OUR CAMPAIGN IS WORKING!!!!
Women Work Together was in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Guatemala for a 3-week field trip in June 2012. We quickly learned that our campaign to “Send Your Daughter to School” was working! Every workshop we held was packed with mothers (mostly illiterate) and their middle school daughters. Our projects have enrolled nearly 1500 women and girls from 14 rural villages!!
So we’re outta here this morning. What do we come away with? Certainly I’ve seen the incredible progress in mothers committed to sending their daughters to school. It feels like our campaign is really working. The projects themselves are having a huge impact. We are going to be looking for funding to double the size of “Las Hermanitas” mentoring program because the data is so good. Fewer dropouts from the second grade, more commitment to staying in school from the mentors, and overwhelming support from all the parents. And our base is growing with the inclusion of professional women from town and teachers from all over the community. I’m feeling pretty proud right now. Sometimes I think there’s something really positive in the air here!!! It smells like The Girl Effect!!!
The enthusiastic embrace of our work (and that of our local partner) was clear on the last day. We had a huge crowd of about 150. Everything worked smoothly. Nan’s TV Show about the projects worked marvelously with Marina and Leticia as celebrity interviewers. We were having fun. Girls and women spent time writing their walk-in questions with their mothers, like, “If you had one day free with our mom (daughter), what would you do?” Never ever do we get, “We’d go to the beach,” or even, “We’d go visit my sister in another town.” It’s so difficult for anyone to think of time off!!!! One mother said she and her daughter would sit together talking about the mother’s life and letting her give her daughter good advice.
Nearly 30 girls gave their mothers the books they had made about their lives, “La Vida de Mi Mama,” convincing everyone that it was a fine idea to sign on for this important project where girls and women break taboos that don’t let them talk about sensitive subjects. We are very excited about this program because it brings more mothers into the Women Work Together fold. They loved the experience and the chance, at last, to share the pain and joys of their youth. These women are ready to be part of our campaign to Send Your Daughter to School. In fact, in September, we have planned just such a mother-daughter all-day training on getting the word out in their communities!! Our corps of campaigners is growing!
Then, as we said good-bye, I called up my team to the front. We linked arms, and all at once a paparazzi of cameras confronted us. More than 20 girls clicking away. And they had been doing it for a while, we discovered. One señorita asked me to sign her book. I thought it was her mother’s La Vida and was hesitant until I saw that she had made another book, this time all about WWT. It was filled with home-printed pictures of us!!!
We signed their books. We got blessings from more than 50 mothers, hugs from hundreds. The demand for photographs was exhausting. We were rock stars for about 30 minutes. Then came the hard part. When the girls had finally gone, the teams sat around a table and talked. The testimonials from our Guatemalan partners were dramatic and tearful and certainly heart-felt. Many people who don’t normally cry, shed many tears. They swore that they had learned so much from us; they would never be the same again.
But our teams were weepers too. Especially Stephanie, who has been my student assistant 3 times and is now considering spending next summer working with the local team. Ms. Leticia, she of “Leticia Dances,” could only get out one sentence before she lost control and started blubbering about how this had been an unforgettable experience, that she would never be the same, that she was miserable thinking of leaving all these wonderful women and girls.
As for me, what I tried to say was that I felt I had died and gone to heaven. What had I done to deserve this kind of satisfying work with such a fantastic team? How could I be seeing all these changes in the lives of girls and mothers in only a few years? It was totally magic. Or was this all a dream?
Yes, the experience had been very intense. Everyone worked long hours. We had so much to do. The audience was diverse. Most mothers couldn’t read or write. The girls were usually leaders who had worked with us before, or girls who wanted to be leaders. But there were a few silly teenagers mixed in who were there for a day away from home. And we never knew what kind of a space we would get. Cluttered schoolrooms, echoing halls, rain pouring down in the bathrooms, or a muddy slog up a hill. There were one or two unforgettable drives down twisting, rutted roads. Mostly, things worked out fine and the team figured everything out logistically. But in terms of program, each situation called for quick thinking even after months of developing the schedule and the activities. We revised and revised until we were satisfied that we had gotten it right. And now we’re going home!!! But we’ll be back in September with volunteers for more good work with our Guatemalan partners in our campaign to “Send Your Daughter to School.”
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