Women's empowerment workshops explained...
When I began searching for volunteer programs, I was on the hunt for a project that would allow me to invest in the next generation of women. With the privilege of many strong women as mentors around me, I wanted to ensure I could provide this same example to younger girls, in a place where an empowered woman could achieve so much for the broader community.
And here I found myself, in Gordon’s Bay, with a class of ready and willing 11-year-olds, excited to learn from me what it is to be an empowered woman. These girls give up their own time after school to come to “workshop” and their enthusiasm is second to none. Their thirst for knowledge meant I could give no less than 100 per cent to them.
So how do you empower an 11-year-old girl? How do you let her know she can be anything she wants to be? How do you make sure she walks with her head held high? How can you teach her in eight weeks these life skills that many adult women still struggle with? You be there and you show her. You talk – we talked a lot – with words like success, confidence, communication, emotion. But what is more important is that we stand in front of them and show them these things.
In my time as a GVI volunteer, I have struggled with the notion of being here for only four weeks and second-guessed the value of my seemingly menial contribution to the program. I inherited an 8-part program of workshops from previous volunteers, made a few adjustments and did my best for the girls. Was it enough to make a difference?
Something changed when I was reading a book to one of the nursery children (women’s empowerment volunteers can also spend a fair amount of time at the local nursery helping out). In the book, all the strongest and fastest of the African animals underestimated the ability of a singular ant to achieve what they couldn’t.
It was only when all the ants worked together, each with small and individual efforts, the goal was reached. And this is now how I see my time here – of value insofar as adding a small contribution to a large goal that would be impossible for one person alone to achieve. Today, after four weeks of women’s empowerment workshops with the same girls, one girl sat next to me and told her friends beside her proudly, I was her “chomi”. When I asked what that meant, she told me it meant I was her friend. So when I go home and my family and friends ask if I achieved my goals here, I can proudly say that for at least one girl, I made a difference.
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