What we realise is that we can’t really answer these questions. Chidi worked really hard, and her idea was a good one. Her generosity isn’t in question, but her approach is. In order to design an effective activity for young women, we need to know as much as possible about the actual challenges they face and their aspirations.
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. We know that it can take time to win the trust of teenage girls, but if you want to change their lives, inspire them and help them stay on a good path, or return to one, this is essential. To win their trust, and engage them as your project’s greatest fans, promoters, and leaders.
If Chidi had spoken to these girls she might have found out that:
- Most local girls cook at home already and didn’t think they needed to learn how to cook, or they didn’t understand why they should learn from Chidi, who isn’t a trained chef and cannot give them a certificate.
- The activity was at a bad time. Maybe they were scared of going home afterwards, in the dark, or there was another activity at that time.
- The church might simply be too far away.
- Maybe they might not have realised the activity was free, or the cost was too high.
- They might not have time for activities like this, because if they get home later, there won’t be enough light to do their schoolwork after doing their chores.
- She might have put the flyers in the wrong place, or maybe they just weren’t appealing.
It’s easy to say that young women don’t know what is best for them, and this might be true. Speak to parents, teachers and others to get the fullest picture you can, but remember that young women’s voices also need to be heard.
Many youth workers have had moments like this. We have been enthusiastic about something, and it hasn’t worked. The more we can learn about a community and young women’s real needs and challenges, the more we can develop an effective response.