Our Family Services team celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8th and we invite you to celebrate with us. Grab a coffee, sit back and read a new insight of the impact that NPH is making on Honduran girls in the local community through the Chicas Poderosas (‘Powerful Girls’) program.
Looking at the numbers alone, around 200 girls currently attend a Chicas Poderosas program across four of our NPH homes. One hundred of these NPH girls live in our Honduras home and are part of the NPH family, their ages ranging from 9 to 18. One component of this program that deserves a big shout-out is the benefit that it brings to the community outside of NPH: NPH staff and volunteers bring Chicas Poderosas to three local communities every week and serve approximately 50 girls from outside of the NPH home, in addition to the 100 who live in the home.
Zarine García, the Coordinator of Chicas Poderosas and Youth Development programs at NPH Honduras, describes their girls’ empowerment program also known as ‘Chicas’:
“Chicas Poderosas meets once a week with each group, and consists of a variety of activities, including educational, social and recreational activities, all of which are chosen and prepared with the goal of promoting healthy living, positive decision making, improving self esteem, strengthening relationships between the girls, and self awareness and self development.”
We interviewed Zarine to learn her insight on some of the challenging realities that young women face in Honduras as well as how our NPH program helps to fight these issues and stand up for our young girls and women. Below is an excerpt of this interview.
In just a few words, what is the main purpose of the ‘Chicas’ program?
“It is designed to talk to the girls about their rights as women, and also to teach them how to make healthy decisions, to become more self-sufficient and independent as women, and take an active role in their own lives and futures.
The program also offers the girls a safe environment where they can talk about their experiences, relax, and be themselves. Generally there are not other opportunities like this, especially for girls in the community.”
Girls in the home have the opportunity to go to Chicas Poderosas, but NPH Honduras also provides this program to girls outside of the home to the very communities where they live. Why is it important for the community girls outside of NPH to have the opportunity to go to ‘Chicas’ as well?
“In the community (outside of the NPH home), it’s rare for girls to have a place to go where it’s just them, or any sort of activity just for girls. The boys have soccer, but the girls have nothing, especially not in an environment free of leering eyes or inappropriate comments, which are openly given all too often by men and boys in the streets. With this program, they are provided with just that – a safe space, girls only, where the idea is to have fun, learn, and be themselves. It’s a chance for the girls to really open up and learn to be comfortable with themselves, knowing that no one there is going to judge or criticize them for what they think, feel, or ask.
Girls in the community also tend to have less access to information, and it’s not customary for parents to talk openly to their children about many topics, especially regarding relationships. This program provides the girls with appropriate information and also gives them the chance to talk and ask questions regarding these topics that they would most likely not have the chance to ask otherwise.
The program is also one of the rare organized activities for girls in the communities. It gives them a space to explore and participate in various activities, as well as learn new skills – cooking, jewelry making, arts and crafts – that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to take part in.
Although the program is still fairly new to the communities, there has been a noticeable change in the girls and their behavior since the time they started. They are more outgoing and participative, their ability to reflect and analyze has improved, and they are able to discuss the various topics we’ve covered while, many of which were completely unfamiliar to them with prior to the program. They are also quicker to relate and apply the topics to their own lives, something that was tricky for them in the beginning. Many of the girls have also openly expressed to us their enthusiasm for the program, calling it a high point in their week. Our community coordinators have also observed this, commenting that for many of the girls it’s the only sort of organized activity they have access to outside of school.”
Is the goal the same for the community program as it is for the girls in the home? What differences do you see when going to a ‘Chicas’ program in the community compared to one in the home?
“Yes, the goal is the same in the community as it is for kids in the home, but requires a slightly different focus due to the differences in how the home is run and the culture in the communities. In general the focus tends to be more educational, since the community girls generally have less access to information than those in the home. This means more classroom type activities and learning-based games.
Another difference is that many girls in the community also tend to be more timid, insecure and disempowered due to stronger cultural messages outside the home. It is clear that they are not used to being asked their opinion or being given the opportunity to express themselves, especially with adults. This is another point of focus, encouraging the girls to speak out and speak up.
There is also a greater concern regarding relationships and teen pregnancy in the community, simply because many of the girls tend to have more freedom and spare time, and less supervision in many cases. This combined with their more timid and insecure nature makes them bigger targets for men who might not have the best intentions. For this reason, focusing on ways to build self-esteem, making sure they know their rights as human beings and as women, and helping them to be more sure of themselves are also priorities in the community.”
We thank Zarine and the NPH volunteers for their work in the Chicas Poderosas program both in the home and outside community. Learning more about the work that you do was a high point in our week, and we too encourage these girls to speak out and speak up.
Sending loads of encouragement and warm wishes to you and these powerful young women on International Women’s Day!
The NPHI Family Service team