Day 3: Confronting Myths and Discrimination

Our second morning at camp began with breakfast and then an hour of activities to warm us up. From relay races to a “crossing the river” game, everything was fun, active, and involved a lot of teamwork.

Now that we had become more acquainted with each other at camp, the sessions got a little more serious. Over the course of the day on Thursday there were actually four presentations:

1. Violence – led by PLAN Chinandega. This session covered different types of violence (physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, and economical), as well as human rights and means of preventing violence. One thing that stood out to counselors watching this session was how easy it was for girls to name examples of the different types of violence in their communities. This is truly something that affects their lives, whether personally or nearby.

2. HIV/AIDS and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) – led by PLAN Somoto. Here girls acted out the progression of HIV infection (how it attacks our white blood cells, progresses into AIDS, and makes the body weak again opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia or the flu). The session also covered means of transmission and how to prevent transmission. Girls learned that many myths they are told about HIV (that you can get it by hugging someone or if a mosquito bites you that also bit someone with HIV) are really false, which is huge is combatting discrimination against HIV positive people.

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Practicing what we learned with a “Yes, it transmits” and “No, it doesn’t” activity

3. Testimony from María Theresa – This was by far one of the most popular presentations among the girls, even on the last day of camp. María Theresa works with ASONVIHSIDA, an organization that defends the rights of HIV positive people. As a person living with HIV herself, she travels to give testimony to many groups. This was a very powerful session because first she asked girls how they expected a person with HIV to be… most all the responses were negative: “scared” “depressed” and “low self-esteem” were a few common answers.

Once María helped the girls analyze their responses, she revealed her ‘secret’: that she has been living with HIV for 8 years. Being able to see that Maria Theresa is a happy, sociable person with high self-esteem who has raised two (HIV negative) children and leads a generally normal life was very eye-opening for the girls. Although it’s pretty common to hear what an HIV positive person is like (according to what people think), it’s pretty uncommon to actually meet and interact with someone and realize what you believed isn’t true. By the time the session was over, girls were hugging Maria Theresa and thanking her for sharing her story with them.

4. Sexuality – led by PCVs Ilana, Nadia, Tim, and Isabel. The eye-opening continued with an empowering session on sexuality that encouraged girls to accept themselves and express themselves however they feel comfortable. The presentation also covered some reproductive rights that aren’t always practiced in this country – such as being comfortable to understand your genitals, and choosing whether or not to marry or be a mother and when.

Sessions were intertwined with outdoor recreation just like the day before, and the evening rounded out with more crafts and sports, as well as a viewing of the movie Girl Rising which focuses on the struggles girls face internationally to receive an education.

 

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