Girls Empowerment

9 03 2011

So since it’s been almost three weeks since I’ve posted last, this post may or may not be longer than some of my other posts.  I’ve thought about trying to cut down on the length of my posts but lately I’ve been writing these entries when the mood to write strikes me.  Because of this, you may think that most of these posts may seem like a random collection of thoughts with no logical order, and you’d be correct.  When I first arrived in Africa I tried to sit down every night to write a small amount about my experiences that day but some nights I just didn’t have it in me.  I’ve discovered I enjoy waiting until I feel a strong urge to sit down and just pour out all my thoughts and experiences.

So about 3 weeks ago I got a text from another volunteer in the same region as me asking if I’d be interested in planning and having my school participate in a girl’s empowerment conference.  Of course this sounded like a great idea to me and responded that yes, I’d be very interested.  After agreeing to help plan this girl’s conference however, I realized that I had no idea what exactly that would entail here, but I’ve heard of other volunteers doing it and saying that they were very successful.  All the volunteers that were interested in planning the conference met in town the past week.  I was eagerly anticipating the meeting to get more information on what exactly we’d be doing.  It turns out that what we’ll be doing is writing a grant to PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to receive money to use is conducting the conference.  I also discovered that the reason I knew nothing about what we’d be doing at a girl’s empowerment conference is that volunteers normally don’t receive training on how to organize one until after IST (In-Service Training).  IST for the group of volunteers I started with doesn’t take place until the end of March.  I’m really looking forward to IST for a variety of reasons.  First, it will be a good place to take issues I’ve encountered since teaching and have a place to voice them and receive feedback.  Second, I’m really looking forward to seeing the other volunteers that doesn’t live near me and whom I haven’t had a chance to see for over 4months.  Third, we are allowed to bring a host country national “counterpart” with us to IST.  So in addition to PC volunteers receiving training, Tanzanian teachers also get the opportunity to attend all the sessions and receive additional training.  This is something that I think will be extremely beneficial for my counterpart.  I’ve asked Charles, my neighbor and fellow teacher to attend with me.  He thought it sounded like a good opportunity and he agreed to come along.  However, I don’t know if he agreed because of the learning opportunities or because I told him it was all expenses paid for (including food) but either way I’m glad he’s excited about it.  Anyway, since I wasn’t aware of what types of activities were included in a girl’s conference, the other volunteers I met with filled me in.  So at a high level, we have PC volunteers who will be involved with the conference.  Each volunteer will bring one female counterpart, preferably a woman who is a positive role model in the community who would be interested.  Each volunteer will then select 2 students to bring to the conference.  The method of selection will mostly be up to us to decide, but in the past other volunteers have announced the conference and accepted written essays from students describing why they want to participate.  It was also recommended that we look at grades as well as behavior when selecting students.  Basically we want to choose girls who will take what they learned at the conference and share it with their classmates once they return to the school.  We will bring all the students from the different villages into town and conduct the sessions over a span of 4 or 5 days.  We haven’t nailed down the exact topics of the subjects yet but they will include such things as life skills, HIV/AIDS prevention, business basics, and a question and answer session with some successful women from the Iringa area.  Basically they are sessions aimed at increasing the confidence in these young girls.  The money to bring the kids into town, feed them, and pay for housing for the 4 days will be paid for by a grant we request from PEPFAR.  I think I may have mentioned this before but PEPFAR was a massive bill signed by President George W Bush to help fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.  The amount is somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 billion dollars.  Uses for the money include education for prevention, education for nutrition for people living with AIDS, ARV’s, and countless other activities aimed at stemming the spread of the disease.  If you’re interested in reading a little more about it, you can check out this fact sheet I found: .  For now, this is all the information I have but we plan on meeting again in the near future to nail down some specifics.  I’ll be sure to update you on our progress and let you know how it goes. 

Even though the other volunteers and I spent most of our time planning the conference, we did have time to check out one of the more popular “discos” in town called “Twisters”.  Many people here interchange the word ‘disco’ for club, which I think is awesome.  Now normally I’m not a big dancer because I have zero skill in that department, but hey, when in Tanzania.  Additionally, I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself because luckily nobody had a camera.  So I really let loose.  I must have looked ridiculous, but it was a good time.  It’s crazy how much American music they play here.  It was probably an even 50/50 split between African and American music.  I’ve also learned that there are two artists that EVERY Tanzanian knows.  One is R Kelly.  Yea, R Kelly.  I don’t know why but every single person from small kids to mamas love R Kelly.  The second is even more surprising.  Celine Dione.  I guess I could see R Kelly, but have no absolutely no idea how people here came to love Celine Dione so much.  One of the mamas in my village who makes delicious chapatti regularly sings Celine Dione songs while she cooks which is pretty funny.   Additionally, I can’t believe I’m saying this but one of my favorite activities every Sunday is to listen to the American Top 40.  Funny how I not once listened to the American Top 40 in America, but make damn sure I’m tuned in every Sunday at 2:00pm to hear Ryan Seacrest countdown the top 40 songs in America that week.  At first I felt guilty about it, but hey, like someone said to me anything to make you feel more connected.  But anyway, I really enjoyed hanging with the other volunteers because I don’t really see any other volunteers on a regular basis as my village is fairly isolated.  Some other volunteers have the luxury of living less than an hour away from each other so it’s easy to meet up.  Anyway, I apologize for the long gap in posts but electricity has been a problem in the village so I’ve been handwriting all my entries then typing them up when time permits!




2 responses

13 03 2011
Aunt Lynn

Holt, you are making a difference and I am proud of you! I will continue to send positive energy and prayers your way especially for the success of and obtaining funding for the women’s conference! Now come on, you come from a family of fine dancers…. remember Kelsey’s graduation party…….tooo funny
hey I am sure you will learn more moves when you are home for Aubrey’s party.
We can even show you how to polka, I am sure that will be a big hit in africa.
take care of yourself, Love you, Aunt Lynn xo

10 03 2011

Glenn the women’s conference sounds very interesting. It believe this would be vital and useful info for these girls. Hoping your team gets the grant money it needs to do this. It’s good to see positive things going on while you’re there. All is fine here in Philly except we’ve been getting alot of rain these past few weeks (rain over snow is my motto). Today through tomorrow we’re suppose to get 2.5-3.5 inches with high winds. We just had the same thing Saturday night through Sunday. Needless to say it’s very soggy in some parts. Went to the Flower Show yesterday with my mom. Gorgeous sights and smells!!!! Philly does this show very well!!! Well back to work. Take care and let me know if there is anything I can send you that you miss or want. Also send your addy is well. Dee

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