Build them up. This seems like such a daunting task, but one that is necessary. Joining the Gender and Development Committee seemed like a daunting task as well, but I did it anyway to try to make progress on issues related to gender equality in a world that so desperately needs it, and it has been such a blast since I joined.Back in January, I had a chance to select girls to attend this camp, so we could do just that: build them up. I got to send three wonderful, smart, creative, witty girls from my little mountain town of San Juan del Río Coco, Madríz to Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World).
While I did not get to participate in the camp itself, a requirement of the Peace Corps volunteer that nominates students for camp, is that they help do a follow-up project with the girls in their site. The main camp is open to all of Nicaragua, so when a small group of girls from towns all over gets a chance to go learn, and bring the knowledge back to their community, our impact can be so much bigger. My girls made this one easy for me. While they left for camp a little uncertain, timid, and nervous, they came back excited, passionate about the topics they learned about, and ready to share. It’s always a little magical watching girls (or anyone) realize their power and worth, find their confidence, and learn to stand up for themselves.
In May, we held a half-day mini-camp for 24 girls in our community, ages ranging 10-18. The three girls I had nominated who went to the first camp were in charge of co-teaching one charla (class) each with a Nicaraguan counterpart (3 total), myself or my previous site mate (a Peace Corps volunteer in the business sector. We taught on the following subjects:
- Gender, Sex, and Sexuality: where girls learned the difference between gender identity, sexual orientation, biological sex, and gender expression, and how to recognize these differences while still showing respect
- Self-esteem: where girls were able to reflect on the good they have to offer, and answer the theme of the camp unapologetically (Quien eres? Soy yo! Who are you? I am me!)
- Assertive Communication: where girls learned the difference between unhealthy and healthy types of communication between passive, assertive, and aggressive communication, and how to resolve conflicts using daily scenarios that they face (pressure to have sex, do drugs, bullying in school, gossip)
- Sex and the Use of Condoms: where girls learned the proper way to use condoms and why it is important, not just for preventing teenage pregnancy, but for STI prevention as well.
While it took a lot of work for us to pull this camp off, my girls were already asking me at the end of the day when we could do the next one. It was a day full of great discussion, breaking down rumors and myths about sex education, learning the facts, and reflecting on our roles in society as girls and women. This camp was probably the most fulfilling, fun, challenging, yet rewarding events I have put on in my site during my whole two years of service, which are coming to a close.
The Gender and Development Committee also holds a yearly gender equality camp for boys called Camp CHACA (because we can’t make effective progress unless it comes from both sides). I had the privilege of working on the planning committee for CHACA, working as a counselor, and sending three boys from my town to camp. I look forward to putting on yet another mini-camp, this time for the boys in my town, this coming weekend, and seeing the small but steady changes that come from these types of education opportunities.
Peace Corps Nicaragua TEFL 66
GAD Committee Member