Every one of us can make a contribution. And quite often we are looking for the big things and forget that, wherever we are, we can make a contribution. Sometimes I tell myself, I may only be planting a tree here, but just imagine what’s happening if there are billions of people out there doing something. Just imagine the power of what we can do.Wangari Maathai
What we realise is that we can’t really answer these questions. Chidi is more passionate than ever about making a change for young women. She was shocked at the scale of the challenges they faced. She invited the people she had consulted to join her one evening and cooked a simple meal for them – one that her aunt had taught her as a girl. They enjoyed Chidi’s delicious food and discussed ideas for addressing the specific aims that she had identified. Teachers had different ideas about what would help girls to spend less time doing chores. Mothers worried about the financial situation of families in the area and the pressure it put on girls. One of the young women said that many of her classmates took on the burden of chores at home, while their brothers didn’t have to help. The pastor said he would mention it in the church, but everyone knew that this wouldn’t change overnight.
Would cooking be the solution to young women’s problems?
The best people to ask about this are the girls themselves, and it is worth every difficult moment to talk to them, whether individually or in groups, and to listen closely for what is both said and unsaid. Chidi then realised that her cooking club could be a real solution. Instead of making burgers, which were expensive to make, she could work with the girls, many of whom were responsible for cooking for their families, to see whether they could cook better food on their tight budgets. This would allow them to pay a little more attention in school. It would also teach the girls good budgeting skills, which would be useful for the rest of their lives. One of the teachers mentioned that many people were selling snacks to the school children before and after school. Maybe Chidi could teach them to make something that they could sell to their schoolmates. They could make some money to contribute to their family expenses, and the activity would give them an additional incentive to come to school and complete their education. Chidi realised that as she could not do this activity alone, she could ask professional women from the church to come and share their stories with the girls, giving them real insights into careers whilst they cooked.
Identifying how to change young women’s lives
Chidi knew how to address the problems, and her stakeholders had worked with her to design a good youth activity. We call this ‘how’ our objectives. Objectives describe what we do (or will do), using phrases that focus on delivery instead of on change – for example, you might use ‘to provide’, ‘to run’, ‘to offer’ or ‘to organise’. Each one should clearly link to your specific aims. You may have more than one objective for each specific aim but try not to have more than 6: less is more!
- Deliver cooking sessions for young women in the local community
- Teach young women about budgeting and nutrition
- Organise opportunities for girls to make and sell baked goods to generate income
- Expose young women to career opportunities by engaging professional women as volunteers
How this helps
Now you know what you will do to address the young women’s problems, you can start thinking about how to do this. What resources will you need? How many volunteers or staff do you need (or can you afford)? How will you ensure that you will keep people safe (cooking oil is hot, for example!)?
It also means that you can start to think about how you will measure these changes so that you can demonstrate to everyone in the community that your project is making a positive difference and that they should support it! You can learn more about this here.
Involving young women and girls in designing and planning these activities is a great idea. This is called co-production. It means that we are listening to them, allowing them to show leadership and develop their skills in the activities as recipients and as those creating them. You know your young women’s challenges – especially when they have to get involved in activities like this. But remember, whenever we feel that our ideas are important and that we have not only been given something, but participated in creating it, we feel that it belongs to us. Young women who feel your project truly belongs to them will be keen to ensure that it is successful and will save you time and energy in the future.