3 Lessons Girls Taught Me About Empowering Them

3 Lessons Girls Taught Me About Empowering Them

The girls of Camp GLOW (Girls leading our world) had such insightful questions, and while few things teenagers ask ever surprise me, I was shocked by this question:

How can I reduce machismo and feminismo(feminism)?

The girl who posed the question viewed feminismo (feminism) as equally oppressive asmachismo, which refers to the patriarchal forces in Latin America.

Machismo reinforces heteronormative gender expectations of men and women: Men are breadwinners, while women should take care of the home. At its most non-violent, machismo reinforces rigid gender roles. At its most violent, machismo normalizes violence against women.The Gender Index found that 70% of Nicaraguan women have experienced some form of violence. Rapes and femicides make the nightly news regularly.

I knew that machismo was a societal problem, but I didn’t expect feminism to have a bad wrap at a girls’ camp. The girls taught me to ask them what they wanted to know. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have thought to address this misconception.

Find out the misconceptions we cleared up about feminism, and the three lessons girls taught me about empowerment in my Wanderful post!

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Camp GLOW in Senegal

As we are wrapping up from our annual girls’ Camp GLOW, and our boys Camp CHACA is on the horizon, I decided to check in with one of my best friends from college, Madelyn, who is currently serving with the Peace Corps in Senegal and who has worked extensively with women’s’ empowerment projects during her service. Madelyn has been in Senegal since March 2014 working on projects ranging from organizing and supporting recycling initiatives that serve to empower local women to planning and facilitating Gem Sa Bopp, an annual empowerment camp for young Senegalese women. Madelyn and I recently chatted about her experience working with Gem Sa Bopp.

Can you talk a little about what the girls’ camp that you work with is like?

Our girls’ camp is for about fifty 13-17 year old girls who come from four regions in the north of Senegal to a local university for a week of empowerment and leadership activities. Read on for more of Ania’s post on the Gender and Development blog!

Camp GLOW 2016: Learning about LGBTQ Identity

Camp GLOW 2016: Learning about LGBTQ Identity

Just when I thought the girls were too shy or tired to ask us questions during an LGBTQ workshop, one of them piped up: “So, we can ask anything?” My most memorable part of Camp GLOW for Nicaraguan girls, and of 2016, was when the girls asked me about my experience as a queer woman. The girls asked me very personal questions, including:

Q. How old were you when you realized you were gay?

Q. What was your first relationship with a woman like?

Q. What’s been the hardest part of being gay for you?

Q. How did your friends react when you were gay?

Read about how I came out to 53 girls at our LGBTQ Identity workshop during the five day girls’ camp.

Camp GLOW 2016: What Do Nicaraguan Girls Want to Learn?

Camp GLOW 2016: What Do Nicaraguan Girls Want to Learn?

We offered 9 Gender Empowerment workshops at Camp GLOW for Nicaraguan girls, and we wanted to know what the girls wanted to learn before we assumed anything. Here are just a few of the insightful, surprising questions they asked.

How can I reduce “machismo” and “feminismo” in society?

Is one’s self esteem related to their sexuality?

Why do some people still feel empty inside after reaching their goals?

Read my second Gender and Development Committee entry to find out what the girls wanted to get out of the camp!

Camp GLOW 2016: Nervous Excitement

Camp GLOW 2016: Nervous Excitement

Today, 53 Nicaraguan teenage girls came together for Camp GLOW. This is the third year that Peace Corps Nicaragua has organized this 5-day girls’ empowerment camp.

We had such an amazing event to look forward to for weeks! The girls were both nervous and excited for this week of gender empowerment. Here’s a rundown of the first day of camp.

Some girls were more nervous than others. Some of them have never left their communities until now. About 75% of our girls have never attended a camp before. Some girls, like Nicole (above, in the superman sweatshirt) came from as far as Pearl Lagoon, on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast. They woke up at 5 AM, took a speed boat to Bluefields, took another speed boat to El Rama, slept overnight, then traveled another 8 hours to Esteli. Other girls took 10 minute taxi rides to the Esteli bus station, where the girls turned in their permission forms to the volunteers.

Read the rest of my Camp GLOW post on the Peace Corps Gender and Development Committee’s blog!

A year ago, I would have just wanted to plan and lead workshops, but this year, I had a lot of fun acting as an observer. I’ve realized that as a travel blogger, I’ve been doing advocacy work for my entire Peace Corps service because I enjoy giving people and experiences a voice and a chance to be noticed.

I didn’t have internet at the camp GLOW, so I wrote 10 pages onto a single word document, recording as many of the girls’ questions and surprising moments that I noticed during the gender empowerent camp. This time reminded me of how wonderful it is to be in a safe, inclusive learning environment for women. I’ll soon write about what it was like coming out to 53 girls, and how they responded!