Thursday, October 16, 2014

Camp GLOW 2014

In August I had the honor to participate in one of the most amazing, humbling experiences of my life. For a week and a half there was no place that would have rather been. I was given the privilege to to be a camp counselor to 11 secondary school aged girls at Camp GLOW! (Girls Leading Our World).

Camp GLOW is an international Peace Corps initiative that targets high school aged females and focuses on empowering these young women to be leaders in their family, communities, and in society. The camp looks different in each country, however, they all have the universal theme of empowering girls in cultures where being a girl has the potential to make your opportunities much slimmer than if you were a boy.

Our camp covered topics like self esteem and beauty, gender based violence, HIV/AIDS, malaria, careers, professional development, leadership skills, and how to share this with other girls! This is a lot to cover in a week, but we had a blast doing it! By the end of the week, even the quietest of girls, were laughing, having fun and were completely different than when they had arrived.

The camp targets secondary school girls (high school). In Malawi, secondary school girls can range in age from 14-24. We had girls from all sorts of backgrounds there. Some were from a more privileged background, some were from really rural villages, some spoke excellent English, some spoke little to none, some had children, some were pregnant. By the end of the week it didn't matter where these girls had come from or where they were going to, they had leaned the importance of supporting and empowering each other to be the best versions of themselves.

It was amazing to see these girls understand that one empowered woman does not change make, but we must encourage and empower each other as we climb. Hence the theme “Lift as You Climb”. We covered a lot of topics but the coordinators tried very hard to make sure that the theme of empowerment was through out every topic and included the element of empowering others. (the coordinating team for 2014 did an excellent job!) I cannot explain how powerful it was to see these girls from various cultural backgrounds and circumstances hold each other up.

They showed so much courage and perseverance. Out of my 11 campers over half of them had a story of someone mistreating them at some point in their lives. Sometimes it was family, a teacher, or a community member. As these girls began to learn of opportunities and see examples of other Malawian women who were successful you could see the shift in their attitudes. For them to know that women, just like them, from similar backgrounds could achieve great things was a game changer for them, especially those from the rural villages.

The challenging part for them moving forward is that they have transformed and literally have a GLOW about them, but their communities have not changed. The people and communities of Malawi, did not come to Camp GLOW and realize that all people are important, that all people have the same rights, and that all people deserve to be respected. While these beautiful, strong, courageous, intelligent girls have learned all of these things, they have a hard battle ahead of them.

BUT as we speak, these strong, motivated, empowered young women are starting clubs in their own villages and sharing this message they learned at GLOW. There were 66 girls in attendance and already a handful of them are starting clubs of 10 or more girls.

This is going to be a hard and long battle but the beautiful thing is that no one is alone, and these girls understand the importance of bringing others with them. As they improve and empower themselves they are being conscious of the fact that this is a big task and no one can do it alone.   

Shine Girl SHINE!!!!

In case you have not seen the GLOW 2014 youtube check it out!!

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