We organized and facilitated a girls’ soccer camp in Orodara, the southwestern region of Burkina Faso, from July 26th to July 31st 2015. This camp was for young girls and women, aged 10 to 21 years old. The camp was held at Lycee Traore Niangolo, where a total of 36 girls and 10 Peace Corps Volunteers participated in the week long camp composed of training sessions and activities. The goals of the camp were to teach the young women how to maintain healthy lifestyles and how to take control of their lives, thus playing a greater role in Burkinabe societyl. We used Grassroots Soccer inspired activities to both teach these lessons as well as show how physical activity can help empower young women. Session topics included HIV/AIDS prevention, puberty, family planning, sexuality and gender, the effects of violence, leadership and change making.
We collaborated with the local radio station, the Red Cross, the local youth center, “Maison des Jeunes”, and the Orodara health center to identify guest speakers and facilitators to help lead sessions so the girls could hear about topics from the perspectives of both Host Country Nationals and Peace Corps Volunteers. The counterparts and guest speakers made an enormous contribution to the success of the camp as it seemed each one of them inspired the girls in some way to think differently about a topic or take control of their health and future. Each girl attending the camp received a workbook including information on the Grassroots Soccer program and additional lessons that were covered throughout the week, giving them the resources and the leadership skills to return to their community and share what they learned. They also made action plans for projects they could implement once they returned to their villages. Supplementary activities to empower the girls and inspire creative thinking included yoga, craft nights, dance competitions, self-defense skills, and soccer tournaments.
Goals Achieved, Changes in Initial Objectives, and Community Feeling
We were originally going to have younger Host Country Nationals participate in the organization and leadership of the camp but decided against it because we already had so many guest speakers from Orodara participating in the sessions. We also wanted the girls to feel comfortable and at ease to talk about certain taboo subjects more openly and we felt that the constant presence of older Burkinabe could inhibit that. All in all, the Orodara community was very supportive and helpful throughout our camp, both aiding us with logistics and leading sessions. The girls truly benefitted from meeting others from across the region. Our goal was to have the campers obtain baseline skills to eventually become leaders in their respective communities, both in terms of healthy living practices and gender equality. We had very positive feedback from the girls, throughout and after the camp. They repeatedly told us that the sessions were informative, interesting, and important. They also learned first aid skills from the Red Cross, basic self-defense skills, and how to plans health projects in their communities by writing action plans. Upon returning to their villages, the girls were proud to show their certificates, workbooks, and camp photos to their parents and families, and it was clear to see that the parents were proud as well.
This project was aimed at behavior change and empowerment in young women through sharing what they learned at the camp with their friends, family, peers and community members. They insured that the project was not only sustainable but will also spread throughout the rural regions of the country.
Best practice and lesson learned
We are very proud of what was accomplished through this project. Not only did the week run smoothly, but the positive feedback that we received from both the Burkinabe girls and the Volunteers was overwhelming. We have received reports from one Volunteer that after going back to their village at the end of the camp, parents noticed that the girls “stood taller and held their heads higher.” Another PCV had a group of girls from the camp report to her that some girls were sexually harassed and sought her help to resolve the matter. This was a topic that we covered extensively during the camp and urged them not to be silent about, so we count it as a huge success that they came to their village’s volunteer to report the matter and seek advice. Another Volunteer observed that the girls she brought to the camp have become more vocal about gender equality in Burkina and are frequently engaging men in discussions about it.
Biggest lesson learned from Orodara Girls Soccer Camp (July 27-30, 2015)
The biggest lesson learned from this project is that in order for behavior change to be successful, the participants have to be in a comfortable, supportive learning environment. In this way, discussions become more open, participants are more receptive, and there is an increase in the number of educational opportunities.
Chantal Donahue from Banflagoue