AGILE GROUP HIGHLIGHTS
Two focus groups were conducted with MAWA’s AGILE participants: Eight Junior High girls participated in one group on February 18, 2009;
Four High School girls participated in the other group on February 23, 2009.
Participants reported that overall, AGILE meets their needs and the program objectives of building self-esteem, leadership skills and social
skills, promoting the importance of education, and positively reinforcing cultural identity.
Participants reported that AGILE has given them a greater sense of self thereby improving their self-esteem. Examples include:
- Becoming a role model
- The girls said they are role models for their siblings and friends. They hope to show how important school is to their younger siblings
in American and Africa and try to set good examples with their friends. Specifically, they help their friends with homework and encourage
them to do well in school. Also, two girls mentioned recruiting friends to volunteer with them; one asking friends to stay after school
to help the teacher.
- One girl mentioned being a role model for her uncles in Africa by showing them how she helps take care of her grandmother in Africa by
buying her grandmother’s medicine with the $6/hour job she holds in America. Other girls mentioned being a role model for their parents.
- Note: The participants agreed that the staff at AGILE are good role models for them, teaching the girls to reach high goals.
- Gaining confidence to pursue other activities, such as speech, Tree Trust and Cornerstone.
- Having the ability to say “no” and draw boundaries, particularly with men. One girl succinctly stated,
“It has helped me a lot to say no, to say yes, and to be true to myself.”
- Some girls mentioned teaching others about self-respect
- Improving grades in school.
One girl missed three and one-half years of school in Africa because she did not speak the language of the country she moved to and now has
caught up in high school with others her age.
- Helping the family with bills
- One girl summed participants’ feelings by saying,
“Loving yourself is more important than what people think of you.”
All participants volunteer in their schools or community. AGILE has also given the girls confidence in making decisions, take responsibility
for their success in life, the ability to speak in front of others and resolve conflicts by approaching a problem with more knowledge. Again,
as mentioned above, they have demonstrated leadership skills by becoming role models for others.
Education and Future Plans
All participants plan to go to college, in large part because of what AGILE has taught them about the importance of education. Many even
identified the career they want to pursue, including international marketing, becoming an entrepreneur then using the money earned to promote
education in her home country of Africa, becoming a legislator or lawyer.
When asked the question, “Who do you think is responsible for your future,” all high school girls reported unanimously, ‘I am.’”
A couple of girl’s whose mothers did not have the opportunity to go to school, teach their mothers what they learn in school.
Finally, girls also mentioned they learned many life-long skills and lessons in the AGILE program including cooking, decision-making and overall
The girls reported that while AGILE does a good job reinforcing their cultural identity, the program also does a good job in educating them
about other African cultures. In fact, when asked what they liked most about AGILE, one girl said,
“Unity among Africans. We’re from different countries. We learn how to treat each other. AGILE helps to respect others. You
can be who you want to be and don’t let anybody intimidate you.”
While the participants enjoy having a group of African girls meet, one recommendation to expand the program was to meet with other cultural
groups, such as Asians, or Hispanics, to understand their cultures. This would be in addition to, not in lieu of the current
AGILE group that meets.
The girls mentioned feeling comfortable enough to talk to staff about issues they may not feel comfortable talking about with their family,
friends or teachers.
Many girls in both junior and senior high spoke of the intercultural issues they faced with their parents. MAWA AGILE staff are used,
when necessary to broker conflicts, communications or misunderstandings between the girls and their parents/guardians.
As girls became older in the AGILE groups, they began to face more life challenges. Participation may be an issue particularly as girls
face competition such as work. Some of the high school girls also commented that lack of transportation limited participation.
Though these focus group participants did not include all current AGILE participants, they appear to adequately represent their peers. A
few commented that some AGILE participants were more interested in social aspects, i.e. dancing, there was good participation in both AGILE
focus groups, which had a range of ages and experiences.
It was, perhaps, a bit unexpected that many girls in both junior and senior high felt they experienced some institutional discrimination –
both in school and in the community. The resiliency among these young women, many who had endured war and destabilization, but also in
some cases horrific circumstances, was impressive.