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An Intern’s Experience Creating a Gender Equality Curriculum for NAFGEM in Tanzania

I will carry this experience back to my own country – to share all I have learned about NAFGEM as an organization and fight for gender equality within Canada and across the world, whenever I can.

My name is Sahhara Leckie and I have been on a Gender Equality Internship with African Impact in Moshi for the past 8 weeks. My focal project while I have been here has been with the Network Against Female Genital Mutilation (NAFGEM).

NAFGEM is an organization comprised of inspiring people who are committed to ending female genital mutilation and other harmful practices against women in Tanzania. They also shelter girls who are escaping from these harmful practices.

The center empowers them so they can be change-makers within their own communities when they grow up.

During Tanzanian school holidays, African Impact staff and volunteers facilitate a curriculum to the girls who live in the main shelter.

When July 10th came around, I was able to meet the NAFGEM girls for the first time. Their smiles were so bright and they had so many questions about my own country, but they were also so eager to learn.

This is to hopefully strengthen their learning so they can facilitate difficult conversations within their community later on about the effects of harmful traditions on the girls and their community.

Over the past 4 weeks, I got the chance to be one of the leads in the Gender Equality section of the curriculum. I took several weeks to prepare resources and activities for the curriculum, but it is hard to fully prepare for something that you have never had the chance to witness before.

Over the 4 weeks, we worked with girls between the ages of 8 – 17, with various degrees of English comprehension – some of whom knew what Gender Equality meant and some who did not. Each week that we were at NAFGEM had a different focus. Within the first week, we focused on a review of the curriculum done in the last section.

From just being around them, you could tell the girls truly were confident and wholly themselves. By the end of that week, we introduced several key terms: gender, equality, equity, activist, and gender equality. They were terms the girls had heard before, but we wanted to ensure they fully understood them before we delved further into the topic of gender inequalities around the world.

One activity that really stood out in this first week was when we played ‘Me Too’ – a game to focus on the similarities and self-esteem of a group. Each person stated something that they were good at or wanted to do in the future, and everyone else who also had that same talent or aspiration would say me too, and the ball of yarn would be passed around respectively.

The girls were able to see the strings that connect all of us and build on the cooperation and self-esteem that this activity brought throughout the next 3 weeks of the curriculum.

The second and third week of the curriculum was based on discussing Gender Equality at a broad level across the world and progressing each day to bring out activities more closely related to how gender inequalities present themselves within the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.

We began with our Power Walk activity that allowed the girls to disassociate from issues they were facing and acknowledge difficult gendered situations around the world – such as how some are more privileged than others.

Many of the girls were shocked to hear how inequalities presented themselves differently in every country – for example, the traditions of Japanese feet binding and how hard it is for a woman to keep custody of her children following a divorce in Yemen.

Throughout all the interactive high-energy games and activities, there was the overarching theme of empowerment so they could both understand why Gender Equality is important and why they should fight for it.

One of our last activities in the third week was to organize a protest for issues they really cared about. In small groups, the girls created a poster board about topics like early childhood marriage, female genital mutilation, and women’s education. Each group also created a chant that they presented to everyone before we all marched around our open classroom chanting together – a spark of fighting inequalities within Tanzania and their own communities.

Within the last week, we worked on facilitation skills. The aim of this curriculum is to help these girls gain the skills they need to eventually facilitate difficult conversations with people who do not share their viewpoints.

They were able to identify skills that make a leader a good leader, and we then worked with them to put them into practice.

The girls started to develop tactics to facilitate group discussions with people who may not know much about certain topics, like gender equality and harmful traditions. We ended the curriculum off by standing in a circle with a chant to celebrate how empowered these young girls are and how much they had learned over the previous 4 weeks:

I am Strong.
I am Brave.
I am Beautiful.
I will never give up.
I am a leader.
I am a Change Maker.

Teaching this curriculum and being surrounded by such empowered and joyful young girls was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I will carry this experience back to my own country – to share all I have learned about NAFGEM as an organization and fight for gender equality within Canada and across the world, whenever I can.

I am very thankful to African Impact for allowing me this opportunity and I look forward to hearing about the upcoming Education and Empowerment curriculum that will be facilitated during the next school holidays.

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