WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2014 – Peace Corps volunteers worldwide are supporting the new government-wide Let Girls Learn effort by increasing opportunities for women and girls through education. Let Girls Learn launched today to raise awareness about the need to support all girls in their pursuit of a quality education. The effort, coordinated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, includes $231 million in new education programs in Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Jordan and Guatemala.
Below find three examples of Peace Corps volunteers’ work to empower women and girls.
Peace Corps volunteers Heather Pace of Dublin, Calif., Kelly Baug of Hamlin, N.Y., and Ashley Gannon of Harrington, Del., are spearheading efforts to organize a Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) for local girls in Benin. The week-long camp will help participants develop leadership skills and learn about important health and social issues affecting their communities.
Girls will attend sessions that discuss vital public health concerns, emphasize the value of education, focus on building life skills, and encourage creativity and critical thinking. On the final day of the camp, Pace and her fellow volunteers and community members will lead a discussion on how girls can bring what they learned back to their villages.
“The girls will be mentored by adult Beninese women who have been selected for the exceptional example they set as professional, progressive women, as well as older girls from last year’s camp selected as outstanding participants,” said Pace, a graduate of St. John’s University who has been living in Benin since 2012. “Most importantly, the girls will be surrounded by positive encouragement. They will be reminded that they are special and valuable.”
Camp GLOW is a Peace Corps program that began in Romania in 1995 to promote female empowerment. The program began in Benin in 2004 and has been widely successful.
During her Peace Corps service, recently returned volunteer Sarah Quinn of Athens, Ga., collaborated with a group of 40 female artisans to teach marketable skills to young Moroccan women during a 10-day camp. The artisans mentored camp participants in traditional craftwork and local female leaders led supplemental workshops on successful business practices to encourage creativity and give the women an opportunity to establish financial independence.
“The camp created new opportunities for both the artisans and the girls who attended,” said Quinn, a graduate of the University of Georgia. “The artisans thrived in their roles of planning and implementing the logistics of the camp. The girls not only learned the basics of several traditional handicrafts, but really poured their energy and creativity into several remarkable pieces. It was a really successful ten days in every way.”
Following the camp’s success and popularity, Quinn’s community plans to make it an annual event, and the artisans are looking into further mentorship opportunities for local women.
Peace Corps volunteer Brian Harris-McTigue of Brooklyn, N.Y., is working with fellow volunteers and community members in Senegal to host a week-long leadership camp for girls ages 12-16. Volunteers and community members will lead educational sessions throughout the week to empower and equip girls with tools to become the next generation of female leaders.
“Girls are selected to participate in the camp based on their academic promise, leadership ability and motivation,” said Harris-McTigue, a graduate of Wheaton College who has been living in Senegal since 2013. “At the camp, the girls will learn to take ownership of their own lives.”
Camp sessions will include topics like healthy lifestyle choices, financial literacy and planning for the future. To ensure sustainability, Harris-McTigue and his fellow volunteers will train their community members to independently organize and manage future camps that promote youth volunteerism and positive gender development in the region.
A portion of funds for the leadership camp are being raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), which supports Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide. The PCPP funds will be used to purchase materials for the camp’s educational workshops, transportation and meals. The local community will provide resources to cover guest speaker and counselor fees, classroom space and entertainment.
About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – back to the United States that enriches the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.