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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Starting a Women's Group

As I think I have mentioned previously, this semester is turning out to be much more interesting, exciting, and overall better than last year. I feel more comfortable, relaxed, and willing to try new things. This year I made three plans for secondary projects. One has started, the second is on its way, and the third, I hope, is around the corner but meeting some road blocks.
The one that has started is my women’s club. Many young female volunteers choose to start women’s clubs. In China, we have found that many of our young college students lack confidence in themselves, are confused about their future, want to learn and seek more independence from their parents, and most of all, want to learn about boys. Volunteers approach their women’s groups in many different ways. There is no right way to start a women’s group and no good number of women to join. One volunteer does activities with her group to foster confidence building, such as learning self-defense, how-to-volunteer, meditation, and more. A previous volunteer did small group discussions. I plan to combine the two ideas.
The last week in September I had an interest meeting, to explain my ideas for the group and to ask the girls to fill out an application. About 15-17 girls showed up for the meeting and about 12 applications were returned to me. In the application I asked the girls several questions, but I will just highlight two. 1. What are some issues facing women today? 2. What are some topics you would like to discuss?
Their answers:
1. Inequality between men and women; freedom (not depending on men; supporting themselves, independence); achieving the top position in the government, companies, and in the family; looks, beauty; political status; balance of family and career; pressures to have a boyfriend; job pressures
2. How to get along well with others; beauty; successful women; building confidence; how to have a happy life; boys, sex; the female body; health;
I had my first meeting a week ago. About 30 girls showed up! I was shocked. They all piled into my apartment. There weren’t enough chairs! So I put out a blanket and some of us sat on the floor. At the first meeting, we did 3 icebreaker activities
• Candy introductions (each color represents something they should talk about; i.e. white-hobbies, green-dream vacation, red-your best memory, etc.)
• Never have I ever (everyone has up 5 fingers. Each girl says something they have never done. If you have done this, you should put down one finger. The girl with the most fingers up (you can say she is the winner or some people say the loser because they haven’t done much. But I always choose to say winner since it is more positive).
• This reminds me of… (I had a bag of ordinary things and the girls took one out and said what it reminded her of)
Next I reintroduced the idea of the group, saying that we can make it what we want, and this is about them and not me, so I will choose topics and activities that interest them most. Then we made apple bread together and spent the rest of the evening chatting. I also asked the girls which day is best for them. ½ said Mondays and ½ said Thursdays. So from now on I will have 2 meetings a week, and occasionally the whole group will get together for activities on the weekend, such as shopping, hiking, travelling, etc.
This upcoming week the topic I chose is fear. I will wait to see how it goes before I write about it. But if you have any advice about a women’s group (activities, topics, games, etc.) please email and let me know. I would welcome any advice since this is my first time to do this.

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