The government of Sierra Leone is attracting global recognition and celebrating its policies and commitments toward advancing and securing access to education for girls, in particular pregnant girls and young mothers. Many of them had been excluded from education due to a longstanding ban on visibly-pregnant girls attending school. Sierra Leone’s government formally lifted the ban on visibly-pregnant girls in 2021 with the National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, co-developed by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and an active civil society working group, which included Purposeful. The policy explicitly acknowledged that some populations of children and adolescents are systematically excluded from school, including pregnant girls and young mothers. This briefing paper focuses on a few key issues that emerged from Human Rights Watch’s interviews with girls and young women in Northern Sierra Leone and also draws on Purposeful’s data and information from years of working to support and empower girls, in particular out-of-school girls and young women. It serves as a reminder that commitments do not translate to transformation overnight and that the government, together with the donor community and civil society groups are still on a long journey towards realizing radical inclusion. All of us should listen to what girls who are excluded from education tell us and to be guided by the actual circumstances of their lives to fully realize the possibilities of Radical Inclusion for all of Sierra Leone’s children.
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