Our original idea with the ChangeMakers was to have young adults 18-25 years old. What we quickly discovered though was that would mean girls and boys could not work together. So instead we decided to work with 13-16 year olds. Some of the people we talked to were still sceptical about whether that could work but we decided to give it a go anyway.
In the first session I ran, we had about twice as many boys as girls. They were bigger, more physically noticeable and more demanding of attention. The girls would have been easily overlooked. So although letting each one of the 25 of them have their say and explain what JOY means to them, and let the interpreter explain it to me took a lot of time, it was an important shift. It meant the girls did speak. And they expressed themselves capably and beautifully which gave them more confidence. By the end of our 2 hour session they were sitting a little taller and more assuredly.
The next day as I arrived I started to see people I recognised from that session. And they recognised me. Already things felt a little different to the day before. I had asked the staff to gather 2 smaller groups, still with a 50/50 gender balance of young people, to get started on the baseline research. I explained the idea to them, they practiced on each other and then we set out to interview residents and gather data.
At first my young researchers were very hesitant. It is not easy to knock on doors in any context and this was no exception. The boys were more prepared to just get on with it but I could see how the girls really wanted to run away, how they were wishing they hadn’t signed up for this. I also know from my own experience that this awkwardness is part of the process that has to be gone through to get to the other side. I couldn’t speak directly to them because of the language barrier but could be there for them in the background and loved seeing them grow in stature and confidence as they progressed. By the time they came back the next day to do more they all looked a foot taller and three years older. They were proud of their new skill and I was proud of them.
Interesting to how despite all the terrible reasons why they are there, these girls and other women in the camp may have experiences and develop skills and confidence there that they would never have been able to do in the villages. I’m no expert on the local culture, but that was the sense I got from the experience. Maybe in the long run some good also comes out of the situation in terms of the isolation of the women in their homes.
(for security reasons and for their safety, we can’t post pictures of them here, hence more generic shots)
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