Authored by Sidney Jasper, PCV Cameroon & A2Empowerment Mentor
With a few exceptions, women’s work in Nyambaka is mainly limited to selling food and other items at the market or tending fields. There is a lack of women role models who have broken out of the traditional gender roles. I believe many girls do not know of other possibilities or opportunities for their futures, which may create a major obstacle to education. This, in addition to what I have observed in the community as well as what I know and have learned about the traditional, agricultural way of life in Nyambaka, has allowed me to form the conclusion that education is not prioritized by many families in this village, and even less so for girls.
However, this story is not about how I or a counterpart responded to this issue, but rather how the girls in the A2E group have taken the initiative in responding to this issue in two separate projects. In early 2018, I asked the girls what they wanted to do to celebrate Youth Day, 11 February. They chose to organize a dinner party for the teachers. I sat back and watched in amazement the planning process, as the girls showed up at my house the day of the event with their various contributions, and worked together to prepare a delicious meal. The real amazement, though, came during the dinner. Each girl sat with a different teacher or administrator and while eating, explained A2Empowerment, the topics we had covered thus far, and why they feel strongly about girls’ education. Many teachers said they had not known about the A2E group, but they thanked me for working with the girls and said they support our objectives. As we were walking back to my house to clean up, I even overheard the girls boasting about their conversations with teachers and their impressive responses.
The second A2E success story involves me urging the girls to plan a “community project” with very little direction aside from that. They chose to go to the primary school and give a presentation to the girls of CM2 in order to give them advice about what to expect at the lycée next year, as well as to encourage them to continue their education, as it is common for female students to not continue to secondary school. We practiced the presentation in the weeks leading up to it with each girl being assigned to present on a certain topic in response to the questions:
- When you were in primary school, what did you wish you knew about lycée that you know now?
- What were you afraid of before coming to lycée?
- Why is girls’ education important?
- If your parents told you that you could not continue you your education because they cannot afford to pay for your tuition and instead they found a man to marry you, what would you do?
Once again, I was blown away by their informative responses and the way they engaged the large group of girls in the discussion by asking questions. I have seen time and again secondary school students transform into incredible role models when working with younger students. Although I have not yet found a community counterpart who will devote time and energy to working with this group, I was pleased to see the girls themselves take this initiative of promoting girls’ education into their own hands and begin advocating to one sub-group of adults and their younger peers. I think these projects make even more of a lasting impression when it’s the individuals affected by this issue who are speaking out and advocating for themselves. Whether they realize it or not, I know these girls are developing leadership, presentation, and organization skills that will allow them to become influential role models and community leaders. Without taking any ownership of what the girls accomplished this year, I am so very proud of them and excited to continue supporting this important work next year.