Last week was all about the girls. On Wednesday, Awa, a Senegalese woman who grew up dirt-poor poor in a tiny village and now works full-time for the Peace Corps, came to Thilogne to talk to thirty 14 and 15-year-old girls at the school. Being that she is a Senegalese, Muslim woman, she had more credibility and was given more respect than I probably would have been given if I gave a talk on the same issues. She talked to them about taboo subjects here, such as girls’ periods, rape, unwanted pregnancy, and sex – things that should be taught in school, or at least mentioned between a mother and daughter, but are not. I first realized that there was a problem when I was teaching the HIV/ AIDS class and discovered that the majority of the girls did not know what sex was. I’ve heard of several instances here in which a teenage girl got pregnant because the guy told her she couldn’t get pregnant from having sex. Awa did a great job talking to the girls on their level and made everyone feel comfortable talking about these subjects that are swept under the rug.

On Sunday, the Peace Corps volunteers from the Matam region (5 of us) hosted a girls’ leadership conference for the region’s applicants of the Michelle Sylvester Peace Corps academic scholarship (around 25 girls). At the conference, we talked about the difficulties girls face in school, gender roles and stereotypes, self-confidence, and planning for the future. We had two women speak to the girls as well. One was Kumba, a 35-year-old woman, never married, no kids, who has a good job at the Matam radio station. There are very few women here of her age that are not married with kids, so it was interesting to hear her story. The other woman, Marie-Thérèse, used to have a high-paying secretarial position in Dakar, but she quit her job when she decided to have a baby. She said she would like to go back to work when the baby turns two. The main message given was that girls have a choice: they can be stay-at-home moms, they can work, or they can do a bit of both, but they shouldn’t feel destined to any particular life. When the projector wasn’t working, I stepped in as a distraction and led the girls in a short game that shows how quickly HIV can spread.  It was a little chaotic in the beginning but I think everyone learned something in the end. You can watch it if you click below.

Click Me!

Aside from that, the weather was nice for a couple weeks, and it was so cold at night that I had to sleep inside.  Now, it’s hot again, but Jeniba assured me that the cold will come back soon (please be right!).   Mon Amie is doing really well, and Demba continues to try to demonstrate his power by finding a problem with just about everything I do. He also hurt Jeniba when she tried to stop him from strangling his daughter, which made me extremely angry, especially since there was nothing I could do about it without making the situation worse. Anyway, I hope you all have a great Christmas! My parents are coming in just a few days, which I’m excited about for many reasons, one being that Demba will have to be nice to me when they’re here because I’m going to tell him that they are Obama’s personal friends.