Take Our Daughters to Work Week

Hello, my name is Camilla Pearson, the PCV Organizer for the PCPP Project "Take Our Daughters to Work Conference Week" enacted in Togo, West Africa at the end of March 2011. My counterparts and I are really proud of the project and wanted to share our story with you.

The conference was held for motivated high school girls in the
plateaux region of Togo that were either in their junior or senior years of highschool. Girls at this level of education are somewhat rare in our region (and country) and often are not aware of the steps to take after their BAC exam to continue their education or careers.

The conference had the following four objectives:
a)To enable young high school women to better have the capacity to succeed in school and their studies by exposing them to new information and developing their vocational skills
b)To expose the participants to a variety of professional
opportunities that exist following their high school and university
c)To create a sense of unity as young women and as future women leaders of Togo among the participants in order to bolster their self promotion and empowerment
d)To teach the participants skills as Peer Educators, encouraging them to return to their communities to educate and  motivate other youth to continue their studies and to practice healthy life skills

We met these objectives during the conference by doing site visits to women of different professions in the community, by hosting a panel discussion with role model women and by holding sessions to discuss a broad variety of topics such as Exam/Study Tips, Women’s Health, Income Generating Activities, Realities of Being a Women in the Workplace, Gender Equity, Self Confidence, Interview Skills, 1st Year University Student Information/Tips, etc. Four “Young Leaders” (last year’s TODTW conference attendees) also came to share their experiences as peer educators in their communities.

There were a variety of “Camp” themed activities too such as team-building exercises and games, songs, soccer matches and “Cultural Night” featuring skits on the importance of girls’ education and traditional dances.

I cannot begin to express accurately in words to you the influence this project had on the 22 participants as well as us the organizers. The young women involved felt so honored to be a part of a conference like this. Most were the 1st or 2nd students in their classes, but had never attended a conference or camp like this before. Although motivated and intelligent, they had rarely had encouragement from others in thier community and hadn't before learned information about gender equity or
sexual harrassment for example. Several small group discussions blossomed naturally throughout the conference, giving the girls the opportunities to talk about issues and experiences they had never shared before. The other participants responded with a lot of support and encouragement, which really helped the participants to feel this sense of unity and connection as young women and as future leaders.

We will continue over the next few months to provide follow up support by visiting them in their home villages, encouraging them in their studies and peer educator community work. Each participant signed an agreement to complete at least 4 community activities before the next
school year. We will hold an end of the summer reunion as well to discuss/reevaluate goals and activities. The other Togolese organizers are already independently planning together how they can continue this project on their own next year, which feels like a great success as well for us PCVs for the sustainability of the conference. They felt very involved and honored in the project and realized the influence it had and they had as community leaders and want to do what they can to continue this work. I honestly feel that is the most awesome and impactful project that I have ever been a part of.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.