The last week of March was reserved for a girls’ camp in my town of
I live in the small city of
So the camp tried to catch these girls just before they normally drop out to spend their days on the side of the road selling peanuts to passers-by, get married or pregnant, become a servant, or a combination of any of these likely life paths. Peace Corps volunteers did what I think we do best as Americans (the world experts in ‘camps’)…we held ice breakers, team-building activities, and life skill sessions. We invited our Malian partners to cover the more difficult topics: goal-setting, gender roles, and sexual education (the first time and probably only time any of the girls will see a diagram of the female reproductive system). We took the girls to meet and talk with working women: a political head of the region, a maternity warden, an accountant/NGO worker, a woman high up in the military, and an entrepreneur (woman who had a small factory producing juice, dried fruits, and cereals and had a woman’s group to run the place).Of course, we had a lot of fun as well. We had a dance (combined with sketches on family planning topics), we did henna and nail polish, we had a film night, and my favorite…a trip to the zoo in
Trip to the Zoo
I’ve always found zoos terribly depressing in the states, so I could only imagine what a zoo in a poor country like
But, it wasn’t all bad. The girls seemed to be learning a lot, taking copious notes at every cage. An adorable baby elephant was the first animal the girls approached. It was sticking its snout through the fence to be touched. The girls were terrified…‘n be sira. n ta fe ka tege dama.’ ‘I’m scared, I’m not going to shake its hand.’ “It’s hand?” I exclaimed. “That’s not its hand, that’s its nose!” I told them they didn’t need to be scared, it was, after all, just a baby. At this point, I was the one apparently being silly. “That…a baby? Come on!” Unfortunately, the zoo didn’t have an adult elephant to prove me right. It was a hilarious, terrifying at times, but ultimately educational experience at the zoo.