GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World and aims to develop confidence and leadership skills in girls. It was first started by Peace Corps Romania Volunteers in 1995 and years later inspired BRO Camps which stands for Boys Respecting Others and focuses on how boys are part of the solution for gender equality. Overall, the camp challenges traditional gender roles by addressing health, identity, career, and of course, gender topics. The hope is for participants to return to their community and with the knowledge and confidence acquired, be local change agents. And of course on a more personal level, for each of the participants to walk away more understanding and supportive of their counterparts, inspired to prioritize their education and self-confident to speak up for things they want out of their lives.
At the GLOW/BRO Camp I was part of, there were sixty participants with around seven deaf children. They really blew the hearing participants away with the effective way they are able to communicate and even inspired some to learn sign language. Goodness knows I was trying to absorb as much as I could!
I was only a session facilitator and lead two:
1. Gender: Walking in her shoes
2. Careers: Vision Boards
Gender equality is something I am passionate about. To the point that I get fired up too easily and become offended quickly (sometimes wrongly assuming I am treated a certain way because I am a woman). Before becoming a PCV I knew this was the one thing that would upset me if I saw it happening around and to me. What I did not know was just how much. Suffice to say that I witness issues of gender inequality every day (hey, USA still has its fair share too) and have experienced being treated unequally because I am a woman. I started to wonder if Ghanaian youth, at least in my community, noticed these things too. Or because this life is all they knew, they did not know there could be anything different. Oh how I wish traditional gender roles could switch – even for a day – to get the other to understand just exactly what it is the other does.
This gave me the idea, nothing novel of course, of doing a gender role reversal for the GLOW/BRO Camp. I had the participants come up with short skits, using their experiences and things they have witnessed, to demonstrate gender inequality through traditional gender roles in northern Ghana. The twist being that gender roles were switched; males were males and females were females, simply that the gender bias was, in this ‘world,’ in favor of females. The kids did such an awesome job performing and brought up many interesting situations where females and males are not so equal. Ranging from who is expected to sweep to victims of domestic violence. Through discussions afterwards, the boys found they did not like being treated this way, it is unfair and that they should try to help ease the burden of their sisters, mothers, aunts, etc. The girls got to express things they wish they could change (i.e. the practice of men having multiple wives) and identified ways they can help themselves overcome hardships (i.e. having small businesses to support small personal needs).
The second session I led covered vision boards, which are graphic representations of one’s hopes and aspirations and moreso focused on how one wants to feel, rather than material objects one wants to obtain. This kind of visualization, is said to successfully keep people on track to achieving goals and more likely to achieve those desired feelings. Magazine cut outs usually provide enough creative material, however anything will do. I wanted the kids to leave the camp with something they could post on their walls, look at every day and feel motivated to make their dreams come true. Now, all that being said, it was hard to relate to the children the concept that the images were supposed to ignite in them positive and inspiring feelings. When I asked if any wanted to share their vision boards, I loved just how many did. Turns out, many want to be doctors, build big houses and own a nice car. Note to self, do not include any car magazines next time. I jest. It was here we learned that some were inspired by the deaf students and were moved by what they learned about malaria and gender inequality. I heard the confidence and daringness to express themselves in the girls’ voices.
All I hope is for at least one boy to dare fetch water for his mother back in his community. For one girl to discuss with her parents the importance of her education. For one child to look at that vision board everyday until he or she achieves whatever those images and words meant to him/her. For me to continue learning more sign.
**Disclaimer: The content of this blog is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Ghana Government.**