Teen Girls Club Gives Hope, Opportunity to Moms and Daughters in Bedaabour

Sarah shares her story, arms dangling around her sister

“Oh, don’t be shy,” he told her.

Then after some nervous laughter, she spoke clearly: “My name is Sarah. I learned so many things from Teen Girls [Club]. I learned how to pronounce words, how to read and how to write.”

Girls cheer for Sarah

The whole room erupted in applause, hooting and hollering.  “WOW!” the Teens Club Coordinator exclaimed. The rest of the support team shouted similar exclamations in Twi.

Sarah's mom buys her popcorn

Her mother ran over to purchase not one but two small bags of popcorn for her from the back of the room to reward her for her efforts.

Sarah's mom gives her popcorn

Sarah’s mother had never heard her speak a word of English. Not once. She had no idea that her teenage daughter had learned so much from participating in the club’s after school programs. She was swelling with pride.

Sarah's mom grins with pride

It took a while for the audience to calm down after that. I only wish I had left the video going so you could have witnessed the scene. Look at this girl, the moms said to each other, look at how she speaks so confidently. Listen to her speaking English!

She was a tough act to follow. After that, I, too, bought a bag of popcorn* for every girl who was brave enough to stand up and share her experiences in front of so many of her peers and their moms – or two bags if you spoke in English! – though we were most interested in hearing the girls express their thoughts and not all are quite able to do so in English yet.  

What a contrast from two years ago when we launched the Teen Girls Club in this very community. Back then, when I spoke English, no one understood.  Now, most of the girls can understand, though we still translated for the group, both because my Midwestern accent was so thick and because few of their mothers know any English. This year instead of one of Self-Help’s staff members translating for me, it was Vera.

Vera describes life in high school

Vera is in high school now, at a boarding school. She loves it there, because unlike in her home village, they have electricity, so she can read and study even after 6pm when the sun sets. She credits her participation in the Bedaabour Teen Girls Club with helping her pass the high school entrance exam.

“It has really helped us a lot,” she said about the club. “It has improved the way we speak, and the way we walk, how to communicate with others. It has really helped us.”

Later she told me more about the impact on her family, including on her relationship with her mom, Vivian, who is one of three volunteer coordinators of the Bedaabour Teen Girls Club.

Vera and her mother Vivian smile against a brick wall

“It helps my mother a lot. It has reduced my mother’s burden. At times, she used to advise me, but I may not take it. Since Teen Girls [Club], I have taken the advice and decided it is good. And I am saying to everybody that Teen Girls Club is a very good club, and they should join it, and take the advice so that they may also grow up to become useful in the society, in the nation, or wherever they find themselves. So I may say thank you to Self-Help International for their cooperation and for all they have given to us. Thank you.”

{Make a gift to support girls like Vera now}

Mothers testify about changes in their daughters’ lives since joining the Teen Girls Club

Other mothers spoke up about the impact on their daughters as well: My daughters used to be so lazy in the mornings. They would sleep in and I would struggle to convince them to go to school. But since Teen Girls Club, now they wake early, do their chores, and go off to school even before I get up!

Another testified: My daughters are in the same class. Only one was good at school, so she would do all the homework for both of them. But now with the teens club, they are both learning. Now, they each know how to do their own homework!

One mom bragged that since starting the teen girls club, her daughter has consistently been at the top of her class. She was quickly followed by another mom saying – good naturedly – that her daughter is second in the class and will surely soon be first! The mothers took such pride in their daughters’ achievements. They believe in them, and in their futures.

But it wasn’t always that way. Many moms didn’t let themselves dream that their daughters could possibly get into high school. It was just too far-fetched, as one mother reminded the group:

My daughter was a member of the teens club. She was in JHS3 last year, so I was preparing for her to learn a trade once the school year was over. I requested a loan from the micro-credit program to buy a sewing machine, not for me, but for her, so she could use it to earn an income after she finished school. I didn’t think she was good at school. When the results from the high school entrance exams came out, I didn’t even go to check them. It didn’t occur to me that my daughter would pass the exams. But she did! In fact, she even got into a good school – with a scholarship! Today she is in boarding school. So I am here to say that the teens club is good. I am here to say that we must believe in our daughters. I am here to say that the teens club has given us hope for their future. And it is good.

The stories went on and on, but the central message was the same: the Teen Girls Club has given the girls – and their mothers – hope.

Last week during the quarterly meeting of the Teen Girls Club coordinators, mothers from Kukubuso and Nkontomire appealed to Self-Help to bring the Teen Girls Club to their villages as well. They’d seen how much more respectful girls in Beposo, Bedaabour, and Timeabu are now because of the club; how much better they’re doing in school; and they want the same for their daughters and sisters.

Help us say yes to that expansion by making a gift of $10 to support the Teen Girls Club today.

DONATE HERE

If Self-Help’s Teen Girls Club is one of the top four projects with the most unique donors by next Thursday, we’ll win a $10,000 grant to support the expansion of the Teen Girls Club to two more villages, empowering 100 more young women!

Sarah holds a bag of popcorn

*Popcorn sales are an ongoing club fundraiser, so I was glad to reward the girls’ bravery in speaking English, and to support the club’s efforts to generate income to support their activities since a membership fee was not affordable and sometimes they want to pursue activities above and beyond what Self-Help’s annual budget for support allows. I think somebody may have tipped them off that popcorn my favorite food because even after I thought I’d bought out the whole supply, more kept arriving!

Written by Nora Tobin, Executive Director, 3 March 2019

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