FAT's Mobilization Drive - Elisa
When I started my internship with FAT, I had the opportunity to become part of the mobilization process to recruit the next batch of girls that will attend the computer classes and workshops in the FAT Tech Center, starting in April 2016.
So far, the admissions for the classes worked on a “first come, first serve” basis and the girls mainly heard about the program through word of mouth from their friends. This year, FAT decided to change the admission process and try a new approach. The team of the Young Women Leadership Program (YWLP) would go into six communities, talk to the girls and their families directly and interact with the community. This way, it would be possible to reach more girls and to also get to know their communities and their backgrounds better and spread the knowledge about FAT.
When I arrived in the FAT office for the first time in the morning of January 18, I found myself right in the middle of the excitement of mobilization preparations. I was greeted by the YWLP team, a group of young women full of energy and excited to try this new mobilization approach. They had prepared colorful signs with FAT slogans and pamphlets to hand out and we practiced songs and slogans to sing and shout while walking through the communities.
The next day we started the mobilization tour in the community of Jal Vihar. When we got there, we were met by a few FAT graduates from the previous years that live in the community and were happy to support us in our mobilization effort. So we took out our signs and pamphlets and started marching through the community while singing our songs and chanting our slogans. With our songs and slogans we tried to get everyone’s attention in a fun and positive way and soon people came out of their houses to listen and a group of children started following us around. The energy and excitement was infectious and the children soon joined into singing our songs. The YWLP team and the FAT graduates from Jal Vihar talked to every family and every girl that seemed interested and told them about the Tech Center and FAT’s work. We also distributed pamphlets, posted them to walls and asked shopkeepers to hang them up in their shops so even more people could learn about FAT. Afterwards, we asked all the girls that were interested in joining FAT to gather around and helped them fill out an admission form. The admission form consists of several questions that will help the YWLP team to learn more about the girls’ backgrounds and interests, which will be important for the selection of the participants for the new batch.
The mobilization in Jal Vihar was very successful – especially since it was the first time we tried out this new approach and were not sure how the community would react. Eleven girls filled out the admission form and many productive and interesting interactions between FAT and community members took place. Afterwards, we were all really tired and happy.
We continued the mobilization over the next two weeks, going to six different communities. Each time we had to adjust our strategy a little bit according to each new situation. Throughout the mobilization process, we could see differences in the communities and their reaction towards us and FAT’s message. Not everyone was interested in listening to FAT’s ideas and not every girl wanted to join FAT and fill out the form. Some communities were more hesitant than others. This is reflected in the amount of admission forms that were filled out, which ranges from only three forms filled out in one community to an incredible number of 30 forms in another.
Overall, the new mobilization approach was a big success. Over 70 girls filled out admission forms in total and many more people have learned about FAT. The majority of the reactions were positive and we were able to meet some inspiring girls with great determination to learn. Where we couldn’t yet convince some people of the importance of access to and knowledge of technology for girls, the mobilization hopefully was the beginning of a productive dialogue between FAT and the communities. Seeing the reactions from the different communities will also help the YWLP team understand the girls’ backgrounds better. The team will use the data from the admission forms to organize the classes and workshops in a way that will accommodate the girls’ needs in the best way to ensure that as many girls as possible will be able to attend throughout the next year.
The admission process will now continue with several household visits conducted by the YWLP team to reach out to more girls. After that, interested girls will be invited to a round of focus group discussions to get to know them better. Following this, the selection process will take place so the classes can start in April.
For me personally, the mobilization process was a very interesting and enlightening experience. I had read about FAT’s work and its approach beforehand but joining the YWLP team in the communitiesgave me a much better understanding of FAT’s work and the context in which it takes place. It was my task to take pictures of the entire process and in this role of an observer I was able to closely watch the women from the YWLP team interact with the girls and their families. I was especially impressed by the way these women – that can be so funny and goofy in the office – conducted themselves as determined woman leaders that talked to the girls with incredible warmth, sensitivity and encouragement. Seeing these women at workwas an amazing experience and I’m really happy that I got to be a part of it – and our catchy mobilizing songs will probably be stuck in my head forever!