Today, we selected the initial eight woman who will be leading Little Ripples in refugee camp Kounoungou. As I clapped, cheered, and watched each woman receive her certificate and wave it around with pride, I began to wonder what a teaching job might mean to these women living in this refugee camp. In that moment, a conversation I had with Oumda just days earlier came to mind.
Oumda and I were having a conversation about the impact of Little Ripples and the iACT Lead with Empathy curriculum on women and gender-equality in his community in refugee camp Goz Amer.
Oumda with sincerity explained to me that since Little Ripples began employing women and giving women training and jobs, the community of refugee camp Goz Amer has changed their behavior.
“Before Little Ripples, when women attend[ed] any meetings in camp they would ask the men sitting next to them to speak on their behalf and share their ideas. It’s true. You would see a woman whisper to the man next to her and he would stand up and speak for her.” —Oumda, iACT refugee Project Coordinator in eastern Chad.
Prior to Little Ripples, there were only two women in the entire camp of 30,000 people that held jobs as teachers. Just two! When Little Ripples began in 2013, iACT employed 14 women. Through Little Ripples and the Refugees United Soccer Academy, iACT now employs 45 women. That alone, Oumda says, has opened the minds of parents and leaders. They see the women working, earning money, and living a good life, and now, they want that for their daughters, too. “You’ll see parents sending their daughters to school because they hope they can become teachers like Little Ripples women.” And, Oumda added, “women are no longer quiet in meetings. They stand-up, they speak up. It’s like Little Ripples showed them they can and they should speak up.”
Thinking back on that conversation with Oumda during the ceremony today, instead of wondering what might be, I imagined the meaningful changes that these women may soon give rise to for girls and women in their community.