Two weeks ago I had the opportunity of attending the last CHATS (Creating Health Approaches to Success) sessions of the term with 8 girls under AGE Africa. AGE (Advancing Girls Education) Africa is CorpsAfrica's partner organization that I got placed with, and they run these CHATS programs which are basically life skills lesson for the girls. After we had finished with the session, we were walking towards the market and I took this time to have a little chat of my own to just try and understand the girls a little bit more. I wanted to find out what their dreams are and where they see themselves in the coming years. I started asking each one of them what they wanted to be after they finish school.
"I want to be a nurse" said one girl.
"Why do you want to be a nurse?" I asked her.
"Because I want to help sick people in my village and I know that my parents will be proud of me if I become a nurse," came her reply. I did not ask her anymore questions as I turned to the next girl and asked her what she wanted to be when she is done with school. I was not surprised when she mentioned that she too wanted to be a nurse just like the previous girl. Neither was I surprised when 7 out of the 8 girls I was walking with said they too wanted to be nurses with reasons varying from "the profession inspires me" to "I like how they look in their uniform."
Having had this same talk with a lot of girls before them, I was expecting the nursing profession to take a lead in their choices. Honestly, I was expecting all 8 of them to say they wanted to be nurses. About 98% of the girls I have spoken to since I came to Nsondole all said they want to be nurses and it came as a surprise to me when one of the girls (I will call her Charity ) had a different profession in mind. As the 7th girl was still explaining to me why she wanted to become a nurse, Charity just shouted to me "ine Sarah ndimafuna ndidzakhale mtolankhani" (as for me Sarah, I want to be a journalist), and before I had time to respond she continued on to say "Most of the girls in this school want to be nurses. They think that is the only option they have, some of them cannot even manage to be nurses. If you are a successful woman in this community, that means you are a primary school teacher or a nurse and most of us don't want to be teachers" I never expected to hear this from Charity, but before I could even comprehend all she had said, she continued on "But I want to be a journalist, when I hear them presenting on the radio I always imagine myself doing it."
I was truly impressed by the words of this young girl. I had already discovered that the students from this community were not exposed to different career choices, that all they were left with was to be nurses. For most of them, the highest point of success for a woman is to be a nurse. But here was one of them who was brave enough to differ and aspire to be more.
In light of this problem, as soon as the students get back for school, I plan on starting a club for both the boys and girls just so we introduce each other to the different career choices out there. So wish me luck