It was a tiring week but I am so excited about how well it went! The 32 coaches that we’ve been training for the past two weeks spent six days taking turns presenting the negotiations curriculum to about twenty 9th grade girls at Chazanga School on the outskirts of Lusaka.
By yesterday, it was clear that, due to the fabulous job our coaches had done and the excellent curriculum, the girls had really gotten it. They showed us that they understand how positions differ from interests, the importance of taking the right approach when entering a negotiation, stepping to the other person’s side in order determine what their underlying needs are, seeking common ground, and brainstorming in order to build win-win solutions. I was so impressed that I got choked up hearing them describe how they plan to use these new skills in their lives.
I will be fascinated to see how the research turns out once the full program happens next month with 2,000 girls in 41 Lusaka schools and data is collected once in May, again in September, and then finally again next year.
The curriculum, in addition to being important material, was fun for the girls to experience as they got to hear and participate in role plays that were about things that are relevant to their lives like a man offering to give a girl a cell phone if she will go with him to have a “drink” or a girl having to negotiate for her exam fees to be paid by a mother who is a widow with nine children.
Or a girl whose boyfriend wants to have sex even though they had previously agreed they weren’t ready, and so forth. Despite their shyness at first, they were quite willing to participate in these scenarios and discuss the nitty-gritty of the situations and by the last day, almost everyone was speaking out.
In order that we separate out the impact of getting so many hours of time with such terrific role models from the actual impact of the negotiation curriculum, an equal number of girls will get a program for the same number of days and hours where they spend time in the presence of the coaches but without getting the curriculum. Instead, they will play with their friends with the coaches acting a bit like lifeguards. This acts as an additional control group for the experiment, along with a complete control group that doesn’t get any time with the coaches at all.
The energizers we did to keep us and the girls going were also quite fun. Dancing, including much swiveling of hips, is very popular here and I think the girls loved hanging out with the attractive, confident, young women who are our coaches.
We finished the Chazanga training yesterday with lunch and photos and the girls and the coaches seemed sad that it was over.
We were all on a high, hoping that learning these skills will help these girls to navigate themselves toward a better future. I, for one, will be rooting for them!