Thursday 4 November 2010

“Today We’re Going to Talk about Diversity – J.Lo and Oprah, I’ll Need Your Help”

After a morning of Excel lessons to the employees of my microfinance institution, I spent the afternoon in the neighboring village of Beka Hossare, population 2,500. According to the Women’s Learning Partnership, 60% of Cameroonian’s population is under twenty-five, thus my postmate and I run a youth group composed of a diversity of girls; some girls are without parents, some have never been to school, etc. The group’s name, "Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe", means “Girls with Strength” in the local language of Fulfulde.

Our girls group, Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe
The group has roughly fifteen members, ranging from seven years old to fifteen years old. The first hour is usually spent with an activity ranging from girl’s empowerment to diversity awareness to dance. The second hour is spent learning English. The girl’s voted for the name "Bikkoy Rewbe Bee Sembe" and a session was spent creating rules for the constitution (i.e. Be on time, respect others, etc.).
Today’s lesson was a highly interactive diversity awareness activity. I printed out pictures of various people with incredibly different ethnicities. The girls were then asked, “Who is (s)he?” and they would have to guess the nationalities. After the guess was made, I would ask why they thought what they did.
"Who is she?"

“She’s American!” "Why?" “Her hair!”
Of course, only about one out of the nine photos was guessed correctly. All the Caucasians were American and all the Asians were Chinese. Jennifer Lopez was Cameroonian because of her fashion and Oprah was African (though not any specific country) because of her skin; however, after the Oprah comment, we threw out the man himself…

"Who is he?" “American!” Why? “Because he’s Barack Obama!”
Haha, then we went back to Oprah and it started hitting the girls that they were wrong. We revisited each photo and had a discussion on how you couldn’t tell what anybody was just by looking at them.
The volunteers then went into our own nationalities and ethnicities and we spoke about how even here in Cameroon (and even in the room), there are different groups and languages all in the same country. We further discussed how yelling the Fulfulde or French equivalent of “white person” at us or yelling at us at all is actually not okay (though it can be amusing at times to both parties, it gets tiring after some time).
Good, fun, and educational activity for all!

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