Changing Society One Student at a Time
Exponential Education is working on empowering both boys and girls to become social change agents in their communities in Ghana. Expo works with Form 2 students in Senior High School in the Kumasi area. The two programs that work to create social change agents are the Girls’ Leadership, Empowerment, Action Program or LEAP, and the Boys for Positive Change Program. These programs meet once or twice a week at their respective schools.
While Ghana has made many improvements in helping girls go to school and creating laws against gender based violence, women and girls’ are still subject to discrimination and are not taught they can stand up for themselves and have careers outside the house. LEAP provides a safe place where girls’ can learn about gender roles and violence, career exploration, teenage pregnancy, and early marriage. After one term of learning that they do not have to face discrimination or be subject to constructed gender roles, five girls are selected to go mentor students at the Junior High Schools. This allows the girls to spread the messages that they were taught in the first term. Finally, in the third term, girls complete a community service project where they choose a topic they have learned about and share it with the larger community.
This year, 2017, LEAP was run in three different schools. Two schools chose to do their community service projects at information centers where they developed a speech that was broadcast to the community. These speeches relayed information regarding the effects of early marriage and domestic violence. The third school worked with the NGO Marie Stopes International to do a school wide event on teenage pregnancy. By allowing the girls do perform a community service project, they are able to put the leadership skills they have learned into action. This way of experiential learning can be highly beneficial for students because they are developing the project themselves and then performing it. This program has proven to help empower these girls.
While many NGOs are currently running girls’ empowerment programs and working to change society, boys have been left out of the discussion. Current research has shown that girls’ programs alone can really help empower girls, but the societies may not necessarily be changing. In order to combat this issue, boys must be included in the discussion of gender based violence, their role in teenage pregnancy, and that gender roles are indeed constructed. Expo saw this need and developed the Boys for Positive Change Program in 2016. Like LEAP, Expo works with Form 2 Senior High School Students. As this program is new, it runs for one term at a school. Currently, Expo is working with their third school. Program Associates for this program create a safe place for men to discuss feelings, gender stereotypes and roles, and domestic violence just to name a few. By providing this space, young men can start to see how they do not have to follow a society that tells them women are inferior. These men can work to make a difference in their communities by also making sure their friends treat women respectively. So far, the program has worked well but more time will be needed to see the full impact of the program.
The two programs discussed here are using students to change their societies. Expo does not come in and tell students to change, but gives them the knowledge and resources to help them understand that they do not have to follow societies rules if they do not want to. Creating social change agents within a society often makes a bigger impact than having outsiders come in and try to change it on their own. The model Expo follows proves to really allow both boys and girls to feel like they can become leaders and make a difference in their communities. These students can now advocate for change and gender equality in order to create a better society for themselves and the future.