Female Leadership Community at Ocean Academy in Caye Caulker, Belize

The Ocean Academy Female Leadership community (FLC) is an elective enrichment program that empowers young women to strengthen their leadership skills, while experiencing growth and identity development through the power of sharing, teamwork, and earned success.

Encourage them in becoming a strong, fierce, and empowered woman! A leader for their community! Working with other young women to create a unique community entirely dedicated to their needs.

The FLC is conducted around 3 units: ignite, educate and agitate.

Ignite: Create community through safe space creation, sharing of stories, empowerment rituals, and sistahood.

Educate: Empower young peoples’ minds through the exploration of the unique issues affecting young women today through reading, researching, and journaling.

Agitate: Become empowered leaders through the development of a community-based action project that will ignite and educate other youth and/or the larger community, and share the values of the FLC community.


Too Young to Wed

©Stephanie Sinclair

This year in our FLC meetings we are also exploring the larger world around us and learning, reading and writing about needs of other girls around the word.

In a 3-week session we studied:
Too Young to Wed - The secret world of child brides
By Cynthia Gorney & Photograph by Stephanie Sinclair
(please note the copyright for essay & photography belongs to Cynthia Gorney and Stephanie Sinclair)

Because the wedding was illegal and a secret, except to the invited guests, and because marriage rites in Rajasthan are often conducted late at night, it was well into the afternoon before the three girl brides in this dry farm settlement in the north of India began to prepare themselves for their sacred vows. They squatted side by side on the dirt, a crowd of village women holding sari cloth around them as a makeshift curtain, and poured soapy water from a metal pan over their heads. Two of the brides, the sisters Radha and Gora, were 15 and 13, old enough to understand what was happening. The third, their niece Rajani, was 5. She wore a pink T-shirt with a butterfly design on the shoulder. A grown-up helped her pull it off to bathe.
The grooms were en route from their own village, many miles away. No one could afford an elephant or the lavishly saddled horses that would have been ceremonially correct for the grooms' entrance to the wedding, so they were coming by car and were expected to arrive high-spirited and drunk. The only local person to have met the grooms was the father of the two oldest girls, a slender gray-haired farmer with a straight back and a drooping mustache. This farmer, whom I will call Mr. M, was both proud and wary as he surveyed guests funneling up the rocky path toward the bright silks draped over poles for shade; he knew that if a nonbribable police officer found out what was under way, the wedding might be interrupted mid-ceremony, bringing criminal arrests and lingering shame to his family….

…The people who work full-time trying to prevent child marriage, and to improve women's lives in societies of rigid tradition, are the first to smack down the impertinent notion that anything about this endeavor is simple. Forced early marriage thrives to this day in many regions of the world—arranged by parents for their own children, often in defiance of national laws, and understood by whole communities as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternatives, especially if they carry a risk of her losing her virginity to someone besides her husband, are unacceptable…

To read the full essay and see more photography please go to: