Day Four is Gender Day, a day of separate programming for the boys and the girls focused on examining cultural gender prescriptions and the celebrations and challenges of each identity. Part of leadership is understanding identity and it’s cultural context.
The girls started the day off with two silhouettes of people, one of a man and one of a woman. The girls were asked to write in the figures all of the stereotypes of each gender with markers: in two short minutes, both figures were covered. The girls were then asked to read them out, and a conversation followed on where these words came from and what they meant. One student pointed out the difference between the word “boss” on the male figure and the word “controlling” on the female figure- were these words the same?
A little ways off, the boys started their morning by washing the community’s breakfast dishes and helping the kitchen staff peel plantains for the matoke we would eat for lunch; something that many of them had never done before. It was hard work, and one boy, after seeing the girls sitting, talking, and laughing, commented on how it felt to be working while the women relaxed.
In the women’s space, the discussion shifted to ideas about what makes an “ideal” woman, and for the next activity, each participant made a list of the women in their life that they admire and the specific qualities that they admire about them. Throughout the day, the girls danced, sang songs, talked about our mothers, and discussed challenges that women face. It was a wonderful day- there is something that shifts in communication in a group of all women- and all the women shared and learned.
After lunch, Maria led the group in a creative writing exercise: she read Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” and everyone spread out to write their own poem. After half an hour, the girls reconvened and copied our poems onto a phenomenal life-sized silhouette of a woman. The poems were joyful and proud, and as the day drew to a close and it was time to meet with the boys again, Grace led everyone in a song she had learned in the Congo, a song that celebrates femininity and empowerment.
“Singamana loketo! Singamana mokongowe. Singamana loketo! Singamana loketo mabele mangondoma kabitoto.” The women sang and marched back into the group, announcing ourselves as Phenomenal Women.
The Amazing Gentlemen, after peeling plantains, relocated to the main hall for discussions on the roles men and women have, what it means to be a man, and how to build friendships and support between men.
When the groups met up again, we traded songs and dances, and then sat, divided, in the main hall. The girls and the boys each presented three questions to the other side, and listened to several answers. Gender Day programming ended before dinner, however, the conversations sparked by the day’s activities continued throughout the night.