Last year I wrote about helping out with the REDES conference, sort of the culminating event in a project for young women, Raparigas em Desenvolvimento, Educação e Saúde (Girls in Development, Education and Health). Peace Corps volunteers and other Mozambican women who work with young women in schools or communities bring two girls to participate in the conference, really more like summer camp for girls, which includes activities and information about a whole range of topics, from sexual health to women’s rights to planning for your future to nutrition. The program was started by Peace Corps volunteers several years ago but it’s grown into a nation-wide project with three regional conference in the south, central and northern parts of the country.
Our conference was at a campus outside of Chimoio. It was exciting because I was able to bring my colleague Rosa and two of the girls from the theater group we have in Estaquinha. Rosa was great to work with and participated in all the sessions. One of my girls is a natural leader and also seemed to be thriving; the other is pretty spunky in Estaquinha, but seemed to be shy or uncomfortable with some of the material. I couldn’t tell if she was intimidated by some of the more sophisticated girls or if she was having trouble with so much Portuguese or if it was a combination of all those things. Since we’ve returned, however, she has been more of a leader in our group and sometimes wears her conference name tag and matching headscarf around school.
Due to my lack of cell phone service, I couldn’t be involved in too much of the preliminary organization for the conference, but I stayed really busy during that week. I was responsible for all the guest speakers that we had invited. We rented a minibus to transport everyone from town to the site of the conference, and I spent most of the day driving around picking people up, running errands and making friends with the drivers. I really enjoyed doing behind the scenes and I think everything was a success overall. It seemed to be a meaningful experience for the girls, which is the most important thing.