In June 1992, the five founders of what became the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) met at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center on Lake Como, Italy. Each woman was a minister of education in her home country (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, the Seychelles, and Zimbabwe). And each lamented that only half of Africa’s school-age girls enrolled in school.

FAWE’s founders understood the obstacles that girls met on the way to the schoolhouse. Many parents simply couldn’t...

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