Gender & Youth Leadership Camp
- Women & Gender
Thailand, like most countries around the world, has a patriarchal culture. This means that men and boys are constructed as superior to other genders and are given special privileges and greater access to opportunities. This often results in youth of all genders developing a warped sense of their self-worth, capabilities, and potential. PCVs around the world have attempted to mitigate this cultural impact by developing camps and clubs that promote gender equity, inclusiveness, and positive leadership skills. These activities are meant to engage girls, boys, and gender non-conforming youth in creating a more equitable future for people in their communities and beyond. Around 100 youth from PCV host communities will be invited to attend a three-day, two-night “Gender & Youth Leadership Camp” from December 16-18, 2019. The camp will focus on fostering an environment of mutual respect and empowering youth through activities related to self-esteem, leadership, goal-setting, and healthy relationships. In addition to bringing youth leaders from their communities, PCVs will bring their adult counterparts (teachers, nurses, government workers, etc.). Following the camp, each host community will develop a plan to bring lessons learned from their experience back to their respective locales. This may look like starting up a leadership club, introducing activities into an existing youth council, and/or hosting their own Gender & Youth Leadership Camp in the future. The potential impact on these host communities is limitless. Ideally, it will result in much-needed cultural shifts that allow youth of all genders to realize their full potential.
This camp will be the culmination of almost two years worth of youth development work on the part of myself (the PCV) and the community organizations. The main driving force behind the camp design and leadership will be the local Youth Council, which is comprised of 21 students from grades 7-9 (M1-3). They will ultimately be involved with every aspect of the camp from planning to evaluation. I hope to empower them to make decisions and be able to justify the reasons behind them. They will delegate tasks and hold each other accountable. They will also facilitate the camp sessions with adult counterparts from the community. Adult service providers from various community organizations, including the government office (SAO workers), the schools (teachers), the community hospitals (nurses), and the police station (officers), will participate in all stages alongside the youth leaders. While the majority of the decision-making will rest in the hands of the youth council, the adults will be available to provide resources, advice, support, and any type of scaffolding that the youth may need. They will be in charge of collaborating with youth leaders to ensure that all of the logistics get taken care of and everyone gets paid. Holding the youth accountable and steering them back on track will be the main priorities of the adult staff. They will also learn and practice how to effectively co-facilitate camp sessions with the youth leaders.
The Sub-District Administrative Office (SAO) sent two of my counterparts, six youth leaders, and myself to attend two different Gender & Youth Leadership Camps last year (November/December 2018). They went into the experience knowing that this year we would be expected to lead our own. I believe having this experience was crucial to developing my community’s interest and involvement with facilitating this type of camp. We all learned a great deal and started brainstorming ideas for our own camp as it was happening. Throughout this year, I have consistently mentioned the upcoming camp during formal meetings and casual conversations, each time met with enthusiasm and support from the SAO and the Youth Council. The SAO is in charge of the Youth Council programming and budget and have set aside roughly 30,000 THB (1,000 USD) to put towards cash contributions, including transportation and fuel costs. The SAO and other community organizations will also be giving in-kind contributions in the form of labor, the equivalent of 120,000 THB (4,000 USD) of work-time. The SAO will also be donating their projector and screen for use during the camp (in-kind 9,000 THB = 300 USD). Lastly, the SAO will help with surveying the campsite, purchasing materials, transporting materials to and from the campsite, filling out the necessary paperwork, and so much more. In the end, this community applied for a Youth Development PCV, because they are invested in developing projects that serve the youth in their communities. All parties have been notified of the upcoming Gender & Youth Leadership Camp and are excited to take part. The camp will be another chance for my counterparts to come together to help plan, execute, and evaluate a large-scale youth development project that meets the needs of the youth in their community.
With the support of PCVs and adult counterparts, youth will return to their communities with a carefully thought-out plan on how to deepen and share the skills they developed during the camp. These plans may manifest in the form of a club or youth group, so that the benefits of the camp can have an ongoing influence on the attendee’s communities. They might even choose to organize more camps to address these topics in the future. Additionally, the four groups that attend with a PCV from neighboring communities will work towards hosting and/or collaborating on hosting their own Gender and Youth Leadership Camps next year. They will then invite the next group of PCVs, who will bring their counterparts and youth leaders, and the cycle will continue.