I am 10 years old and I am the Minister of Communication

In the Sahelian part of Senegal, where many young girls are at risk of being forced into early marriage, 10-year-old Diary SY is honing her leadership skills by serving as the Communication Minister of her school’s student government.

WFP West Africa
World Food Programme Insight


Photo: WFP / Paulele Fall

Written by Paulele Fall

Diary Sy goes to school near Matam, located more than 600 km from Senegal’s capital Dakar, in a region plagued by poverty and illiteracy. Only one in four people can read — with girls being particularly disadvantaged and more likely to drop out of school or forced into early marriage.

Fortunately, at her school in Sinthiou Mogo in the outskirts of Matam, as in the other 750 primary schools benefiting from the World Food Programme’s (WFP) cash-based transfers in support of school canteens, girls are encouraged to take on leadership positions

Diary is one of the student leaders.

“My role as Communication Minister is to inform students about decisions made by our government, which we must all respect to live well in school,” says Diary.

Despite her young age, Diary takes her ministerial role very seriously. The hygiene and cleanliness of students, the maintenance of classrooms and other school areas are issues on the agenda of their government, which represents the interests of 350 students between 6 and 14 years of age.

A classroom at the Sinthiou Mogo Primary School. Photo: WFP/Paulele Fall

The 10-year-old Diary dreams of a great career but not in communication.

“I would like to become a doctor when I grow up because I have noticed that sometimes doctors refuse to treat the poor children in the village because they have no money.”

Lunchtime at school. Photo: WFP/Paulele Fall
Lena Savelli, WFP Representative and Country Director in Senegal, serves food at a school near Matam. Photo: WFP/Paulele Fall

In the area around Matam, like in many parts of the Sahel, the effect of climate change, erratic rainfall and failed crops have resulted in chronically high rates of hunger and malnutrition.

Diary says she is very lucky to go to school and enjoy a hot meal at noon. She says she feels sad when she sees children her age forced to beg for food.

“These children should not be on the street,” says the young minister. “Their place is at home with their parents who must also enroll them in school. All children should go to school to be well educated and have a good life,” she adds emphatically.

Students having their lunch. Photo: WFP/Paulele Fall

Diary is not the only girl in the school government. The school government at present counts seven girls and six boys under the direction of their female ‘head of state’ President Fatou Diop.

In the school canteen, girls and boys divide the tasks, without considering social norms that dictate that only girls should serve meals and do the dishes.

“We want to live in an environment where every student contributes to making our school a clean, healthy, peaceful and enjoyable place. I am pleased to be the President of our school (government) and we thank WFP for supporting the canteen,” declares President Diop.

Fatou Diop, ‘the President’, posres with her school mates. Photo: WFP/Paulele Fall



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