Namibia's phenomenal young women.
In mid-June, fifty girls from Hardap and Karas Regions gathered at the Roman Catholic Church in Aimablaagte, Mariental, for the Southern Girls Conference 2006. This two-day conference focused on leadership, empowerment, the creation of girls clubs, and capacity building for clubs already in existence in Rehoboth, Aranos, Mariental, Gibeon, Keetmanshoop, Karasburg, and Bethanie.
The girls, from grades eight to ten, learned how to become phenomenal women through a variety of activities including panel discussions, role playing, arts and crafts, writing journals, and informational sessions. The Tses Girls Conference, a one-day event held in July, was designed to help fourteen young women obtain the skills and camaraderie they need to create a girls club of their own.
Both conferences gave the girls the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics. At the Southern Girls Conference, the HIV/Aids session addressed how the illness affects the girls' communities. Then, in the gender and risk reduction session, the girls explored the gender dynamics in their homes, schools and communities. They discussed how these might impact their potential risk for HIV infection and explored possible solutions. Other sessions included self-esteem building, goal setting, and a discussion on appropriate relationships, which candidly raised everything from friendships with boys to abusive relationships.
The highlight of the conference, however, was the panel of guest speakers chosen from Mariental's phenomenal women. They discussed their lives, their successes and the obstacles they have faced. They gave the girls advice on where to seek support and how to move forward. The girls were truly inspired by these role models and took the opportunity to ask many questions.
Throughout the weekend the girls continued to learn and grow. There were cultural presentations, workshops on health and women's bodies, and options such as sports, dance, and games.
The girls participated whole-heartedly in all these activities, celebrating themselves and each other and experiencing the bonds of sisterhood in the groups they had formed. They had time to reflect in their journals throughout the weekend. They also were able to reflect in their groups, reviewing their goals and brainstorming possibilities for the future.
By the end of the weekend, the groups had revealed plans for new girls clubs, community outreach, working with orphans and vulnerable children, and community clean-up projects. The weekend ended with a dance party on Saturday evening and closing ceremonies on Sunday morning.
The Tses Girls Conference also addressed HIV/AIDS, women's health, and goal setting. Their sessions focused on trust, working together for a common purpose, problem solving, and how to plan activities for their newly created girls club. The highlight of the conference was completing the Crocodile Crossing, and activity which demonstrated to the girls the importance of teamwork, problem-solving skills and communication.
Thanks to Peace Corps for providing us with this inspiring information!