Empowering Girls and Women Through Physical Education

  • Health
  • Education
  • Women & Gender
  • Albania
This project is led by Udit Kumar, a Volunteer from Virginia

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$50 $100 $1,597.09
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For my project, I am requesting $2297.09 to renovate a large classroom into a school/community fitness center and purchase exercise equipment for the local 1st-9th grade school and its surrounding community. With the refinished and completed fitness center, we will be accomplishing two goals. The first is to provide girls and women in the community with their own space to participate regularly in various types of physical activity which will help empower them. Female-only guided exercise classes will be offered and trainings will be given to the 2 PE teachers and to the 100+ adolescent-age girls who attend the classes to create personal fitness plans. Our second goal is to provide high quality physical education classes at the school. In total, 4+ teachers will be trained on various aspects of physical education including aerobics, strength development, along with various other sports and games into the existing curriculum. A total of 205 students, along with the surrounding community will have access to the new fitness center and equipment.

The first step of the project will require purchasing equipment and replacing the existing tiles on the floor with wood laminate flooring which is used in gymnasiums and fitness studios. The space also requires replacing the lighting and windows. Once these have been fully completed, female only exercise classes, recreational activities, open-hours and exercise clubs will begin to be implemented after-school and on weekends throughout the year to maximize its use and availability. After the equipment has been bought and all renovations are finished, several teachers will be trained on how to properly use the equipment. Since this project requires a contribution from community partners and members, we have successfully secured the necessary community contribution from local government agencies and several other community partners. These contributions consist of labor and materials for the renovation. Once completed, this project can help build a culture of regular physical activity within our community, give women and girls a way to care for their health and well-being and help increase the quality and capacity of physical education offered at our school.

The project team which consists of school leadership, teachers (my counterpart who Is a PE teacher along with other secondary counterparts), myself and community members/partners have been the major driving force behind this project and came up with many of the ideas that will be implemented. The school director has been asking the city for funds for various projects for several years now. One of the other projects that was recently completed in our school consisted of bathroom renovations and this fitness center project now remains the next priority since it will give the school an indoor area for physical activity during out long winters and allow the girls to have a safe space to conduct physical activities. The director of the school has multiple contacts with the Department of Education and the city council who will also assist with various parts of the project. These community partners have helped secure the 25% community contribution, which consists of some materials and a large chunk of labor costs. The school director has also agreed to have a smaller secondary project which will gather several talented students from our school who will help paint murals on the fitness centers walls.

Another part of designing and planning the project has been creating a budget and a list of equipment and items to be purchased for the fitness room and PE classes. Determining the interest of female students and women in the community has played a key role in deciding what type of equipment will be purchased. The process also consisted of working closely with the PE teachers at the school to create the list. The role I played was to help them think outside the box and to think of new ways to help serve our students and the community. One example of this is that my counterpart requested that we find equipment that can be used to help build a simple obstacle course for a fun yet competitive workout. We found a floor ladder which is inexpensive and can be spread out on the floor to simulate obstacles but in a safe way and can be used by students and adults.

In the last year at our school, I have noticed female students are usually hesitant to participate in physical activities while male students don’t think twice about it. This is really the spark that ignited the idea for this project. When I spoke with the girls, they verbally expressed interest in various physical activities like yoga, zumba, and others but when I mentioned that we can do one of those activities the same day, they began to disagree and became hesitant since they did not feel safe or comfortable to do so. When I later shared this event with the PE teacher, she mentioned that the girls usually participate in these activities behind closed doors where they do not feel judged or stared at for participating. This is where the discussions began for renovations to help create a fitness center if the opportunity arises. Overall, I strongly feel that the students, teachers, school leadership and the community has had a key role thus far in this project and will continue to do so to make this project sustainable and successful.

Sustainability is a key component of our project plan and can be found throughout this project. It all begins with the current Physical Education program at the school. Once the fitness center is accessible to students (especially younger children), a perspective on the importance of regular exercise will be instilled in them as they age. They will have access to quality equipment and access to a plethora of ideas on how to perform physical exercises. This project helps them obtain the tools necessary to live healthy lives and keeping their mobility for many years to come as they grow older. It also allows them to influence their community to stay active while serving as role models for future generations.

The trainings also play a key role in keeping this project sustainable and beneficial in the long- term future. Different types of online and printed resources will be provided to the teachers to incorporate in the Physical Education curriculum. The teachers will be able to consult these resources to help them plan and assimilate various new elements of exercise into their current classes. Posters will also be posted in the fitness center making them accessible to everyone who uses it. Once the project is completed, the school and the surrounding community will be equipped with various methods of physical exercise through the fitness room and equipment to help them realize their fitness goals.

Women and girls in the community will also gain knowledge and skills to continue their fitness routines on their own. Open hours schedule will be created and modified each year to help them maximize their access to the fitness center and to make sure that woman and girls have a safe and judgement free zone. The school director along with the female PE teacher will be responsible in the long term to manage and adapt the schedule if necessary. Upon completion, this fitness center will also promote our school as a community center in the area which Is one of the schools ongoing goals.

Finally, one of the other sustainability factors is that once management is handed off to the school and the community, there will not be any negative ramifications. The school director, assistant director and the female PE teacher are well equipped and experienced with grants and will be managing this process from the very beginning. I will play a role by collaborating with the primary staff to deliver the trainings, collect data, provide electronic and hard copy resources and help create the schedule. The trainings will also help the staff understand how to minimize wear and tear on the equipment and in the case that equipment is broken, the school and community will be encouraged to ask for donations from municipality, community partners and through fundraising. The municipality is usually willing to help with various repairs at the end of each school year. This project aims to help create a positive environment for all community members who utilize the fitness center and will promote and foster a sense of accountability. In return, the community will care for the space to allow others to enjoy the same benefits as them in years to come.

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