I'm Glad I'm a Girl camp to inspire girls

By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, July 16, 2018

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NADEEN Spence, the student services and development manager for Mary Seacole Hall at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, remains committed to the holistic development of girls and young women.

The St Elizabeth native is also the executive director of the I'm Glad I'm A Girl Foundation (IGIG) — an organisation which, through its summer camp, has embarked on a project to engage teen girls, aged 13-17, in behaviour change intervention programmes.

Its objective is to equip young girls with the necessary knowledge, life skills and competencies needed to make informed, smart, sustainable, and strategic decisions as it relates to their health, education, career planning and sexual reproductive rights and responsibilities.

Spence told All Woman that the idea for the camp came eight years ago when, as manager of the only all female hall at The UWI, she wanted her students to embark on a project that would be meaningful.

“I'm big on sisterhood. Women are to stand strong in their own network and connections and stand responsibility for each other. Older women need to provide a shoulder for younger women to stand on. I also wanted to rubbish the idea that women don't get along,” Spence said.

“I wanted the ladies on hall to reach out to younger girls who needed stability and to find other successful women who would help to put our younger girls on the path to success; to become university graduates, and I also wanted to instil in the ladies of Mary Seacole Hall that they have a responsibility for the next generation. It was started for students on Seacole to have a bigger life outlook to be responsible for each other and take care of the next generation of women.”

However, the overwhelming response caused the camp to blossom, and today it targets teen girls in order to set them on the right trajectory for life.

“The prevalence of rape and exploitation of girls, trafficking, girls going missing, the reality of girls in State care, lack of information in schools about sexual rights and health; girls are not getting information to protect themselves from becoming victims. We also recognise that the leadership potential and capacity of young girls are not necessarily developed. If we don't talk to girls from now about their financial well-being, for example, then some of the issues may plague them in life,” Spence said.

The camp will take place from July 29 - August 5, 2018 and will host 44 campers and 15 counsellors. To register parents are asked to call 876-927-2546 or email: msh.summercamp@gmail.com . To sponsor a girl, make contact with the foundation.

According to Spence, sponsors are termed “gladiators” and are featured in the foundation's social media campaign.

The counsellors include residents of Mary Seacole Hall, social workers, policewomen, union representatives, women from Trinidad and Barbados, and students on the campus who have applied.

“We have regional and national partners. The women from Trinidad and Barbados have donated money to the camp and are also coming to be part of it. Dr Jermaine McAlpin from the Department of Government (at The UWI) has given to the camp over the years and this year he is coming to be one of the presenters,” she said.

Additionally, Spence said she is thinking of having two camps in order for girls who did not make the first camp to still get a chance. But to do this she will require sponsorship.

Spence said the programme has produced girls who are now in law school, nursing, and other undergraduate programmes at The UWI. She also said a number of the girls who have passed through either come back to live on hall, seek support, or simply connect.

“Many keep the relationships throughout the years with the counsellors who become mentors. They are able to get jobs, continue relationships as campers together, or as campers and counsellors. Many have got scholarships, end up on the deans' lists, principals' lists, or become motivated to do their master's. It is a lifelong connection,” she said.

In all this Spence said her philosophy is, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

“I am a teacher, and I teach young people how to engage life, be successful, and have a responsibility for their community. It's not just about knowledge, but leaving that mark, and the I'm Glad I'm A Girl Foundation does that,” she said.

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