Empowering Women in Zambia

GVSU graduate, Katie Costello, develops female empowerment group in Zambia while serving in the Peace Corps.

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Living out your dreams is scary. If anyone tells you differently they are lying. However, I am living out my dreams in Zambia every day. My day-to-day life may be changing, but I took a chance at my dreams and made them my reality.

I am Katie Costello, a Class of 2011 GVSU graduate, currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia.  My focus in Zambia is education; working on topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention, gender issues and sustainable practices throughout my village. I work with the community members to create sustainable change; something I view as change that continues long after my two years of service.

Life here is a little different then the Copeland Living Center in Allendale. I live in a mud hut with a thatched roof. Mud huts do not come with running water or electricity, but they do come with critters and creatures to keep you warm at night.

I have narrowed down my passion in the village and focus a lot of my energy on the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) club. Women’s roles in Zambia are very traditional. Through our GLOW club, the girls and I are able to start breaking the traditional mold of child bearing and housework that women have previously been held to. At our meetings we look at diverse avenues for all women to pursue.

The GLOW girls meet with me once a week to discuss topics like peer pressure, sexual health, HIV/AIDS prevention, higher education, gardening, family planning and female empowerment. We also discuss simple things like grades, study tips and current crushes at school. We are each other’s support system. The 15 young women who are club members have given me a purpose in Zambia.

During our meetings, we created our dream boards. A dream board is paper version of an individual’s future dreams and goals. I personally like this project because it validates a girl’s dreams and gives her something tangible to hold on to while perusing it. The girls and I created collages of what we want our futures to become.

Some girls focused on future employment and family planning. This was shown through drawing a certain amount of children, or writing about their dream job. Others focused on traveling the world and their personal lifestyles. Each girl’s board is a bit different; they have their own unique quality to them. I believe through this, the girls are able to focus on their personal goals and start putting the steps in place to reach these goals.

In our next meetings, we will be creating personal timelines of how to practically pursue each goal. This will include roadblocks, barriers and successes that they may face along the way.

I wish I could tell you that I always knew that Peace Corps would be a part of my future. However, I didn’t. I applied on a whim and took my chances. I found my true purpose after college! How many people can say that at 22?

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