Constance Mbaye sits with children in the village of Dialamakhan,  Senegal. Mbaye works to help rural women get an education.

CNS PHOTO | JAMES MARTONE

Constance Mbaye sits with children in the village of Dialamakhan, Senegal. Mbaye works to help rural women get an education.

January 14, 2013

When she heard from the village chief that a 14-year-old girl was being forced to leave school and marry, Senegalese aid worker Constance Mbaye could think of only one thing to do.

“I gave the chief my telephone number and address and told him to tell the girl that if she could escape and make it to the city, I would take care of her,” said Mbaye, a Catholic who once thought she wanted to be a nun.

She said the girl, Idiatou, fled her tiny village the same evening, walked eight km in the dark through forests and fields to the nearest road, then hitched a ride to Tambacounda, where she showed up in front of Mbaye’s house the next morning.

The event in 2007 marked the beginning of Femmes Entr’Aide, the charity Mbaye founded to help girls study amid great obstacles in rural Senegal.

Women in Senegal “get married early, or their parents don’t have the means to pay for school, or it is far and they can’t get there,” Mbaye told Catholic News Service.