Gaborone Teen Club: Human Rights and Teen Leader Elections

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The following post is courtesy of Pavlo Bereas, WUSC Volunteer and Project Assistant for Botswana Teen Club:


One of the activity cards that Teen Club members had to contemplate during their human rights session. Is it a "need" or "want"?

Gaborone Teen Club: Human Rights and Teen Leader Elections

It is hard to believe how quickly 4 months has just flown by! On the 24th of April I participated in my last Gaborone Teen Club event. This event was particularly special to me because of the content. As part of my mandate here at Teen Club, I was supposed to come up with a set of life skills curricula and facilitators guidelines for April’s event. The subject of the session was geared towards helping the teens better understand the importance of Human Rights, particularly as they relate to those who are HIV-positive. The event was scheduled just like any other Teen Club event. The younger teens 13-15 were going to be doing the human rights activity with myself and Lorena while the older teens were scheduled to clean the Adolescent Centre plot with Masutlha, a Baylor nurse, to make room for the new Teen Club caravan donated by Canada Fund. At the end of the event, we planned to hold the Teen Leader elections where those nominated at last month’s event were to present their speeches, after which their peers would vote for their favorite candidates. However, as with most things in life, sticking to a planned schedule does not always work out.

On the morning of the event we had entered into day 2 of what would turn out to be 5 days of non-stop rain (and this was supposed to be the dry season!). As a result, we had no choice but to cancel the younger teens’ activity of cleaning the adolescent centre plot, but I can’t imagine that any of them were too disappointed (yard work isn’t their favorite activity!). The teens only trickled in towards the beginning of the event, so we decided that we would do the Human Rights activity with both the younger and older ones. However, by the time the activity had started we had a total of 112 teens show up despite the heavy rains. These numbers really show just how important these Teen Club events are to the teens and just how much these teens love to attend regardless of the weather.

The actual activity was a great success! After a brief introduction and presentation on human rights and their importance, the teens broke off into smaller groups where they would learn the difference between “wants” and “needs”. Each group was handed a set of 24 cards, 20 of which had different wants and/or needs on them (e.g. the right to education, freedom from discrimination or the right to a personal stereo or television). The remaining 4 cards were left blank and the teens were asked to come up with 4 additional rights to add to the list with a particular focus on rights related to being HIV-positive. For the next step, the teens were asked to pretend that a new village/town was being created and that the government wanted to provide all the most important rights for the youth who live there but, due to budget cuts, only some would be provided. The teens were then asked as a group to choose which 8 wants/needs they could live without and remove them from their list. They were then asked to cut 6 more from their list. This was no easy task and many of the groups had to really debate and plan which rights were actually considered “wants” and which were “needs”. By the end of the activity, each group was left with 10 cards which represented the 8 most important needs (human rights) to live a happy and healthy life. The groups then all returned to the classroom where each team presented their 10 remaining cards and justifications for choosing them. All in all it was a lot of fun. It was great seeing the older teens acting as mentors to the younger ones during the activity and all the adult volunteers really helped facilitate the small group discussions and encouraged the teens to debate their decisions.

Following that we all headed downstairs for our lunch and to begin the speeches from the Teen Leader nominees. We

A Teen Club member votes for her favorite candidates after listing to the speeches of all 36 Teen Leader nominees.

 had 36 teens run for the coveted 10 Teen Leader positions (5 boys and 5 girls). Each teen stood before their peers and explained why they felt they would make a good Teen Leader and the qualities and attributes they possessed which would help them carry out their responsibilities. Regardless of whether it was their first time running or if they were up for re-election, each teen came prepared and put their best foot forward, although some may have had a few more nerves than others!

I have to say that the event as a whole was great. Despite the rain, the last minute change of schedule and the absence of some of our more senior Teen Club staff and volunteers (who were helping with a training at the Swaziland Teen Club), we managed to run a smooth event and everyone went home happy.

On a personal note, I must say that I am extremely sad to be reaching the end of my placement. My time here at Baylor and with the Teen Club program has been an awesome practical, as well as personal, experience. I have learned a lot in just 4 short months and have met some amazing people from the Teen Club and Baylor staff, adult volunteers, PAC Doctors and most importantly the teens themselves. I wish all the best for the program and its continued success and growth as it continues to reach out to more and more of Botswana’s HIV-positive youth throughout the country. I can only imagine how great the Adolescent Centre will be when it is finished and I am already contemplating a return visit to the Botswana for its grand opening!

Teen Club Ya Chesa!

Pavlo, a World University Services Canada (WUSC) volunteer, cleans out his desk after a productive 4-month volunteer placement at the Botswana-Baylor Teen Club program, much of which was spent developing our human rights project. He will be missed!