Mrs. Obama joins GLOW Camp in Liberia

-Interacts with local girls, Peace Corps Volunteer, & Trainees
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to fully participate in an ongoing GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp organized by Peace Corps Liberia Volunteers and Trainees for local girls in Kakata, Margibi County, when she arrives here today.

Mrs. Obama, accompanied by her two daughters-Sasha, Malia and their grandmother Marian Robinson, will be joined by U.S. Ambassador Christine Ann Elder, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Peace Corps Country Director Kevin Fleming and Peace Corps Director of Programming and Training, Becky Banton, among several other dignitaries and Liberian Government officials to interact with the Liberian girls and Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees at the GLOW Camp.

While participating at the GLOW camp, Mrs. Obama will listen to the girls share their stories; the challenges they face on obtaining an education and how they have been able to overcome these challenges, while continuing to pursue their future goals. And of more interest to her, will be how these local girls are willing to spread what they have learned in their various communities.

This is the first stop of Mrs. Obama’s visit of three nations - Liberia, Morocco and Spain in an effort to promote quality education for girls under the Let Girls Learn initiative, strongly supported by the U.S. government to ensure that adolescent girls around the world get the education they deserve.

Peace Corps Liberia Country Director, Kevin W. Fleming in an interview with this writer Friday hailed Mrs. Obama’s visit as “inspirational, not only for the Liberian girls benefiting from this initiative, but also for the Peace Corps Volunteers and Trainees.” He says Mrs. Obama’s presence and message for girls’ education is going to inspire these new Peace Corps Trainees to go all over Liberia and continue to work with girls.

The girls participating at this camp have been selected from Girls’ Clubs being run by Peace Corps Trainees based in Kakata as part of their pre-service training before being sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers.
There are currently 23 Peace Corps Volunteers serving all over Liberia in public schools, teaching Math and Science, according to Fleming. Besides the current Volunteers, there are 51 new Trainees who are living with host families in Kakata. These volunteer Trainees are running Girls Club in Margibi.

He says with the closing of schools for the yearly break, the girls are now coming together to these clubs where they cover topics such as leadership, self-esteem, public health - like health and sanitation and also issues that border on barriers to girls’ education and how to overcome them.

“In addition to teaching, we have some Volunteers that are also involved in malaria prevention, literacy and agriculture projects and some hold special science lab sessions for students to get hands on lab experience.” Fleming added.

He says, today, the trainees and volunteers (Peace Corps) together will be able to educate some of the girls from the local girls’ club, adding “that’s why she (Mrs. Obama) is coming to encourage the girls, learn about their challenges and success and encourage the Let Girls Learn message to the Trainees and Volunteers.”

“When she arrives, she will see some Peace Corps Volunteers, Trainees along with some of the local girls at the GLOW Camp, discussing these really empowering issues around leadership, and self-esteem and their future.”

He said the U.S. First Lady’s participation at this camp today will help elevate the topic of girls’ education. “For us, her visit will inspire our Volunteers and Trainees and to the girls of Liberia that somebody like the First Lady wants to hear about their life stories,” Fleming said.

“Mrs. Obama has traveled the world and has a great understanding for many of the challenges girls face in obtaining an education. She wants to hear their stories, learn from their experiences and encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing to overcome those challenges. That’s powerful for these girls to have this opportunity.”

Some background: Peace Corps Liberia has been in Liberia since 1962. They returned after the war in 2008. Since 2008, Peace Corps Liberia has been placing Volunteers in public high schools in partnership with the Government of Liberia thru the Ministry of Education - teaching math and science.

Additionally, one of the Peace Corps Liberia’s focus areas, according to Fleming, is to train Volunteers around gender issue. That lands itself naturally to Volunteers wanting to do boys and girls clubs, to do workshops with young men and women around gender issues.

The GLOW Camp, are Peace Corps initiatives where volunteers bring group of girls together to cover various topics in leadership, self-esteem, Public health - sanitation, Wash and hygiene. In 2015, Frist Lady Michelle Obama announced the collaboration between the Peace Corps for the Let Girls Learn initiative, to extend access to education for girls - something which was a natural fit with the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps has focused on gender issues for decades and this new partnership gives these efforts a larger platform to share successes and inspiration across countries.

Since the launch of Let Girls Learn around the world, about 200 Let Girls Learn projects have been conducted. Over 800 Peace Corps Volunteers around the world have received training on how to run these Let Girls Learn activities and GLOW Camps and programs around gender and access to girls’ education.

Here in Liberia, the Peace Corps Volunteers are working along with the Government of Liberia thru the Ministry of Education to not only help teach math and science in the various public high schools around the country but work on Girls’ Power education issues.

“We work in partnership with the Government of Liberia and assist in areas they have asked us help.” said Fleming. He says the First Lady’s presence will give a larger voice to the importance of the issue of girl’s education. “And it has allowed not just us, but all Peace Corps program around the world and partners to showcase these inspiring young women so they can in-turn inspire other young women around the world.

By Othello B. Garblah

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