Back in November, I attended a training for a program called Project Soar (PS). This is a girls empowerment program and I was really excited to attend. I had my counterpart with me who is the mudira (director) of the Dar Taliba (girls center) where most of my work is centered. I was a little nervous that Fatiha would be mad at me due to the intensity of the program — see all I told her was it was about girls empowerment, not how it was structured. But never fear. Fatiha has embraced the program and we have moved forward full speed ahead!
What is Project Soar? It is a 501(c)3 American non-profit association founded in 2013 by Moroccan-based American social entrepreneurs, Maryam Montague and Chris Redecke. The flagship location is based in a semi-rural village on the outskirts of Marrakech. The mission of Project Soar is to empower teenage girls in the developing world. There are 50 workshops of empowerment to keep the girls in school and to prepare them for more productive, fulfilled futures.
What are the 5 Pillars of Empowerment? This is what each of the workshops is centered around: the belief that every girl should have the opportunity to know her Value, Voice, Body, Rights and Path.
A Project Soar Girl…
Knows her Value. She is confident, has high self esteem and respects her own worth and potential.
Knows her Voice. She communicates her thoughts clearly, resolves conflict effectively and advocates for herself productively.
Knows her Body. She understands changes in her body and values her own health and wellness.
Knows her Rights. She embraces her right to an education and understands her right to be free from exploitation, violence and forced marriage.
Knows her Path. She has tools to envision her future, sets goals assertively and conducts action planning with ease.
The curriculum is laid out in 5 modules that focus on the pillars with 10 workshops each. Fatiha and I have completed 2 of the modules (Values and Voice). I’m super blessed to have a go getter counterpart and a captive audience of 15 girls who get more excited each week about this program. Many of the other volunteers who attended training are struggling to get started and maintain interest. Fatiha and I determined that in order to complete the 50 workshops before the school year ended we needed to do 3 sessions a week (taking in to consideration school holidays, breaks and testing). It’s a pretty rigorous schedule but as I said the girls love it.
Each workshop begins and ends with the following Core Belief being said in both Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and English. I honestly get chills every time I hear the girls recite it.
Ana 9awia (I am Strong)
Ana Dakota (I am Smart)
Ana 9adira (I am Capable)
Ana mustahi9a (I am Worthy)
Al fatatu 9uwa (Girl Power!)
The sessions all include education and discussion on the days topic, an activity to reinforce the ideas of the topic, meditation specific to the topic and journaling. The girls really enjoy meditation and journaling (where they get to utilize their creativity). I’ve also watched them shine during a pro / con debate, developing abstract images of themselves, and expressing themselves via song, story and jokes. I have noticed significant changes in many of these girls and can see their self confidence grow weekly. These girls have also taken initiative and will do the Core Belief without me being in the room (they are ready to start or they have to leave for class), and writing on the board to get the session going. Most recently, Fatiha was talking with a group of girls in her office and wasn’t able to get started right away, so one of the PS girls grabbed the dry erase marker and did an overview of the previous workshops!
This is my success story. One of the highlights of my Peace Corps service.