28 February 2009

Marketing Hot Desirability: What Pristine Sunshine Will Reveal

Marketing Hot Desirability: What Pristine Sunlight Will Reveal

A cool day. I was walking around town, confirming some of the last details for an event that would take place in a few weeks. It was near noon, the sun shone bright, and as I began to walk home, I saw two other volunteers standing near a street vendor. I waved at them from a distance, and they quickly waved back, smiling and talking to me in English while trying to hand their money over to the woman meticulously frying food in her enormous tukunya at the busy street corner. As I approached, a large group of veiled girls with cinnamon colored dresses joined, pooling their money to purchase some lunch before returning back to their afternoon classes. As I continued to chat with my friends, I noticed that one of the girls was looking at me. She was a pretty girl, perhaps 18 or 19 years old, tall, with soft eyes. Her face and eyes were bright, and I realized that as I subtly looked back at her, she continued to stare at my arms and my hands. I thought nothing of it at first, but as the other volunteers and I waited patiently for the food, I realized after several minutes that she was still staring at me. I looked back at her and briefly greeted her in hausa and she responded, moving her right hands from her waist to adjust her headscarf. As she did this, I realized that there were burns, skin discoloration, and scars all over her hands, most prominently around her knuckles and wrists. This discoloration and burning was almost identical on her left hands, as was the discoloration on her neck and chin. After a few minutes, I realized that this young girl, like many of her friends standing around the street vendor, was bleaching her skin. I couldn’t believe how many scars were on this girl’s hands, and how her knuckles and wrists seemed to be almost irreparably discolored and scarred.
Later on that day, I talked to some of my neighbors about what I saw. They were not at all surprised. The men that I sit with explained to me that skin bleaching is really popular among young girls, and he said that it was the fault of men that women continue to apply skin bleach. He said that women will apply the crèmes to certain parts of their bodies, but sometime if they’re exposed to too much sun, or use the products incorrectly, the skin will burn, and become even darker than it was before. I found this to be a really interesting opinion and I asked him to elaborate. He went on to explain that many men only prefer women with lighter skin complexions, and women feel pressured to begin applying skin bleach when they feel undesirable. So I asked my neighbor, “Why would you expect women to have light colored skin, when we are living in the Sahel of Western Africa, and when there was little to no racial mixing during French colonization?” Some of the men begin to explain that there some lighter skinned women in Niger, but most of them came either from Touareg or Fulani groups. He explained that many men only want to date and/or marry women with lighter skin, but they do not want their girlfriends or their wives to use the skin bleach because of its rancid smell. So, this seems like a tough dilemma. Men want their wives with dark complexions to have light skin, but they do not want them to use skin bleach, which is the only method that people here obtain lighter skin complexions. Curious. I explained to my friends about the racial and color caste systems that used to exist in places like Mexico and former French colonies were racial mixing was more prevalent. In a place where there was little racial mixing like Niger, it is interesting that many still arrive at the same ideas about skin color and self-worth. In a separate conversation, a friend of mine, who is exactly my same age, told me that he hopes one day to have children with lighter skin. He said that would be the greatest gift that he could ever give them, because he believed that it would advance them in society. I shook my head when he said this to me, explaining to him that an education was the greatest gift he could leave them. We have had this conversation several times, but he still doesn’t agree with me. We agree to disagree. When I hear others speaking of a post-racial world, I wonder if they are having the same experiences and conversations with people in this country that I am.

20 February 2009

Approved Project Proposal # 1

Project Title: COGES Women’s Recruitment & Organizational Strengthening Conference
Volunteer: Ryan Forbes Morris, CYE ‘08
Post: ---------
Region: Maradi
Project Implementation Period: March 2009
Total Amount Requested from GAD: 48, 975 Francs CFA
I. Project Summary:
The secondary Inspection would like to conduct a one-day training with approximately twenty-one (21) COGES members from its seven (7) secondary public education establishments in order to increase the recruitment and participation of women members, specifically the recruitment of women members into elected positions of leadership. COGES members will undergo a series of tutorials concerning gender-sensitive meeting management techniques; the creation and maintenance of intimidation-free and friendly voting environments, in which both men and women members can declare candidacy for COGES-elected positions of leadership; the pragmatic uses and applications of agendas, budgets, record-keeping, and the importance of financial transparency. This project seeks not only to increase access and equity to women who wish to participate in COGES and pursue positions of leadership, but also to enhance and reinforce the administrative skills of the few women currently serving on these committees.
II. Background Information and Needs Identification:
Due to the absence of monetary resources to fully support educational institutions, the government of Niger has partially delegated the management and finance of all public schools to community-based organizations referred to as COGES (Comités de Gestion des Etablissments Scolaires). The committees are comprised of eleven (11) members, two (2) of which must be women, who assume the administrative and fiscal responsibilities of school establishments that the government of Niger can no longer provide (i.e. supplying school textbooks and funding the construction of millet-stalk classrooms in overcrowded schools). The eleven representatives include parents, school headmasters, student representatives, local, and municipal authorities. The Women’s Recruitment and Organizational Strengthening Conference will afford COGES members gender-sensitive and refined managerial and recruitment skills to assist them in their efforts to make their committees more representative of the general population and in the administration of their respective establishments. COGES groups are unlikely to bring sustainable educational access and equity to young girls and boys in their communities if they themselves do not exemplify the change they seek to affect in their school establishments. A strong organization is one of diverse membership, opinion, and experience. In order for an organization to respond to the needs of a community, composed of both men and women, gender equity in COGES committees and leadership must remain a prioritized initiative.

III. Project Objectives and Timeline:
Main Objective: Increase the number of women participants in Maradi urban region COGES groups and enhance the administrative skills of COGES members.
Goal 1: Train COGES presidents, treasurers, and secretaries, in practical methods to recruit more women into their committees.
Objective 1-1: By the end of 2010, all of the seven COGES groups will have a minimum of three (3) women members on their committees.

Goal 2: Increase the awareness of the importance of a free and democratic vote to ensure a friendly and intimidation-free voting environment in which both women and male members can declare candidacy for COGES positions of leadership.
Objective 2-1: After the one-day training, COGES members in attendance will be able to list, define, and demonstrate methods to create and maintain intimidation-free and democratic voting environments within their COGES group.
Objective 2-2: By the end of 2010, 15 % of COGES groups in Maradi urban region will have an elected woman president.

Goal 3: Enhance COGES members’ meeting management techniques and financial transparency.
Objective 3-1: After one-day training, COGES members in attendance will be able to demonstrate gender-sensitive meeting management techniques.
Objective 3-2: After the one-day training, COGES members in attendance will be able to demonstrate the formulation of trimester-based budgets.
Objective 3-3: By the end of 2010, 63% of COGES groups in Maradi urban region will employ a system of co-signed financial transactions through the use of Cash-request forms.

Month (2009) Activity
February Volunteer/Counterpart meetings; goal evaluation; grant seeking.
March Send invitations to COGES members; confirm schedules/travel; purchase of food and office supplies; Conference will tentatively be held March 18, 2008.
April Initial reporting and evaluation to GAD committee and Inspector 1 month after completion of Conference; calculate increases and/or decreases in women COGES members and/or women in elected positions of leadership; identifying COGES groups employing gender-sensitivity and organizational strengthening methods presented in Conference
July Follow-up reporting and evaluation 3 months after initial report submitted to GAD committee and Inspector
October Final Reporting and evaluation 6 months after initial report submitted to GAD committee and Inspector; Analyze 6 months worth of collected data on COGES women’s recruitment, retention, and participation in COGES

IV. Roles and Responsibilities
• Ryan Morris, PCV
o Pricing and purchase of anticipated food and office supply materials
o Co-creation of session content
o Aiding in the planning and facilitation of sessions in national language
o Evaluation of COGES women’s recruitment, participation, and retention at 1, 3, and 6 months after conclusion of Conference.
o Relaying immediate results of session to GAD committee, Inspector, and Peace Corps bureau.

• Boukari Bako, Nigerien Counterpart & Inspection Employee
o Making contact with COGES members
o Co-creation of session content
o Facilitating sessions with COGES members in national language.
o Monitoring and evaluation of COGES use of organizational strengthening methods. Determination if whether these methods have been useful to COGES administration.
o Relaying immediate and long-term results to Inspector and COGES groups.

V. Gender and Development
In the Maradi urban region, there is a functioning COGES group in each of the seven public secondary schools. While these groups have made significant progress since 2005 in the management and administration of their establishments, the presence and involvement of women in these decision-making bodies is feeble and substandard. Currently, there are neither women COGES presidents nor women members holding positions of leadership in any of the Maradi urban region’s seven committees. Moreover, there are COGES groups that currently have no women in their membership. In order for these groups to aptly reflect and attend to the needs of their communities, the full participation of all of its citizens, namely women, is fundamental. Furthermore, an increased participation of women in the COGES groups will likely initiate productive rapport and collaboration between other community-based organizations such as AME (Association des Mères Éducatrices) and aid in the mobilization of parents to actively participate in the future direction and restoration of their establishments. This type of training for COGES groups at the secondary level is essential not only to the realization of Niger’s Ten-year Education Plan (Programme décennal de développement de l’education ) but also to the growth and progress of committees in secondary education establishments, who seldom receive training or programmatic support from other non-governmental organizations in Maradi that center their efforts on rural, primary schools. A well-structured, gender-equitable, empowered, and organizationally sound COGES bureau will bring sustainable change to a community, and can best advocate for the needs of its constituency.

The short- and long-term effects of the Women’s Recruitment and Organizational Strengthening Conference will include both behavioral and quantifiable change. The recruitment of women into COGES membership and elected-positions of leadership can be followed over time; however each COGES groups’ use of gender-sensitive meeting management techniques will be much more difficult to monitor and evaluate. In the months following the Conference, we will assume that the increase of women in COGES membership, and elected positions of leadership will be correlated to the COGES groups’ successful application of gender-sensitive meeting management practices. At the conclusion of the one-day training, COGES members in attendance will be given questionnaires to test their knowledge of the material that has been presented, and will also be asked to demonstrate and replicate the gender-sensitive methodologies in small groups. The number of members in-attendance that can successfully complete this will be recorded in chart-format. Moreover, in April, July, and October 2009, all of the COGES groups will receive questionnaires to ascertain whether they are using the gender-sensitive methodologies in their meetings. Also, in this post-Conference period, each COGES group will be visited, and the demographics of the membership will be recorded. The results of this monitoring and evaluation from March to October 2009 will be compiled into a report that will be given to the Inspector of the Maradi Secondary Inspection, as well as to each of the COGES groups. Lastly, the immediate results after the Conference (increase and/or decrease in women members among each COGES group; use of gender-sensitive and financial transparency meeting techniques) will be reported to the GAD committee in April 2009.

Our indicators include:
• Number of women members on COGES membership
• Number of women members in elected positions of COGES leadership
• Number of COGES groups
o using gender-sensitive meeting management techniques at one, three, and six months after conclusion of Conference
o collaborating with other community based organizations, such as AME
o consistently using and formulating trimester-based budgets
o using co-signed Cash Request forms after one, three, and six months after conclusion of Conference.