Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Young Single Mothers Workshop

We all too often take for granted things that shape who we are. Things like upbringing, presence of supportive caregivers and adults, nutrition, and friends. But what if these things didn't exist in our lives? Or if they were offered in fragments and then taken away from you? What if you were an orphan and raised yourself? There are lessons learned in life that naturally happen in so many of our homes and schools that we don't even recognize. What happens when people don't learn how to communicate effectively or care for their basic needs? I am now much more conscious of that reality, as it is the basis for much of the work I have been doing in the past months. This has given me the opportunity to delve deeper into the issues facing the youth of Botswana, in particular, young women.

Twenty-three young single mothers turned up for the two-day workshop run by one of our implementing partners in a nearby village. I was invited to attend to support the partner and assist in facilitating sessions on self-awareness, self-esteem, and communication. I was joined by two other members of the PCI team and some nurses from the local clinic, who were scheduled to discuss sexual reproductive health and topics on caring for young children.

The workshop was designed to be participatory, encouraging the young women to search for their own solutions and to create a sense of community among those in similar circumstance. As such, activities were collaborative, involving a lot of group work and discussions, and the women were challenged to work through differences in order to create viable options for their collective future. This meant focusing on problem solving, planning, and critical thinking - all of which are often neglected in a country that prides its education system on rote memorization.

Overcoming the challenges of the workshop model was met first with argument and then, in time, with laughter. The latter lead to dialogue that brought great results and the girls began to prosper. It wasn't long before the women were opening up and starting to acknowledge some of their commonalities (something we believe will unite them and give them strength). It was empowering to witness.

In the end, the women made great strides in both their approach to examining and addressing issues, as well as in creating a team among one another. They were able to learn from one another and, thereby teaching them lessons long deprived. What's more, the partner organization gained the experience in facilitating a workshop of this nature and have vowed to follow the women and support them as they work towards implementing some of the activities they decided, as a team, to go for. They are no longer orphans, alone, trying to overcome hardship and raise children. They are together.

This is the sort of sustainable development that we always hope for - the kind where people learn how to help themselves and local organizations gain the skills necessary to support those efforts. I am going to be mentoring this organization for the final months of my contract but I am confident in their ability to continue in this manner. I am just proud to be there to witness it.

"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."

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