While in India I had the pleasure of working with three lovely ladies who piloted the first fellowship the year before my co-hort. Allie Gross, Averil Spencer and Ilana Shushansky co-founded Camp VOICE after receiving a generous grant from the Nike Foundation. The three women were struck by the large inequalities in opportunities for girls as compared to their male counterparts while working in low-income schools in Hyderabad, India. VOICE stands for Vital Opportunities in Creative Empowerment, and its goal is to improve the livelihood opportunities for girls from low-income communities by addressing common challenges girls face with regards to education and employment. VOICE is comprised of a 4-week summer camp for girls, and it blends learning with doing through an interactive program focused on communicative English and gender empowerment. The camp curriculum is designed to be replicable across developing countries where the need for female empowerment is great.
VOICE provides an 18-unit workbook for counselors and campers. It was created after a pre-camp assessment of English and life skills knowledge of girls in grades 7-10. The book has English grammar lessons yet also highlights important like skills, such as safety, harassment and changes in body. Camp also consists of “enhancers,” such as medical check-ups and field trips to meet working women at institutions like Deloitte and Google.
In its first year alone VOICE reached 450 girls in Hyderabad. Eventually they want to expand to other developing countries outside of India.
In the words of one camper, “Girls are stronger than boys!”