Monday, April 20, 2009

Jessica Bruce '08: Empowering Women in Benin

From Jessica Bruce (IPE '08), a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin:
As one of the seven Peace Corps Volunteers living in the Donga region of Benin, I would like to invite (well, beg really) you to contribute to the Donga Camp Success, a week-long overnight camp for high-achieving female students in the region.

The condition of women and girls in Benin is always difficult and at times heartbreaking and infuriating, and thus the inspiration for many of my most frustrated blog posts (blog:

I will leave the more academic prose on the feminine condition and its ramifications for Beninese economic and social development to our project proposal, which you can read below. If you have been inspired by reading my blog to help me give to my community, I think girls’ empowerment is perhaps the single most worthy project we can work together on to achieve both immediate and long-term benefits.

With your financial backing and my earnest desire to help organize an empowering, motivational, educational, and extremely fun camp for the girls of the Donga, we can achieve something great for the 60 girls who will attend this camp, and with time, for this country.

Prompted by dismal enrollment and retention rates of female students in secondary schools, programs promoting girls’ education in Benin, West Africa, have multiplied in recent years. Though these efforts, including a nation-wide “All Girls to School” campaign, have had a positive impact, gender inequality persists. As of 2007, only one in twenty girls who enter secondary school will complete her final year.

In response to this pressing concern, Peace Corps Volunteers in the Donga region of Benin propose a week-long summer camp to educate, motivate, and reward high-achieving female students. The camp, held in the regional capital of Djougou, will draw participants from fifteen secondary schools. Campers will learn about educational opportunities, career development, and reproductive health. They will cultivate strong goal-setting, decision making, and leadership skills and develop greater self-confidence. They will be encouraged to maintain their exemplary academic performance, make healthy lifestyle changes, and share lessons they learn with classmates and friends upon returning to their communities.

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