Maharani helps girls understand themselves better, school counsellor Maureen says
Teacher and school counsellor Maureen was among the educators who were involved in the earliest Maharani camps held in Sungai Siput, Perak in 2010.
“I was in the first batch of teachers who participated in the Maharani camp as an observer and coordinator. As a school counsellor, I have seen many issues that plague teenagers such as the struggle to understand their body image, relationships, and sexuality. I am happy to know that Maharani addresses all these in their modules,” she said.
She was pleasantly surprised that despite the programme and such a camp being a new concept in the Sungai Siput area, it received warm welcome and cooperation from the schools, the Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) as well as parents themselves.
“The girls were very excited to participate since such a camp was new for them. The parents, on the other hand, were equally curious and many of them came on the last day of the camp, to see for themselves what the camp was all about,” Maureen said.
According to Maureen, based on her experience as a school counsellor, she has always found that many of the girls do not know what they want in life or what they aspire to be.
“I am happy that the Maharani programme touches upon topics like sexuality and health, boy-girl relationship, and tries to tackle the emotional upheaval and the problems these girls face at school and helps them to understand how they can achieve their dreams,” she said.
Maureen said she could never forget the scene on the last day of the camp when the students formed a circle and began to ask for forgiveness for their rude behaviours and actions in the past and thanked everyone for helping them realise how they have hurt others through their words and actions.
“It was an unforgettable and very touching moment as the girls cried. Many of them came from troubled backgrounds and were always arguing and fighting among themselves but during that session, they made up and hugged each other.
“The girls also told me that they now understood and appreciated what their parents and teachers have done for them and expressed their desire to be better daughters and students,” she added.
Maureen participated in two more camps after that till she moved to another school.
“I hope more such camps are organised as it provides good exposure to these girls who come from small towns without many opportunities to explore or participate in camps and activities. Since the trainers are also young women from Universities, the young participating girls bonded well with them and looked up to them,” she added.
The Maharani Programme, initiated by RYTHM Foundation in 2010 has helped over 7500 girls in Malaysia between the ages of 13 to 16 from poor and marginalised communities, providing skills and knowledge to enable them to identify and work towards their full potential.
Through the Maharani programme, the girls learn about gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, ethnicity and culture, and the importance of physical and spiritual wellness. They now have the knowledge and tools to develop into conﬁdent, responsible and civic-minded women.