Changing Haiti One Girl at a Time
Colleen Larkin, Haiti Adolescent Girls Network Country Coordinator
Last month, the Haitian American Caucus held its third annual Teacher Summer Institute (TSI) in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti. The purpose of TSI is to provide teachers with the tools necessary to shift the educational paradigm in Haiti, which is considered poor by World Bank standards. The theme of this year's TSI was “L'Union Fait La Force; Preparing Teachers for the 21st century.”
As a part of the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network, thirteen girls from the YWCA Haiti's Espas Pa Mwen (Our Space) group participated in a theater-based workshop to shape the future of the country's educational system. Comprehensive sexuality education is limited in Haitian schools, and information about sexual and reproductive health is often given only after young people are already sexually active. The YWCA Haiti presentation provided teachers with information about the importance of educating young people, especially girls and young women, about sexual and reproductive health and rights so they are well-equipped to make autonomous and healthy decisions.
The girls in the Espas Pa Mwen group worked hard to prepare and presented a skit showing what it is like for a girl to get her first period without any knowledge of her body. This was followed up with a skit on the same experience when a girl has a solid understanding of menstruation. When girls are educated about their bodies, they experience less anxiety when changes occur.
Talking about sexual and reproductive health is sometimes considered taboo, but is critical for girls and young women to be informed. The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network participants are given the opportunity to not only learn such vital information, but also a safe space to talk about the topics with peers and trusted adults. The confidence they've gained was apparent during the workshop at TSI, where they shared their knowledge with future teachers in a way that was interactive and fun.
The workshop demonstrated the way societies can be changed one person at a time. It was an example of the deep impact the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network is having not only on the young women in the Espas Pa Mwen group, but also the communities in which they live and share what they are learning.