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Sunday December 20, 2009


Girl Talk with Anita and Africa ELI secondary students in Yei, Sudan.
Some things are universal. Nerves before an exam. Sports. Music. Girls talking about boys.

We talk about it all with our Africa ELI scholars. Diane is generally the queen of conversation with the girls. She encourages them. Sometimes scolds them. She definitely holds them accountable for their actions. She laughs with them and sometimes cries with them.

It was my privilege to be included in some of the “girl talk” during this year’s third term. Snippets of conversations – fit for public consumption – included:

“I will do better….(insert selected action here)… keeping time, studying, or cleaning the dorm.” “We want to go to town for sugar, tomatoes, and juice.”
“My parents make me do too much housework.”

At the conclusion of the term, Diane, our intern – Cathy, and I all talked with the girls about their plans for the holidays and “summer break” (December, January, February). Our mantra? “Don’t get pregnant.”

We read the statistics about young women in Sudan and other countries. We know that a high percentage in African countries are forced into early marriages and receive minimal family planning instruction. We know that culture influences reproductive activities. So, we talk about these things with our Africa ELIĀ girls. We discuss what the future might look like if they stay in school and focus on their studies. We ask them what the future looks like if they become teenage mothers. We talk about options, consequences of actions, and healthy choices.

We have 100 Africa ELI-sponsored girls, and hundreds more who benefit from participating in Africa ELI enrichment programs. We intend for them to all return safely and healthy for the first term of 2011. It’s our New Year’s resolution to do everything within our power to make it so.

-Anita