Sagalla Girls Club Meeting
Text by International Intern, Camille Morales
Sagalla Girls Club Meeting “When you empower a girl, you empower the whole world” -Ruth Mumbi
Like beautiful monarchs migrating home for the winter, the girls of Sagalla have returned from faraway boarding schools to visit family for the holidays. Esther Serem, the Women’s Enterprise Center’s project officer, tasked Kat and I (the two female interns) with planning three days of fun and empowering activities for The Sagalla Girls Club, a mentorship program led by Esther.
After first meeting some of the girls in the village, it was impossible not to notice their timidness, how they practically whisper when answering questions, and avert their eyes at all costs.
We wanted to plan fun activities to help break them out of their shells and support them in believing in the power of their voices, dreams, and education. Like many places in the world, traditionally in Kenya only the boys were sent onto higher education while the girls were expected to stay behind to help at home and on the farm.
The connection between women empowerment and conservation is not always obvious. However, research shows that empowering young women spurs economic and social growth, which in turn reduces competition for natural resources and human wildlife conflict.The intersectionality of conservation is increasingly acknowledged as the environmental movement evolves. We also wanted to make sure that the girls knew what the Elephants and Bees project is, why it’s important to the area they call home, and that they have the potential to be future conservation leaders in projects just like ours.
Despite weeks of planning, I was very nervous when the day of our first club meeting finally arrived. It’s not like Kat and I were unprepared after having spent the weeks up to this moment planning for this meeting, running through hours of ideas and coming up with conservation focused games that could help break the girls out of their shells, and debating over which juice option produced the least amount of waste. I was nervous because I genuinely hoped our games would do some amount of good, even if it was small.
We decided to start simple with a classic “toss the ball, catch the ball, say your name” game to kick things off, asking each girl to enunciate and say their names louder and louder with each pass. The game quickly devolved into giggles as the ball inadvertently flew into the thorny branches of a nearby Acacia tree or directly at a girl who dared lose her attention for even a moment. Thankfully the ball was soft and surprisingly thorn resistant.
The second activity encouraged the girls to open up and have meaningful conversations with each other. In what was essentially a game of musical roulette, the girls formed inner and outer circles, and walked in opposing directions as the music played. As soon as the music stopped, they had to turn to whichever girl was next to them and ask a predetermined and simple question like What’s your best dance move? What is something that makes you unique? What is your favorite part about nature? What is your dream job in life? We were very excited to hear some of the girls saying that they wanted to be doctors, wildlife rangers, pilots, journalists, and even one said she aspires to be a chemical engineer.
Next we played a game of one of our own childhood classics, Telephone. For the uninitiated, the game plays as follows: each girl sits in a circle facing one another, the leader of the group begins the “telephone call” by whispering into the ear of the girl sitting next to her. This continues until the last person in the circle hears the sentence and repeats it aloud to see how accurate they were.
Our trick here was that we had woven themes of conservation and the Elephants and Bees mission into the game. For example, the first sentence we started the game off with was, “The elephant runs away from the aggressive bee.” As expected, that was not at all what we ended up with. By the time the sentence traveled around the circle it had transformed into, “I like skipping rocks.” After the laughter had died down, we used this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of effective communication, as well as to answer why on earth an elephant would run away from a bee, and how this relationship is so important to their parents’ farms.
We then transitioned to talking about the importance of physical health and physical activity. We discussed how sports aren’t just for boys, and how girls are just as capable of doing anything they see their male counterparts doing. We did a push-up competition for a prize, and one girl beat both Kat and I with an impressive eleven push-ups.
After some stretches, we then went over to the schoolyard’s field to play a game of “Elephants vs. Bees” which we adapted from everyone’s favorite (ok at least my favorite) United States recess classic, “Sharks vs. Minnows.” All but one of the girls started out as elephants on one side of the field, and the remaining girl, the bee, stood in the middle of the field. The bee tried to tag and stop as many elephants as she could before they reached the other side of the field. If elephants were tagged, they became bees and had to help the original bee in the next round. The last elephant standing won a super cool pencil sharpener.
We ended the meeting by giving all the girls a notebook and pen and sanitary pads if needed. The majority of girls in rural Kenya miss school during menstruation because they cannot afford disposable sanitary towels 3 , so this small act could help them stay on the right track towards their education and career goals. Most importantly, the girls looked us in the eyes and smiled as they said goodbye, which was evidence enough for me that we had done some amount of good.
Thank you so much to The Karis Foundation for funding these Girls Clubs days for Sagalla Community!
The views, opinions and position expressed in this article belong solely to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Save the Elephants