Last week I saw the culmination of my biggest project in Peace Corps so far — my town’s very first Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp!
With the assistance of four truly incredible and beautiful Moroccan female counterparts and three spunky American Peace Corps Volunteers, we put together a four day sleepover camp (sleep being more of a suggestion in the end) for 30 middle school aged Moroccan girls. And it was wonderful.
GLOW Camps are part of a global Peace Corps initiative that seeks to empower young women across the world. Each camp is uniquely designed by Peace Corps Volunteers and tailored toward the specific needs of their host country. Popular GLOW Camp themes include promoting gender equality, fostering positive self-esteem, encouraging healthy lifestyles, learning about career opportunities and more. Here is a video produced by Peace Corps if you are interested in learning more about GLOW Camps worldwide.
For the past three months I have lived and breathed this project. The work leading up to the camp included writing my first grant, conducting hours of meetings with community leaders, designing sessions with my counterparts, and a lot of sleepless nights. (All on top of daily programming and classes at the Dar Chebab, my family’s visit, a workshop for parents of youth with special needs, and organizing a Spelling Bee. Yiikes I’m tired just thinking about this again.)
To me, the importance of a GLOW Camp here in my town in Morocco was paramount. I live in a place where, day in and day out, young females are not afforded the same opportunities as their male peers. I wanted to create a camp where girls could believe in the power of being a girl and their ability to change the world. I wanted them to believe that their gender doesn’t have to be the determining factor on whether or not they will achieve their dreams, that they are capable of anything and everything they set their minds to.
We talked about what it means to be a girl, and why sometimes we wished we were boys. We talked about the importance of positive self-esteem and what we love about ourselves. We talked about the dreams we have for our futures and how to create a plan to achieve them. We talked about our bodies and how to keep them healthy.
We made homemade face masks and laid on our beds side-by-side with cucumbers over our eyes (and munched on the extras). We sang boom chicka boom and clapped to traditional Amazigh songs. We danced to the Macarena and the Cupid Shuffle. We played relay races and freeze tag and worked our bodies with aerobics and yoga. We performed skits that talked about gender roles in our everyday lives. We made dreamcatchers out of paper plates, string and beads to hang over our beds and remember the lofty goals we set for ourselves.
And we laughed. We laughed a lot.
On the last night of the camp we all stood together in a circle and talked about our dreams. My heart overflowed with pride as each girl smiled and took her turn sharing her goal. The energy in the room was full of hope and desire for the future, a room full of Morocco’s future doctors and teachers and singers and engineers and policewomen and fashion designers and surgeons and chefs. We each illuminated a glow stick as a promise to ourselves that we will work every day towards achieving our dreams — and then we danced the night away.
At the end of camp each girl was presented with a certificate that says “[her name] is a strong and beautiful girl that is capable of changing the world.” My hope is that each girl will look back on that certificate and this camp for years to come and believe that statement. Because I do. I believe in each of them so much.
Look out world! These girls are comin’ for ya.