The month of December marks the end of the Nicaraguan school year and the nation’s youth are left to embrace the freedom of a two-month holiday break from the stresses of daily classes, homework and tests.
The vacation commences with the excitement of the Purisima, the commotion of promocion week and the eager anticipation of the Christmas holiday. However, after the December festivities pass, the lack of academic structure begins to place Nicaraguan adolescent women into the molds of another learning environment inside the home.
For Nicaraguan girls living in more rural parts of the country, the school vacation does not open the door to pursue many recreational and personal development activities that might exist for young girls from different cultural contexts in more metropolitan Nicaraguan cities or abroad. Many readers can probably recall delightful memories of summer vacations filled with camps, outings to the neighborhood pool and trips to the beach. As the school break begins in Nicaragua, it is an appropriate time to recall those fond summer memories while also imagining what summer vacation would feel like in the absence of such cherished pastimes and traditions.
Young Nicaraguan women face a realm of responsibilities as they begin their journeys towards becoming women. During their school break, the majority of young girls in Nicaragua are left with the single option of returning to the confines of their homes to take on the domestic responsibilities of caring for the needs of their families. While it is necessary to contribute to the maintenance of a strong family unit, the lack of opportunity to engage in more stimulating activities can stunt potential emotional and psychological growth.
Most Nicaraguan girls know little of what lies behind their respective departmental borders and have had few or no opportunities to explore the beautiful attractions within their own country, as well as interact with individuals from other regions. Peace Corps Volunteers in Nicaragua would like to change these realities by providing young Nicaraguan women with the chance to enjoy a unique opportunity to enhance their vacation from school and to break up the monotony of the routines in their communities.
This February, Peace Corps Nicaragua is giving young Nicaraguan women the opportunity to achieve a more balanced experience during their school break, by inviting them to participate in the second annual Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) in the scenic mountains of Jinotega. Camp GLOW is an international Peace Corps initiative that was conceived by Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania in 1995. Since then, the camp has been held in several countries around the world.
In February 2013, Peace Corps Nicaragua implemented the Nation’s first Camp GLOW to bring together 47 girls from six of the nation’s departments to engage in workshops on sexual health, self-esteem, leadership skills and future planning. Peace Corps Nicaragua hopes to continue this dynamic model for educating and empowering young girls to look beyond the limits society has placed on them and encourage a younger generation of women to dream of a future beyond the confinement of traditional gender norms.
In February 2014, Peace Corps Nicaragua will partner with the organization, Plan Nicaragua, to promote their “Por Ser Niña” initiative that will give 70 young girls between the ages of 12-17 from across the country the opportunity to develop important life skills and provide them with the necessary tools to define the course of their futures. The girls will spend four days attending sessions that will teach them about their rights as women in Nicaragua and how they can begin to work towards creating a word that reflects gender equality.
While the camp will devote part of its time focusing on formally educating girls on important social issues, it will also dedicate a portion to giving girls the opportunity to exercise their mental and physical beings by engaging in various activities such as sports, ropes courses, lake canoeing, arts and crafts and meditation. These types of recreations will develop sportsmanship, communication and creativity among the girls in order to build a strong network of future women leaders throughout Nicaragua.
For many of these girls, it will be their first time outside of their respective departments, municipalities or even communities. This experience will allow the girls to stretch beyond their comfort zones by leaving home for several days and interacting with girls whom they did not know previously.
Camp GLOW will foster an environment for the exchange of ideas and experiences among girls across the nation, which will open their minds to possibilities that lie beyond the borders of their hometowns. Furthermore, the girls will be trained as youth promoters to return to their communities and implement activities that will disseminate the knowledge they have gained to their peers and inspire a continued movement towards the advancement of Nicaraguan women.
Camp GLOW will be a memorable experience for the girls and they will leave with a new perspective of themselves and how they can reach their greatest potential, regardless of societal norms and traditional gender roles. Camp GLOW has received dedicated support from Nicaraguan counterparts at Plan Nicaragua, donations from local businesses and organizations and generous contributions from US donors. If you would like to be part of this experience, please explore the Camp GLOW Nicaragua website to learn more information about Camp GLOW and ways that you can support the project.
Hannah Grow and Talia Langman are Peace Corps Volunteers working within the health sector. Hannah lives in a small-sized community in the department of Matagalpa and is an alumna of Penn State University. Talia Langman lives in a medium-sized community in the department Esteli and is an alumna of Brandeis University. Hannah and Talia will be completing their Peace Corps services in March 2014.