In January, I was a co-director for GAD’s girls camp, Camp GLOW. The benefits of this camp are plain to see; in a world where women are consistently held back, whether it is acknowledged or systemically ingrained in our cultures and the way we treat each other, what could be wrong with giving girls an opportunity to learn about their bodies, flex their leadership muscles and participate in their own sassy and inspiring “Women’s March” in the beautiful mountains of Nicaragua. They, at the very least, deserve this. But less clear is the need for a boy’s camp here. Aren’t boys already born with all the tools they need to succeed? Why reward young men when they are already so well rewarded for doing nothing more than their female counterparts? Well the answer is this: education and awareness.
Nicaragua is a country in which machismo thrives and is constantly rearing its ugly head: relentless and vulgar catcalls, women with little control over their life choices and bodies, marked by irresolute resistance such as faded calls for ending domestic violence against women scrawled on crumbling walls. What is wrong with the men here, we wonder, how can you fix something this pervasive?
Men aren’t born with these ideas about women. No one told them to harass women in the streets, no one told them it’s okay to hit your wife, or ignore the housework or refuse to cook. No one told them they had to be the breadwinner or that women have silly, less intelligent ideas. All this is gathered through observation, over the course of a childhood spent emulating the people they love and admire. For this reason, Nicaragua absolutely needs Camp CHACA. If men knew better, if men only realized the weight of their actions, that their precious sons (and daughters) see their actions and copy them, normalize them, would they think better of it?
Everything in life is about education. Young boys here in Nicaragua and all over the world, including the US, should be learning to be better. We all know by now that our actions have consequences. At CHACA, the boys receive charlas on paternity, power and relationships, gender and sexuality, self esteem, violence and masculinity, among others. We work with Nicaraguan counterparts so that the boys have role models who are just like them, who are upstanding and respectful people who exemplify the importance of being an informed and openminded adult. They learn that their choices do have consequences, and being men only gives them more power to make the right decisions and be the example for their friends, families and communities.
You’ve heard it a million times: we need to do better. Camp CHACA is a way to do that. We give young men the information and the tools to question the status quo and determine for themselves what is right and wrong. Do you want to fight gender inequality? Start with the men. Teach the men, encourage the men, and empower them in a way that feeds their self confidence, gives them information to be a change agent, to push back on these years-long traditions that are so deeply ingrained into society that no one questions them. Everyone deserves a chance to succeed, to be treated with respect and to make their own choices, both the young ladies of Camp GLOW and the young men of Camp CHACA.
But to make this camp a reality, we need your help.
Our Partnership Program grant is now live! The Partnership Program does not completely fund projects, but serves as a link to groups, foundations, service organizations, and individuals (like you!) wanting to contribute to the valuable work Volunteers and their Nicaraguan counterparts do with their host communities. In order to receive funding through the Partnership Program, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline success indicators for the individual projects. This helps ensure community ownership, a greater chance of long-term sustainability, and ultimately, success.
Our communities have contributed, our boys are being selected and are beyond excited for the chance of a lifetime.
This is where you come in.
Click here to head to our donation page and send these passionate, creative, and deserving boys to camp. Help them learn to believe in themselves and shine bright.
Still not convinced your donation will make a difference? Read all about past CHACA camps here.
– Lindsay Slautterback
Peace Corps Nicaragua Env 66
GAD Committee Member
Camp CHACA Co-Director