GLOW Albania and Being Paid in Smiles

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September 26, 2014 by theloneblonde

There has been a reason for my blogging hiatus, well alright my reasoning is pretty pointless but I swear I have been very busy. In the past three months I have run off on a vacation with my parents (which I will probably never blog about it has hit its expiration date), returned and gotten back to business in terms of planning, running, leading Albania’s First National Girls Leading Our World Conference.

There is too much to say about it, so I am going to just give you the basic highlights and an early release copy of the final event plan that I have to submit to our partner organizations. —

gloweagle copy

GLOW Albania hosted the National GLOW Conference at Hotel BLEART in Durres from September 11-13, 2014. The event is the culmination of the GLOW Albania 2014 Program where 34 girls and 9 adult leaders from across Albania came together and continued to work on the GLOW mission. Barazia Gjinore Albania, ATIP Albania, Mary Ward Loretto, Peace Corps Albania, and the Albanian American Development Foundation collaborated to make this event a success.

During the event the girls joined together from 13 cities across Albania to share stories, develop ideas and lead GLOW Albania into the next phase. Girls worked together to empower and inspire each other in areas of leadership, self-discovery, health, advocacy, relationship building, and future opportunities. Working closely with our partners, Anti-Trafficking In Persons (ATIP) Albania, Different and Equal and  the Mary Ward Loreta Foundation, girls gained knowledge and understanding of human trafficking. Girls also worked together to build a safe environment in which they asked questions, felt free of societal shame, and shared their emotions through various outputs such as art, creative writing, and fitness.

One the first day, girls registered for the conference and had time to meet their fellow conference participants. The Conference began at 16:00 with a welcoming followed by a craft activity where they made their own journals. Girls then opened up during sessions divided by age group about Health, Beauty, and Self- Esteem. The program was followed up with dinner, and and a screening of the film Bend It Like Beckham. Girls had time to reflect on their day through journaling.

Hilt Leading National GLOW ConferenceOpening Up the Conference   

The second day girls were given an opportunity to participate in a variety of morning exercises including, beach running, yoga, or self-defence. Following this the girls were divided into groups by age to learn about Women’s Health and Healthy Relationships and Advocacy. During Women’s Health and Healthy Relationships girls learned about creating sustainable relationships, women’s health, and sexual health. During lessons on advocacy girls were trained in advocacy, learned methods to advocate, and designed a campaign to advocate for a cause in their community. Girls then chose between two sessions either the Future of GLOW, where they assisted the GLOW team in planning on future steps in the GLOW program, or the Future of YOU! where girls learned about different options they have for their future including volunteering, university, technical training, and studying abroad. During the day our partners, ATIP, the Mary Ward Loreto Foundation, and Different and Equal,  came and addressed the girls about human trafficking and the situation in Albania. Later girls were split again into age groups where they learned about Leadership Empowerment and Human Rights.

On the final evening the girls of the program were addressed by one of the top women leaders in Albania, the Minister of Urban Development and Tourism, Eglantina Gjermeni. In her keynote address Minister Gjermani, spoke on the future of women’s leadership in Albania, encouraging all women present to lead in their own unique way. Following the keynote address the girls were awarded with the Albanian Coming Together (ACT) Now Championship for August 2014 from the Ambassador of the United States Alexander Arvizu. Ambassador Arvizu felicitated the girls in attendance with a certificate of involvement with the project for their dedication to volunteerism to their country.

Hilt with AmbassadorAccepting the ACT Now Award with US Ambassador Arvizu GLOW Girls from Delvine, Berat, and Durres, Myself, and Lucy (My Amazing Co-Coordinator)

Following the presentation the girls participated in an interactive session called GLOW Council in which we invited all the girls to participate using all their senses to plan GLOW in the future. Girls drew logos, wrote jingles, planned lessons, danced to the beat, and bombarded social media spreading the message of GLOW. The evening was completed with daily journaling and reflection.

The National Conference ended with a panel discussion and question and answer session run by Peace Corps Volunteers and Albanian Youth Counselors breaking down social taboos and reflection on topics that are considered not fit for societal discussion. After opening such a dialogue we finished the program with a closing ceremony and posing the open ended question of “how will you spread the message of GLOW across Albania?”

The conference left the girls feeling both inspired and empowered as they returned to their communities. Many girls stopped to share empowering words on the GAD Albania Facebook page including, “intelligence will never stop being beautiful” and “we are strong, we are beautiful, we can improve ourselves, we can improve the world.”

This is GLOW’s first year in Albania. The program grew to include 15 cities running local GLOW day camps and ultimately culminated to the National GLOW Conference. This year, 246 girls were involved in GLOW programming and we expect it to grow exponentially in the years to come.

The GLOW program originated in Romania and has since spread to other countries through the catalyst of the Peace Corps. The conference follows the GLOW model from around the world that promotes giving girls a chance to shine in an all-female environment. The program has supported women’s empowerment in approximately 62 countries around the world since 1995.

Overall this was a huge project one that took countless hours of planning and preparation, but overall and incredibly rewarding experience. One that I cannot even begin to describe. From the moment that I sent off a sneak peak of the program to one participant who then late called me literally crying of excitement (funny enough she was most excited about the plans for an evening walk). To an entire room of girls literally jumping up and down out of joy, because the visit by the US Ambassador and the Minister of Urban Development and Tourism was a total surprise to the girls (YES, I managed to keep this a secret to all 34 of them, however the news crews that rolled up two hours early may have spilled the beans to some of them). Not to mention when all of the girls were awarded the ACT Now Championship, which to them was again a total surprise. My efforts paid of significantly because if I do the math I make less then 30 cents an hour, but if I was being paid in smiles I could be the wealthiest woman on the planet (right after Oprah).

Hilt with Act Now Award and Students

Mirela, Myself, and Iris with the ACT Now Award, Representing Corovode! 

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