Running straight from the Model UN Camp, I grabbed my girls and counterparts and headed to the GLOW Camp. The first evening was mainly rules, icebreakers, games, getting to know each other activities.
The second day was all about healthy lifestyles. We talked about physical health (exercise, dental health, nutrition), maintaining balance in their lives, and identifying and fostering healthy relationships with friends and family. This also included a short hike up the mountain, complete with so many selfies by the girls.
In the evening, we watched Girl Rising, a film that pretty much sums up why we did this camp. It provides stories about girls and their struggles all over the world. The film is inspiring and motivating. It’s well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it.
Day 3 was STEM (!!!) and Art projects. I picked 3 STEM activities for the girls: building solar ovens, water bottle rockets, and the classic egg drop challenge.
In their teams, girls built solar ovens out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. It was supposed to be used to make s’mores but, unknown to me before this camp, marshmallows (which my mom brought on her last visit to Morocco, solely for the purposes of this project) are made with gelatin which contains pork products. So, it turned into just melted chocolate and graham crackers, but the point is that the ovens worked, and the girls built them.
Next was the egg drop challenge. Each group was given a set of materials (all hoarded items from PCV trash/recyclables) and an egg. We dropped the egg devices off a second story balcony – only 2 didn’t survive the drop!
Finally they made water bottle rockets out of plastic soda bottle, decorated them, and then we used a bike pump to launch them!
The STEM activities were a total success! The girls had fun problem-solving, team-building, experimenting, exercising their critical thinking. (My PC bucket list of doing STEM stuff with girls has now been checked. Motivation to do more STEM stuff with girls: check.)
The afternoon was filled with art activities – theater, writing, dancing. Girls showcased their confidence and creativity.
Day 4 involved Goal Setting. We talked a lot about their lives until now, how they became who they are today, and what they want to be in the future. Some of these sessions were very emotional. There were a lot of tragedies in these young girls’ lives but also a lot of hope and ambition in their futures – doctors, engineers, teachers.
We had a panel of Moroccan women from the community with careers – including a physics teacher, an employee from a major insurance company, the delegue from the local Ministry of Youth and Sports, and my Peace Corps regional manager. The panel talked about their life choices, and girls lined up to ask them questions.
Day 5 was our last day, reserved for the more sensitive topics. We wanted to save a lot of the heavier, more personal discussions for the end of the camp, when girls feel the most comfortable around their peers and the camp facilitators. We discussed sexual and menstrual health, sexual harassment, self-image, and self-esteem. There was an amazing amount of misinformation that needed to be addressed because a lot of these topics aren’t discussed openly or at all. I think me and my counterparts all agreed that this day was really the most important for the girls.
The girls also watched a video titled “Breaking the Silence,” produced by Peace Corps Morocco about sexual harassment, which is a major problem here in Morocco. The girls were then invited to share their stories. The number and intensity of stories, from these very young girls, was astounding and saddening. At the same time, it was very empowering for these girls to share their stories and experiences, to learn how to handle certain situations, and to know that they aren’t alone, it’s not their fault, and they can get support.
Then it was time to leave, complete with crying teenage girls not wanting to leave their new best friends.
Overall, it was an amazing experience, for me and for the girls. A radio station came and interviewed a few girls. Peace Corps staff and a representative from the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Rabat came to show their support. There were some very emotional, touching moments. Some shocking moments. After a session on stereotypes and gender roles, I asked my counterpart if the girls said anything surprising. Her response: “Yes, one of the girls said she didn’t need a man in her life. But all the other girls agreed that you need a man to protect you. If you don’t get married, you won’t be safe.” It’s heart-breaking to me; but after being here for a year, I can see how girls would think that.
I think the most important thing about the camp was the opportunity for girls to speak their minds, to be heard, to know that their opinions and their selves are valued. Too often do I see girls and young women being interrupted by men, being ignored by men, like they don’t matter. Here, they were free to express themselves. To talk about things that are taboo. To think about their futures and know that they have options, so many options.