By Jessica Long
fter spending the summer months in Zambia, the KnowledgeBeat team has dispersed; one team member will remain in Ngoma continuing to lay the KnowledgeBeat foundation, while the other two return to jobs and grad school, and to work on the project remotely. While Sarah intends to stay in Zambia to fulfill an entire year commitment on site, Annie and Margaret have both returned to California to share their stories and to build their program from their US home base.
The next big event scheduled on the KnowledgeBeat calendar, involves the Girls Empowerment Camp; furthering its mission to build greater self confidence and optimisms in middle school aged girls. Starting in September, each member of the camp, a voluntary camp which takes place during after school hours, will sign up for a 24 hour learning experience focused on professional women, their careers and their personal life. Each girl will pick the mentor of her choice, spending one day and night shadowing, living a day in the life of their mentor. By pairing up these young students with older established women from the community, these impressionable students are provided an opportunity to confirm that this balance, although unique in Zambia, is indeed possible.
This program has demonstrated, for the first time, options for these young girls. It has shown them that it is possible for women in Zambia to become professionals; it has also shown them that motherhood can take second precedence over a career. Although it is questionable whether or not the option to pursue a professional career, involving higher learning and available funds, is feasible for all the campers, and I ponder how this program will effect the community long term, it is obvious that these young girls are positively benefiting from the camp. Many young students are displaying vast changes in both confidence and self awareness, and their gleaming excitement with the camp is evident thus far.
According to Mercy, a Girls Empowerment camper, the Girls Empowerment Camp is an immeasurable addition to her life; “I think this program should not stop. It must continue teaching us so that we finish school and start working. I am very happy with this program. It must continue [to] encourage us. I thank very much for the honor of this program.” The KnowledgeBeat director, a Zambian native, has also observed significant changes in many of the students. He expresses his pride with one particular student and conveys his gratefulness, “She approaches life differently, thinking before she acts and speaks. She is more confident and she engages me in conversations about her future. It is obvious to me that she absorbed so much from the camp.”
It appears that the program has provided these girls with structure, knowledge and something to ignite their spirits; which perhaps, therein lays its greatest achievement.
Now that some KnowledgeBeat girls have returned to the States, I intend to speak with them directly to ask questions and to hear stories first hand. I will also continue to summarize key moments, to admit my uncertainties and to share KnowledgeBeat accomplishments. I congratulate these girls on a job well done, for their commitment and bravery, and I look forward to the unveiling of what is yet to come.