Monday, March 29, 2010

A Successful Weekend

The First Annual Girls Leadership Weekend is over. It was a huge success and we are tired here in Tamba. We invited 12 middle school girls who previously won scholarships through the Peace Corps for the academic year 2009-2010. These girls came from different villages in the region. We began working on this camp about four months ago, brainstorming ideas for how to best encourage the future academic pursuits of young women in senegal! On a whim we decided to invite the Ambassador of the United States who accepted the invitation and said she wanted to spend the entire weekend with us! We had a peace corps employee who is passionate about furthering girls education come and facilitate the entire weekend. She was fabulous and able to really connect with the girls and their parents.

The weekends events consisted of a film showcasing women throughout Senegal discussing their lives and accomplishments/obstacles. It was made by a previous PC volunteer in Senegal and gives voice to many issues facing women growing up in an ever-changing country. Our facilitator led discussions bridging the topics of sexual education, what it means to be a woman, the role of women in the house and how to balance it at school, setting goals and creating action plans for the future, etc. We also put together a panel of women who are professionals in the community. We tried to line up their profession with the different professions girls were interested in. They described their professional pursuits, how they got there, obstacles they have had to overcome, and advice for the girls attending the camp. PC Volunteers led a small group session with the girls in which they talked about who they are today and who they hope to be ten years from now and how they can go from one to the other. We brought all twelve girls to a cyber cafe to learn about computers, the internet, and to set up an email account. All but one of the girls had never used a computer before. They were amazed and excited about all the information they could access and what it meant to have a personal email account. Finally our facilitator discussed and led action plan activities with the girls and their parents.

The entire weekend went better than we could have ever hoped! It was wonderful seeing the girls excited about their future plans and hopes. It felt great to be able to open their eyes to women throughout the region who have gone through and continue to go through discrimination. The networking that was going on was helpful to the girls and also the women who needed the encouragement for what they do on a daily basis! We felt honored to be a part of this experience and really happy with the outcome. We hope this will become an annual camp encouraging young girls throughout the region to stay in school, further their education, and also encourage their parents to understand the importance of education for women throughout senegal.

I will keep you updated on any news stories that come of this. Local radio stations and the bbc were both present as well as Peace Corps employees in charge of writing best practice guides, creating videos, and posting images for events like this. When these things are available I will attach links to this blog so you can see some of the activities we were a part of.

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