The Perfect IGLOW Team

By Melissa Whalen
April 7, 2017

Bu Sari, an English teacher in Northeast Java, did not have a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to her school. Nevertheless, when Maggie, a volunteer in her local community, came to her in 2012 asking her to help organize the first local Camp IGLOW (Indonesian Girls Leading Our World), Bu Sari stepped up. 

Always very active in her community, Bu Sari nevertheless found planning the camp that first year to be a challenge without help from other local teachers, in spite of the involvement of three Peace Corps volunteers. The success of the first IGLOW speaks to Bu Sari's organizational skills: 65 girls from local high schools participated in sessions on self-defense, inner beauty, nutrition, and women's health. She chose the topics because she saw them as the biggest needs of her students during her role as a school counselor. Women's health was particularly important because "sometimes the girls feel shy when they have a problem related to reproduction, menstruation," and IGLOW aims to build the confidence of the girls in order to give them more choices about their lives and futures.

From that first IGLOW, the success continued to grow. The second year, Bu Sari met Bu Kis, who worked with a Peace Corps volunteer named Amy at the time. And by the third year, "We finally have a good team," says Bu Kis. While the IGLOW committee is always open to new members, the consistent members include Bu Sari, Bu Kis, Bu Ninik, Bu Yastri, Bu Dia, and Bu Alfiyah, all involved from 2014 onwards. Some have had volunteers at their schools, and some have not. But they all feel strongly about what IGLOW can do for girls. These women love working together, and believe IGLOW matters because girls often lack confidence, and their society limits their choices. Bu Ninik says that "they don't have any confidence to explain to the society and parents about their rights," and that "IGLOW is very important to encourage them ...It's about feminism, that [a] girl has the same position as a boy." Bu Ninik goes on to say that "It's doesn't mean we attack tradition ...but we open the girls' minds," so that they may recognize they have choices about their studies, careers, and marriage prospects, and have the confidence to assert those choices. Bu Kis wants IGLOW to prepare girls who are "confident and ready to face the world's problems," while Bu Sari says that it's important that girls who will become mothers are educated. And IGLOW has expanded to emphasize the needs of the girls in an ever-changing world. Topics now include human trafficking awareness, careers and entrepreneurship, and starting in 2017, responsible internet behavior.

Indonesian young girls received certificates upon the completion of the camp

There are still challenges to planning an IGLOW each year. Bu Sari notes that fundraising is always difficult. In fact, that first year, she donated some of her own money, and the third year there were scarcely any funds at all, and the committee faced insect bites, blackouts, and a possibly haunted villa, which they laugh about now. But most of the time, the committee makes an effort to locally source funds from nearby businesses. Bu Sari also seeks out speakers who will run the sessions for free. Often they come from local NGOs, or in the case of entrepreneurship, local women who run their own successful businesses.

The goal of most Peace Corps projects is that they will be sustainable: live on without the involvement of volunteers. And Bu Sari says that one of the successes she's most proud of is that "we have more committee from Indonesia," and Bu Kis agrees. Once the core committee formed during the third IGLOW, "we are not alone anymore." They feel confident that they can maintain IGLOW even without Peace Corps volunteers, though they enjoy working with Peace Corps, and five volunteers will be there supporting them this year. Bu Kis once conducted her own mini-IGLOW without volunteers, and says that "we can do it, but maybe the taste will be different." Bu Sari has helped IGLOW to grow throughout Indonesia, speaking at Peace Corps training events that involve Indonesian educators, offering her experience and advice. As far as the girls themselves, they can become leaders who help to educate their communities on what they've learned, thereby spreading the benefits of IGLOW beyond the three-day camp.

The IGLOW team attributes their success to a shared vision, and that they enjoy working together. "It's natural," says Bu Ninik. The most recent camp included 95 girls, and as long as this team has each other, IGLOW will continue to empower future community leaders, mothers, and strong women.

[PCV Melissa recently interviewed some of the IGLOW Team in her region, with the help from PCV Natalie Deduck]

*Bu is a shortened version of Ibu - mother in Indonesian. Bu is used to address a woman socially respectable such as teachers.

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