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Powerful Role Models – Girls’ Voices Facilitators Marie and Jessica in Haiti

By Patricia Cogley, Director of Girls’ Voices

Every week Girls’ Voices facilitators meet to discuss how their work is progressing and any challenges experienced teaching photography, video and creative expression to girls. Last week, educators from Brazil to Cameroon shared that for the first few sessions of Girls’ Voices, the girls can be timid. And who wouldn’t be? Most of the time the girls are meeting new friends, getting used to a new facilitator and asked to do creative activities they have never done before.

What helps break through the shyness and willingness to share their voice? Everyone agreed that in addition to time – powerful role models and mentorship could make all of the difference. When educators and facilitators share their own triumphs, vulnerabilities and hopes for the girls they work with, that shyness quickly turns into courage, laughter and creative bursts of inspiration.

We are currently inspired by two outstanding role models who are launching a new Girls’ Voices project in Haiti – a trailblazing school principal, Mari-Claude Alexis, and an intrepid photo-journalist, Jessica Obert.

Mari-Claude Alexis is the principal of Ecole Communautaire Bon Samaritan, an elementary and middle school in the Central Plateau in Haiti. Out of 40 principals in the Central Plateau, Marie-Claud is one of only two women. Before Marie-Claude Alexis founded the school, she worked in healthcare. She was inspired to work in education to be a role model to young girls and so that students in her school can both help and inspire their families and community.

“They always say, she is a girl – she can’t do this big job.’ But that’s not true. A girl can do whatever job if she is educated and trained.”

School Principal Marie-Claude Alexis helps lead Girls’ Voices workshops

The majority of students come from families that farm sugar cane to produce Klerin (a Haitian alcohol) and can take 2.5 hours to walk to school. “What motivated me to start the school is what I saw in my village, the way children were suffering in the street, there were some who wanted school but couldn’t go. I took those children and started a little school for them.”

Marie Claude facilitating a discussion

Marie hopes that school and leading by example will help girls have more options for their careers. “I would like the young girls in the area to finish school so that they can work like me. I am a principal of a school, so they can be a principal or a teacher in the school. They can be a nurse or a doctor. They can be a nurse, or a doctor, all of that – so that they can work in their village and help their community.”

Joining Marie Claude is Jessica Obert – a visual journalist and filmmaker based in Haiti. Jessica is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where she earned her B.A. in Journalism. As a multimedia storyteller, she is especially interested in reporting on global issues related to women. We feel honored that Jessica is volunteering to share her talents with girls so that more girls can experience the power and fun of sharing their vision and voice.

To help ensure that Girls’ Voices scholars in Haiti have continued access to education, donate to the Girls’ Voices scholarship fund! Girls’ Voices scholars receive free multimedia workshops to increase their confidence and build communication skills, and scholarships to alleviate any financial barriers to their education. 

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by patricia, July 20, 2018