This week’s REDES story is very personal for me because it came from a PCV who helped me establish the REDES program at my school. I am volunteer who works at an IFP (junior college for future teachers). I had some difficulty establishing a women’s empowerment group at my school considering, A.) I am male and B.) I had opened my site so they had never had a PCV or knew about our secondary projects. Another volunteer was helping me with my action plan, but she did not understand really how an IFP works. I chose to get involved with the REDES program because I wanted my students, who would be future teachers, to learn about REDES and become REDES facilitators themselves. Beyond the difficulties with fellow staff members I was also having trouble talking to my REDES members. Students were interested but frequently they would miss scheduled meetings, and the times for meetings kept changing because of the complicated and full IFP schedule. My students wake up at 4:30 and are occupied pretty much continuously until 10 at night. My meetings were a disaster, and I was becoming increasingly frustrated and was getting ready to give up until I met Katie at a PC conference and she offered insight as to how she facilitated with her REDES group at her IFP. The answer she gave was simple, have your meetings early in the morning during the student’s “plantoes” (physical labor, gardening or cleaning the school) time. She told me the female trainees would enjoy getting a break once a week and because they had plantoes at the same time we could just establish a same time/same day schedule that everyone could remember. She also gave me other tips about REDES at IFP’s but I was most excited about her scheduling solution. I took her advice and started having meetings each Wednesday at 5 AM. This strategy was wildly successful, the meetings became more productive and the group from last year produced 3 new REDES groups in Inhambane province at primary schools! This year we moved the time up to a more sensible 5:30 but I am still having meetings thanks to Katie’s suggestions. Thank you Katie for helping to inspire young women through your work as a PCV but thank you too for inspiring other PCV’s like me.
Visiting a REDES group at EPC Tenga in Maputo Province in 2010, I observed lessons from my former teacher trainee, Adélia. She started a REDES group at her school in addition to being a new primary school teacher that year. While visiting her to observe her teach for the first time, in her own classroom, there were many girls sitting in the front row. They were answering questions, coming to the board to help “teach” the class, and speaking in loud, clear voices. I then noticed that one of these young girls had been at the REDES conference. Upon asking Adélia for more information about the girls in front, she said that the front row girls participated in her REDES group. I was very proud of the conference participant I noticed sitting in front, Carolina. It seemed that her confidence and willingness to speak publicly were not just constrained to the conference week but that Carolina was continuing to develop these skills in her classroom with the positive guide and role model of Adélia, her REDES group facilitator and classroom teacher. This showed to me that the conference does more than we will ever see or know to influence these girls’ lives; I did not have the chance to visit all the classrooms that had former REDES participants in them, but from the one classroom I did visit, I saw that former participation in REDES formed a bond between teachers and students, as well as motivated girls to take ownership of their education. From the one classroom I witnessed, I noticed how REDES changes where girls sit in the classroom, it changes how they speak, it changes who they are and who they will be.
If you have any questions regarding REDES or would like to share your story please email me: Agarland@elon.edu