On any normal day in Indonesia, my female students wake up at 4:30am. After washing up and praying, they usually sweep the house, do laundry, help their mother cook, or take care of younger siblings. They eat breakfast, put on their uniform, and hop on a motorcycle to drive to school. School begins at 7am. After school some participate in activities- Indonesian Red Cross, Scouts, or English Club. Others drive home to help take care of their siblings, trying to cram in homework whenever possible. Just like in America, that depends on the student, and the family. Unlike America, the future of many girls is that they are expected to stay at the level of their parents or at most become a teacher and have a good civil servant job.
All across the developing world, the opportunities for girls is less than the opportunities for boys. The United Nations has been combating this for years–Gender Equality was part of the Millennium Goals. More recently, First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House have joined this fight–forming Let Girls Learn, a commitment to achieve better access to education worldwide. Partnering with Peace Corps and USAID, they will be able to work at a grass-roots level, enabling communities to deconstruct barriers based on their individual needs.
While this program won’t be around until after my service has been completed, I am so enthusiastic about this initiative. It works so well with all volunteers’ mission: to provide a path to the betterment of the global community. Programs like GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camps have been vital to Peace Corps since the first camp was completed in Romania in 1995, batting gender inequality by giving girls the opportunity to learn about health, leadership, and creativity.
I completed my second IGLOW (I for Indonesian) camp on March 1st, bringing ten of my students to join five other schools for three intense days of learning and fun. Knowing that Indonesia is a rapidly growing economy in the world, where traditional Indonesian values are colliding with Western influences, I know it is essential to provide girls with opportunities to grow. My girls are smart and savvy but they are faced with roadblocks–including the pressure to marry after high-school and begin a family. Yet my girls have dreams; they want to be pediatricians, designers, science teachers and computer technicians. Their wishes to travel and live good lives are contagious–they just need to be given a spade to dig up their potential.
Our camp was an amazing success. The girls made new friends while learning about crucial topics to their lives; including woman’s health, human trafficking, dreams and goals, and inner beauty. Teaching girls to live healthier, happier lives–I’m living the Peace Corps dream.
The contents of this editorial are of Emily Hough and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Emily Hough is a 2012 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas, majored in Philosophy & Religious Studies as well as Social Science. At STAC, she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Thoma. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.