Friday, May 23, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex

One year of planning, $2,500 from donations, 50 village women, 4 counterparts, 5 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV’s), 2 venues, a healthy dose of stress, a splash of last minute meltdown… Stir to mix well. Bake for four days in sweltering 100 degree Kalahari sun and what you have is 50 vocal and empowered women! 

GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camps are trés popular in the Peace Corps world; they are wonderful events to put on and be a part of. Hundreds of girls throughout Botswana have been energized and empowered, but what about their mothers and grannies? In a grown up style GLOW camp, five PCV’s empowered adult women from the Kgalagdi North District in two villages over four days. Let’s Talk About It: Leadership and Empowerment for the Next Generation as it was a mammoth achievement for us! 

It all started one year ago in the village of Tshane during a Month of Youth Against AIDS event. A community discussion and panel were being held when a mosadi mogolo (old woman) stood up and said, “We don’t know how to talk to our kids about HIV/AIDS.” The old woman talked a little bit more about the cultural practices when she was growing up and how they don’t address current problems. The brain storming began that evening over pizza and wine. 

Because Kgalagadi North is a large sparsely populated district, we decided on two separate workshops, one in Kang to cater to Kang and the surrounding area and one in Hukuntsi for women from Lehututu, Tshane, Lokgwabe and Hukuntsi. Each workshop would be two days long- a full day on Friday then a half day on Saturday so the women could still spend time with their families. 

What about funding? Initially we wanted fund our workshop 100% locally. After several unsuccessful meetings with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture we decided that a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) would be our best choice. For the 25% community contribution required by the PCPP, we used donations in the form of labor and materials. It took months to get the PCPP on the Peace Corps website, but within two months we had P19, 000 pula in our bank account! We were ready to go!

The basis of the workshop was to give women knowledge (and power) to share the information they learned with their families and communities. For sustainability, we chose to make a notebook full of information for each woman to take home and share. Several boxes of wine, a pan of enchiladas, 10 glues sticks, and countless paper cuts later, we had 55 notebooks full of handouts and space for note taking. Making the notebooks was a labor of love, and it was cheaper than buying binders. 

Inviting the women to make affirmation envelopes and to sign our empowerment poster
To advertise for the workshop, we put up fliers throughout Kang, Hukuntsi, Tshane, Lokwabe and Lehututu. Potential participants filled out applications to weed out those who just wanted to come for a free lunch and a t-shirt. The application included questions about challenges women face as parents in Botswana and how the participant would use the information learned in the workshop. The fliers generated so much enthusiasm that we rearranged our budget to accommodate 50 women instead of the original 40 that we had planned. 

The workshop was organized so each session built upon the information discussed in the previous session. We opened the workshop with a session about communication, where we covered basic communication styles, listening skills and conflict management. We then gave the women homework: to have a conversation with their child or spouse that evening at home. After communication, we focused on the meat and potatoes of the workshop, how to talk to children about sex. A large portion of our PCPP was money to buy every woman a copy of Power Parents. This book was written by previous PCV’s who served in Botswana, designed to address the issue of talking to children about sex, specifically in relation to the culture in Botswana. 
Facilitating sessions at our first workshop in Kang
During lunch we screened the STEPS film One Love One Life and had an awesome discussion about multiple concurrent partners, stigma/discrimination, and intergenerational sex. We wrapped up the first day with a session about financial management and gave the women their own budget books, donated by an NGO in Gaborone. 

On day 2, we opened with a communication follow up, discussing the women’s experiences talking to their kids the night before. One woman explained that when she tried to tell her young grandchildren about childbirth, the children insisted that babies are born when a woman vomits her child out of her belly. After hearing that, we were reinforced in our conviction to teach women how to talk to kids about sex and how to protect themselves about dangers like HIV. 

Second Workshop in Hukuntsi 
We spent the next few hours talking about Gender Based Violence (GBV). We discussed symptoms of child abuse, what to do if a child/friend reports abuse, and Botswana sexual abuse laws. We demonstrated GBV warning signs with role play scenarios, including jealousy and explosive temper, and the women had a chance to participate in a heart-wrenching activity called “In Her Shoes”. To lighten things up after the heavy GBV session, we led a short guided meditation. The ladies also learned about stress management skills and goal setting techniques, to help improve their lives, as well as their children’s. 

Day 2 ended on a high note, STIs and condom demonstrations. Who doesn’t like talking about sex and playing with condoms? There was a short ceremony, where each woman was given a certificate, a hug by each PCV, and an envelope full of affirmation notes. The months of stress, the many meltdowns, and the hours on the phone were all worth it when the women, one by one, sang and danced their way up to receive their prizes. 
Learning about condoms, participating in a GBV activity, and celebrating a successful workshop! 
After reading our own affirmations and the feedback that we received from the women who attended the workshop, we are confident that the workshops made a lasting impression here. Many days PCVs feel like we haven’t made an impact, but when you stand in a room with 25 women singing to God in appreciation of your hard work, you can go back to America knowing that you did something amazing and lasting. 

Celebrating our successful workshops! 
Love & Light,

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