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EMpower Learning Exchange raises girls’ voices in Latin America

Posted 03 May 2019 in EMpower News, Grantee Partner News   |   Share

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In March 2019, with support from the NoVo Foundation, EMpower hosted a Learning Exchange on Programming for Very Young Adolescent Girls, bringing together organizations from across Latin America for a three-day workshop in Mexico City! The workshop included eight local partners: Fundacion Huesped (Argentina), CEPIA (Brazil), Fundacion Tiempo de Juego (Colombia), Alternativa (Peru) and Cauce Ciudadano, SiKanda, Gendes and Melel Xojobal (Mexico). Each organization had a senior program practitioner present, and, each of the four NGOs from Mexico brought two adolescent girl program participants. EMpower was thrilled bring in the direct participation of these eight girls, a first for EMpower in the region! Ranging from age 11-17, these girls provided key insights into the realities, interests and needs of very young adolescent (VYA) girls.

The goals of the workshop included to:

  • hear directly from the girls about what can be done to help programs better respond to girls’ needs,
  • exchange program experience and troubleshoot common challenges,
  • share global evidence around promising programs for VYA girls, and
  • get insights from practitioners about the tools and resources that can help take programming to the next level.

Including the girls in the workshop created an exciting, enriching experience. The girls were enabled to exercise their leadership skills and voice their needs, and practitioners were able to hear directly from the population they serve. The workshop format was highly participatory and facilitated sharing. The three days were divided into a girls-only space at the outset, an inter-generational space in the middle, and practitioners-only at the end.

Both the girls and the practitioners highly valued the rich exchange during the workshop. One girl participant shared,

“Well, I would like to thank and congratulate you guys who work for EMpower because nobody takes the time to ask or listen to our opinions. You taught us so many things. Thank you. We leave happy and proud.”

From contributions from the girls and practitioners, the workshop resulted in key recommendations to work more effectively with very young adolescent girls:

  • Include boys in programs: girls and practitioners agreed that to successfully empower and advance adolescent girls, it is crucial to engage boys as well
  • Engage key adults: it is important to engage people like parents, teachers, community leaders, authorities and school staff to achieve greater effectiveness
  • Advocate for clean, safe toilets: the girls emphasized the need to have clean bathrooms with appropriate levels of privacy, especially in schools and after menstruation. Such facilities are currently not available at any of the girls’ schools, often lacking running water, electricity, toilet paper or stall doors.
  • Address crucial changes in puberty: programs for VYA girls should include comprehensive information on the physical, emotional, and social changes associated with puberty, including sexuality, gender equality, self-harm, eating disorders, safe use of online platforms and more.
  • Differentiate program design for different age groups: there is a clear need for distinct content and delivery to address the needs of 10-12 year-olds compared to 13-14 year-olds, as well as between boys and girls.

Putting girls at the center of decision-making, and facilitating learning through sharing and exchange are both central focuses of EMpower’s work. We were thrilled to host such a dynamic, inter-generational workshop! A partner participant shared:

“Sometimes we feel very lonely in the work that we do, like we are preaching in the desert. However, sometimes something blooms, like in this workshop. Something that is or looks a lot like hope. You, I think, are able to see that. See the desert and see the flowers and that makes you guys very special.”

See photos from the workshop and learn more, HERE!

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