Life is full of hard choices. No matter where you find yourself living around the World, our lives are full of choices, and all of those choices lead us down different paths, for good or for bad, and impact our lives in different ways. Life is Niger is no different for the young women that we teach.
This week we talked about choices, values and consequences in our life skills lessons with the girls. We tried to help the girls identify what their values were, and how these values help us to navigate decisions and choices in our lives. Our values lay down our roadmap for how we move forward in life.
But what if you never think about what your values are? You never think through decisions and life just sort of “happens” to you. What if you had very little power in your life to make those decisions and other people just imposed their will on you? What if the core fabric of your culture imposed this on you and you felt very un-empowered to even imagine that you do still have some choices that remain truly yours?
Willienke took the lead on this class and did a great job.
First we broke them out into groups and gave them each a set of 12 pictures. We explained each picture, and then had them put them in order of importance in their lives if they could choose. From one being the highest value in their lives, all the way down to the last which had less value than all the others.
Here were their options:
able to have children
a marriage partner of their choosing
love in their lives
family around them
enough food to eat
joy – to be happy
to be overweight (often a sign of wealth and enough food but less attractive)
to be skinny (more attractive in their eyes but could mean poverty and not enough to eat)
So you can see with this list the types of decisions they would make. What are their heart values? Would they rather be rich or happy? To have their own children or be surrounded by good friends? I know in real life choosing one does not mean you won’t have the other, but in class we made that the case so that they would have to really examine their opinions. After they put their list in order we looked at the top three from every group. The ones that showed up were:
enough food to eat
to be skinny or to be fat (the group was split pretty evenly on that one!)
one group chose joy as well
Those of us who understand a hierarchy of needs can see why they would choose clean water, food, etc as their top picks. And money can buy all their food and water right? (that was their thinking at least). We went a little deeper and played a game of “this vs. that”. I would pick up two picture choices and they had to pick which one was more important to them, knowing that choosing one would mean they could not have the other one. For example- would they rather marry a poor man who loved them but they lived in squalor or a rich man who was mean to them but they could buy all they want. (Most chose love!)
Would they rather be able to have their own children, but find themselves friendless and lonely? (most chose children!)
Would they rather be skinny and beautiful and often sick or fatter and unattractive but healthy? (most choose skinny and unwell!) We talked about body types and what their culture valued in body types and even gave examples of how this is different around the World. Because our school crosses several different people groups, even amongst the girls we saw different opinions and values on body type. We always try to teach value that our bodies are created beautiful and we should honor them and protect them. How we view ourselves and our self confidence often comes from body image here just like in other cultures.
So while we did not make any life altering choices, or major breakthroughs about anything, our goal was to help them see their own value systems and to think through choices in life. Many ofthem can’t choose these things, they just happen to them, but by knowing what is most important to them they can put their effort into pursuing those things and stop being passive participants in their own lives!
We also brought the groups outside and played out some skits, with each group showing different values and choices in life, usually centering around young girls and early marriage or choosing to stay in school. It is always so good to see them process in their own words how choices are made and what the consequences are. We hope this class will give them more reason to consider all their choices and look for those places where they are empowered to make them!