September 30, 1999 - Women-Power List Archive: Jennifer Knoeber is a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a secondary school in Lithuania

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lithuania: The Peace Corps in Lithuania: September 30, 1999 - Women-Power List Archive: Jennifer Knoeber is a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a secondary school in Lithuania

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Jennifer Knoeber is a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a secondary school in Lithuania

Jennifer Knoeber is a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a secondary school in Lithuania

Empowerment for future leadership

* To:

* Subject: [women-power] Empowerment for future leadership

* From: Jennifer Kathryn Knoeber <>

* Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 10:29:08 +0200

Dear Members of Women-Power Working Group,

I have enjoyed reading all of the commentaries these past few weeks, and now I would like to respond to a few of the questions for the second phase.

I am a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a secondary school in Lithuania. I am also involved in the "Women in Development" (WID) program, which is administered through the Peace Corps. In the Baltic states, the name has been changed to "Gender and Development" (GAD) to distinguish how the program does not exclude men, but includes women in economic, political, and social development.

This past July, Lithuania's GAD committee, comprised of interested volunteers, co-sponsored with Lithuanian NGOs, a camp for young teenage women. We adapted the "Girls Leading Our World" (GLOW) camp established in Romania by Peace Corps volunteers, to form the "Women's Business Leadership Camp". Camp GLOW also was successful in Poland, Slovakia, and other countries, but we decided to include a business portion in our camp.

In addition to business issues, the camp focused on developing personal and leadership skills in young women, especially self-esteem. We believe that before women can become strong in the business realm, including being able to make decisions well, they must have the necessary skills developed. So while our camp did not deal with the older generation, we started preparing the future leaders to become capable decision makers. Furthermore, we have plans to hold weekend seminars throughout the year with the camp participants and would like to continue sponsoring the camp each summer, eventually turning it over completely to the NGOs.

During each day of the camp, we saw the young women blossom. Some who had been quiet and shy in the classroom suddenly came to life and became leaders in our discussions. By the end of the week, none of the girls wanted to leave. Their evaluations of the camp stated that they never realized the leadership abilities they held within themselves. The camp opened previously shut doors.

During our camp, we hosted a career fair. From across the country we invited strong women leaders to speak with the participants. So in answering the question on one woman in particular who models's leadership for me, Elvyra Lasskaya stood out in my mind, especially since she worked hand-in-hand with us in planning the camp. Elvyra works as a Social Worker, but she started that career later in life. She is the oldest graduate from a Lithuanian university, an endeavor she began after her husband died. In addition, she is President of the Anyksciai Women's Club. Elvyra actively engages herself in women's issues and looks for every opportunity to improve the status of women in Lithuania.

About personal barriers that prevent women from becoming leaders, from my experience here in Lithuania, I do not believe women fear power. Some women simply do not have time to be leaders outside the home. For example, women tend the gardens, do all the canning of vegetables, milk the cows, and also keep house. These duties leave little time for anything else. Others simply may have not thought about it. Many people here are just thankful to have a job, regardless of its leadership potential. That said, my school's director and vice-directors are all women, so students do have women in decision-making, leadership positions for role models.

Furthermore, at the end of the last school year, approximately half of my students (including the boys) knew only that they wanted to go to university, but not which university or what course of study they would follow. Again, from my experience in the classroom, the situation with young women (and men alike) seems to be one of not knowing how to make choices. In school, students do not choose any subjects except their foreign languages. Few people in small-town Lithuania have access to the Internet or even decent world news coverage. They live in a somewhat disconnected world. However, many know this and want to change it, but lack the opportunity or financial ability.

In my classroom, I see students looking to their classmates for consensus, and very few dare to debate each other or me. So the first problem I battle is to get students to think for themselves. When they can do that, then I see great changes taking place within them. These changes now will have a positive effect in the future.

Thank you for letting me share my experiences and opinions with you.


Jennifer Knoeber

U.S. Peace Corps

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Story Source: Women-Power List Archive

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lithuania



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