Since Obama has been in office there has been a focus from the White House, specifically Michelle, to push for girls to get an education World-Wide. This is an issue in many countries, where an education for girls is prohibited or not prioritized. In 2012 a young woman named Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by the Taliban for advocating girl’s education, and education for all. She was about 15 years old. She had already become an activist and after this incident she became the most famous teenager in the World. In wake of this tragedy the idea of #LetGirlsLearn is even more important. All over the World we find that young women are either never educated or limited in their education. Keeping women in traditional roles to keep societal roles intact is one aspect, but when you leave half your population behind, you find that the whole population is effected.
In Jamaica girls are often more highly educated than boys. It seems that they dynamics are different here. In reality though women are not paid as much as men and they can reach middle management fairly easily but becoming part of the top rung is still out of reach for most. Equality and equity are two different beasts and when you focus on equal opportunities, you miss the fact that the playing field is uneven and those born with more ability will reach farther than those who are born with lesser abilities. We must change the field to create a more equitable access for all.
Last week we held the first ever Camp GLOW Jamaica. GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World. This is a Peace Corps initiative, started by a PCV and has taken on a beautiful, inspiring role in the world of young women. The idea is to bring girls age 13-18 together with a volunteer and create support networks and help build up leadership roles in all. Each girl must be accompanied and vetted by a volunteer. They travel with the PCV and are fed both physically and emotionally for several days. There were some wonderful people who made this happen. The volunteers worked tirelessly to get together food donations, catering services, a location, speakers and activities, and then the rest of us worked to get the girls to come to camp. It was very successful and there were tears in the end as we all said goodbye.
One of the most powerful things that happened was a local author joined us. She helped us write a poem based on ideas from the camp that we had experienced. (On the page listed above you will find a few videos of girls reading their poems.) Finding that spark of creativity and knowing that your words will not be dismissed was very powerful. Later the author A-dziko Simba read small portions from her first novel. When you hear the girls say “don’t stop there” you know you have a powerful story to tell. I bought a copy for myself and a copy for the girl who came with me, thanks to extra money given to me for incidentals. (The book for the girl was paid for by a community member ensuring a successful experience.) I actually lent my copy out to a young man who came to my adult literacy program looking to learn how to comprehend and read better. He read 2 or 3 chapters last night and I could hear him laugh to himself as he was reading, so that was successful.
Photo Courtesy of Alli Brown.
Other activities included: tye dyed T-shirts, journal making, talent show, group discussions, Colored Pencil Project and learning from Jamaican women about intentional communities and honoring our ancestors. By the end we were covered in glitter dust, glue, market and we saw some powerful journaling and artistic expression come out.
The girls appreciated the “Respect Jamaica” group the most. They found their presentation on Women’s Equality powerful. The girls even worked on creating a video based on #WhatIReallyReallyWant
Overall the week was long but too short. I left inspired and feeling positive for the future of Jamaica. The male PCV’s also worked on getting a boys camp going, maybe we will finally find equity in gender! We must remember that to have true equity we must not focus on half the sky! You should read that book or watch the movie for a clearer vision of how women need this kind of support worldwide.