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Anna, a Planned Parenthood health educator in North Carolina, shares her experience teaching girls abroad. 

Anna Williams, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer  Togo 2013-2015, Returned Peace Corps Response Volunteer Rwanda 2015

Before joining Planned Parenthood South Atlantic in 2016 I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa. My primary assignments were teaching English and using my position as a teacher in the middle school to encourage the promotion of gender equity and to keep girls in school during a very precarious time.

In Togo, a sixth grade classroom usually has an approximate 60/40 ratio of boys to girls. By the end of ninth grade, classes are lucky if a quarter of the class are girls. According to my town members, the main causes for girls dropping out include a lack of financial support for school fees, sexual harassment from teachers, teen pregnancy and marriage, and illnesses such as malaria. To combat these issues I worked with local partners to build latrines at the middle school and health clinic, led sessions on women’s rights, judicial procedures and consent, HIV prevention programming and extra curricular activities, including a girls’ sport competition and a girls’ science club.

However, these issues are certainly not limited to Togo. Today, working as a community health educator in North Carolina for Planned Parenthood I’m still talking to people about consent, HIV prevention, and sexual health. The lessons I learned from the women of Togo have helped me become a better teacher and educator for reproductive justice. The struggles of women in the United States are not unique, and on this International Women’s Day let’s remember to stand arm in arm with our sisters around the world.