July 26th, 2011

We have met with all four schools that we will be working with to conduct research assessing girls’ knowledge about physical fitness. In the two high SES schools, Seeta and St. Lawrence, the girls are open to sharing their thoughts and have a wide knowledge about health in general. They are relatively up to date on new findings in health (for example, the health benefits of red wine). Although they are hesitant to take on sports as a hobby, they were eager to learn yoga with me, and were pleasantly (hopefully) surprised by how tough it is to stand still. Because they come from families who can already afford their expensive education and their well-rounded education will most likely land them a good job, these are the girls that will have to battle overweight in the future. However, with encouragement their habits can be changed. They already look up to western celebrities such as Rihanna and Beyonce, they just need that extra push to also take up exercise habits.

The two low SES schools are a bigger challenge. The girls are reserved, quiet and painfully shy. In their traditional village culture, women are supposed to be reserved and do as they are told, so it is hard for them to open up with their own thoughts, especially to a foreigner. The answers that they were giving seemed to be “textbook answers.” When asked about the importance of exercise, they said “to prevent high blood pressure,” but none of them had any idea what high blood pressure means. After a few sessions, they have begun to open up and answer and ask questions more freely. We allow them to submit questions on paper if they are scared to raise their hands and ask. What seems to be the most immediate concern, however, is not physical fitness, but it is information about sexual health and safe sex. Even though their culture values virginity, many of the girls are having sex, but are not given the information about how to have safe sex. They are curious, and because it early sex is shameful in the community, they are too afraid to ask anyone but their friends about it. I want to share everything I know but I must wait until there is a curriculum that I can follow, to give them information that is culturally-appropriate and approved by the community.

Yesterday at Bulamu SEED, a government school for low SES high schoolers, we played a game where everyone sits in a circle called “I love my fellow girls who… (insert something about yourself that other people also share)” for example, “I love my fellow girls who have a brother.” Then, everyone who has a brother must stand up and run to an open seat. They really loved this game and were laughing and being silly. I was excited to see them giggling and having fun, and we’ve made a lot of headway in getting the girls to share their personal opinions and questions.

Today, I will be visiting a health clinic in the village.

Till next time!