Two weeks ago we finally held our girls empowerment camp. Cleverly named GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). GLOW is a very amazing camp that is supposed to happen in every country Peace Corps occupies. Peace Corps Zambia strongly suggests each Province (a province is similar to states in America) try to put on.
The prep work for GLOW starts about 9 months before the actual camp. First with the writing of a grant that will help to fund it and everything after that is planning the logistical nightmare and soliciting donations from local shop owners because the grant money alone will not fully fund the event. Before any of that can even happen there of course has to be chairpersons to plan the event. We, at Eastern Province, decided to hold two one-week camps, so myself and three other PCVs decided to head this camp. Actually I should say five other PCVs decided to head GLOW, but due to medical reasons for one PCV and irreconcilable differences between Zambia and the second PCV we were stuck with four planning the event.
I will leave out all of the prep work boringness from this blog. It was hard work that obviously paid off in the end. When August 15th finally rolled around and it was time to start my week of the camp it was instant excitement. There were eight PCVs all working together to pull this off.
Each PCV brought two, grade 8, girls from their schools to participate in the week long girl power event, as well as a female community mentor who will help to bring all of the knowledge back to the schools and assist the PCV to implement a girls group back at the school. During the week we taught the girls their rights according to the national law and not their village traditional law, we played games with them, public speaking, sex ed, HIV/AIDS education. We stressed to the girls that every time they spoke or had an idea they needed to speak loud and clear and with assertion and confidence… say it like you mean it! Not in an attempt to change their cultural, but in an attempt to teach them to be confident in themselves. A point that was driven home by our loud and proud female community mentors.
If watching the girls change from shy timid individuals to an entire group of positive and confident women because of our sessions wasn’t enough all of us PCVs got to watch and laugh as the ladies showered three times a day…just because they could. Ran around topless…and sometimes completely without clothes…just because they could. Watching them pretend that there was only one person in their beds at night when we tucked them in so that they could stay up until all hours of the night braiding hair and talking about all things that teenage girls talk about regardless of culture. They also found endless amounts of pleasure in washing all of their clothes…daily…just because the phenomenon of running water was blowing their minds.
Of course there could be a lot said about taking these young girls outside of their beautifully simple village lifes and showing them some of the more modern wonders of the world and then sending them back to the village to tell all of their friends about things that they may never see again. But I choose to see the good in it. Being taken out of the village to learn these things gave them the opportunity to be 100% girl without the fear of village elder furrowed brows. This was an amazing experience and by far the most rewarding week of my service thus far!
As they say in Zambia “If you educate a girl you educate a nation.”