The day started at 08:30 am where we prepared for our meeting with the Community Elders of Jarigu Village Today was important, we needed a full buy-in from the village, particularly the women, who we hoped would join our programme.
I climbed onto the back of the bike and we sped towards Jarigu for the community meeting. When we arrived the school headmaster greeted us. The community school hall was already filled with people. The Chief of the village was already seated at the front. His presence was important, it showed that he took our visit seriously and the villagers would listen. It was important to show respect and greet the Chief and the elders in the right way by bowing low and speaking in the local dialect. We were warmly received. Only a handful of women attended the meeting and the gender separation was clear, as most sat in the corner of the big community room.
With David translating into Daghbani, I was asked to introduce the Lively Minds programme. Each of us worked extremely hard and team work and communication was really important and each of us had crucial roles to play. Our objectives were simple, the community leaders needed to understand the programme and we needed to spark interest, we asked for the minimum of 24 women to volunteer and we clarified the criteria for volunteering. We asked a set of simple questions:
How many of you can read and write?
How many of you have paid jobs?
What are the causes of these?
Do you want your children to have different lives?
We demonstrated a set of simple counting and picture matching games and we asked the leaders to participate. These were simple, interactive and fun games aimed at 3-6 year old children but many of these grown up men did not seem to understand these games. It was important to explain to the community the benefits of children playing these games. The meeting went well and they appear to have enjoyed our demonstrations.
Convincing the Village Elders to see the value of play, education and volunteering was one challenge. The second challenge was to ensure that the women were not forced to attend the Lively Minds meeting but they come freely and saw the value in educating their own children. Coming from the Western culture, I was astonished to see how much power men tried to excerpt over the women by attempting to control the recruitment for the scheme. The meeting was turning unpleasant and we had to act quickly. I asked to speak which seemed to have worked. I reiterated the essence of volunteering, my role which I played for Lively Minds particularly as a woman and an international volunteer. I reached out to women in the meeting and told them that I especially come to see them and they themselves had to take the initiative and help their own communities otherwise this would not work. Women were the natural carers and home -makers, they were the natural ambassadors for Lively Minds as naturally they would share what they have learned with their children our of love and care for the benefit of the whole community. This seemed to have worked. I went over to greet the women and they welcomed me warmly.
We thanked the leaders and all we could do now is wait and hope that the participation at our next meeting with women was high and they come freely.