that it be stored at her father's house because it is stronger and if there should there be a fire, she's afraid her bicycle might get burned.
Thanks to the vintage, baby-blue bicycle she was awarded by Plan for outstanding achievement at school, Odete is now part of a tiny, yet growing, minority of girls in the region who can now continue their education into senior high school after completing primary school.
In this region, getting to school is difficult. There are only two senior high schools in the area and they are both 6 miles away. Most children do not have transportation to get there and many parents are hesitant to allow their young daughters to walk such a long distance alone.
In addition to transportation problems, families do not have the means to pay the school fees. Faced with this challenge, parents will often opt to send their sons to high school while their daughters remain at home.
In 2012, Plan awarded bikes to 26 girls and 14 boys who live in the region. Odete was one of the recipients.
Celestino Sa, Plan Guinea-Bissau's Program Unit Manager, says that more than 95 percent of the girls who live in the region do not progress beyond primary school making Odete a role model for young girls.
Odete's favorite subjects at school are: Art, Science, and Portugese, which is Guinea-Bissau's official language.
"Kids should try hard to go to school. Parents don't always send girls to school, so it's up to us girls to explain to them why it's important that we do," she says.
Odete is also a member of the local Plan-supported Child Participation Group. As a member, she has convinced her step-sister to register the birth of her newborn baby girl. Registering the birth of a newborn is not a common practice in Guinea-Bissau and when the child is old enough to attend school, they are often denied an education.
Odete also educates her community, adults and children alike, on the importance of proper nutrition, sanitation, and fire safety which is important in regions where big winds are prevalent and open fires to cook and burn garbage are common. She also discusses forced early marriage and its affect on young children.
"I also tell kids that they should not hit each other," she says.
Augusto Lima, a family friend says, "Sometimes we adults ignore the advice of children, but then we realize that what they have told us makes sense."