A young girl is one of the most brilliant students at the local Middle School, but you wouldn’t know it right away. With the best grades in her class, she was offered the role of prefect but turned it down. “I don’t know how to do it, and I don’t like talking,” she said. That role instead went to a boy. He fulfills it gladly, speaking up frequently in class and obliging whatever it is teachers ask of him. The young girl is mostly silent, diligently taking notes at her desk. When she does speak, her voice is soft and she covers her mouth as if she has already assumed what she will say is wrong. She doesn’t participate in clubs, partly because she feels too timid and partly because she’s needed at home to help with the housework. She is like many girls in my community — very smart but painfully shy, unsure how to plan for the future, and uncomfortable stepping into leadership roles. This is why my counterpart and I decided to organize a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp. GLOW builds the next generation of leaders with the following themes: Gender equality; Self-esteem; Leadership; Health; Aspirations. This camp will include a volunteerism workshop in which participants will plan school improvement projects to enact after the camp. In this way, the girls will be given the skills to be leaders and they will then have the opportunity to use those skills by spearheading their own project. Participants will feel empowered following the camp to be active citizens in their communities, plan for their futures, and be leaders both in the classroom and out.
A teacher meeting was held between the middle school and high school to discuss why so many girls seemed to have trouble asserting themselves at school. It was determined that girls in the community simply aren’t expected to take on leadership roles as often as boys, so they aren’t given the skills they need to do so comfortably, and a group of women teachers at school set about deciding what we could do to improve the situation. GLOW camp was settled on, and my primary counterpart was chosen as the project lead. The long-term goal of this camp is to give girls skills and information they will continue to use long after the camp is over, such as goal-setting, leadership skills, and action plans to help them be active and their communities and plan for their futures. Thus a major goal after the camp will be that the participants are able to implement their own school improvement projects with the skills given, and also that they will share the life skills they’ve learned with their peers. The main way they will share this information will be through after school training sessions in which the girls go around to their peers and lead smaller trainings. This is something that my girls leadership club already does with reproductive health information, and should therefore be easy to put in place with camp participants. In implementing their school improvement projects, the girls will also be asked to include at least two peers per group to help. In this way the campers will act as “project leaders” and help train their classmates on the importance of being invested in the improvement of our schools and our communities.