Women’s Empowerment in Mfuwe, Zambia

 

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Writ­ten on July 14, 2013 by Shau­niece Drayton

Before com­ing to Zam­bia, we had to do research on one out of three top­ics to focus on while in Zam­bia. There were three cohorts and I chose to be a part of the women’s empow­er­ment group because that is where my pas­sion lies. I have been a part of activ­i­ties aimed towards women’s empow­er­ment on cam­pus, so nat­u­rally I grav­i­tated towards this when I was given the oppor­tu­nity. What I expected to do, and what I have expe­ri­enced so far couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent. I am learn­ing new things about their cul­ture and soci­etal beliefs that are dif­fer­ent from Amer­ica and other west­ern nations. In Zam­bia they do not use the term “empow­er­ment” because it’s seen as an aggres­sive term. Instead the girls from Mfuwe day school said to call it women’s encour­age­ment, and they really want to focus on improv­ing girl’s confidence.

Some of the ten­sion with using the word empow­er­ment comes from the strong tra­di­tional beliefs that exist in Zam­bia. There is a gen­er­a­tional gap in beliefs and val­ues between the old gen­er­a­tion (grand­par­ents) and the youth. The old gen­er­a­tion is more tra­di­tional and the youth are bring­ing in new ideas of thought. For exam­ple the elder gen­er­a­tion val­ues mar­riage and believes that it is the women/girls job to take care of the house chores. This can cause fric­tion because some girls who really value school may not have time to study due to these responsibilities.

We part­nered with Karin and Dave who run the NGO Project Luangwa, and started a girls club at Mfuwe day school. We have met the girls once and will meet with them two more times before leav­ing. We also planned a girl’s day cel­e­bra­tion for the girls at Mfuwe day school. The whole day was packed with activ­i­ties, ice break­ers, and get­ting to know each other. We ended up hav­ing about fif­teen girls there! The girls arrived in the morn­ing, and we started with some ice breaker games out in the yard. We played some games we learned pre­vi­ous to com­ing to Mfuwe such as Seven, and I Pe-pe-ta. The girls had a lot of danc­ing and singing games they taught us such as I do what I do, and Send a Let­ter. After warm­ing up and get­ting to know each other a lit­tle bet­ter we went inside to start a dif­fer­ent activ­ity. We decided to make friend­ship bracelets with the girls. We had dif­fer­ent col­ored string laid out and each string rep­re­sented a word. For instance we had strength, con­fi­dence, courage, pas­sion, deter­mi­na­tion, and wis­dom. To make the bracelets we just used a sim­ple braid­ing tech­nique and let the girls choose three dif­fer­ent col­ored strings to cre­ate their friend­ship bracelet. This activ­ity felt spe­cial to me because there was so much mean­ing in which strings you picked. The rest of the day was filled with bra fit­ting (we mea­sured the girls bust sizes and gave them bras to take home), lunch, and more games. At lunch we had a dis­cus­sion with the girls about top­ics they wanted to talk about. They asked us ques­tions about boys, edu­ca­tion, and things they wanted to know about the U.S. The thing that struck me the most from this day was the fact that these girls have their own agency, they don’t need us (Amer­i­cans) to come in and save them, or tell them how to live. Instead, we were there as friends and men­tors shar­ing knowl­edge and frus­tra­tions that we all expe­ri­ence. I feel like this day is some­thing that I will remem­ber for the rest of my life and I feel blessed to have had the oppor­tu­nity to meet these girls.

 

For more infor­ma­tion on Project Luangwa like them on Face­book: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Luangwa/101212036590238

Lions, Elephants, Giraffes, Oh My!

Writ­ten by Shau­niece Dray­ton on July 7, 2013

Marula Lodge in Mfuwe is a spe­cial place. It is located in the most rural area of the coun­try along the Luangwa River. I remem­ber when we first arrived and I had no idea what to expect as we piled our dusty bags on top of each other. The owner of the lodge took us on a quick tour of the prop­erty. She showed us where the out­door bath­rooms were, the com­mon area, and the beau­ti­ful river that we had front row access to. Hav­ing only been to the more urban parts of the coun­try we had not seen many ani­mals. She informed us that the large “rocks” in the water were actu­ally hip­pos, and we even saw croc­o­diles bathing in the sun. She informed us of the rules of the lodge one being if you run into an ele­phant, you must freeze, and not make any sud­den move­ments. That was a lit­tle wor­ri­some for me con­sid­er­ing I had never seen a wild ele­phant before! Funny enough that very night I had to prac­tice that rule, and believe me I did not move a mus­cle. Another rule was that at night we had to use a flash­light and staff had to escort us when walk­ing around. Appar­ently the hip­pos, and ele­phants came out to graze at night and you wouldn’t want to star­tle one of them unexpectedly.

When we were get­ting assigned to our rooms I was pray­ing that I wasn’t in a tent. My biggest fear was that I would get smashed by a hippo or ele­phant who was try­ing to graze on the trees above the tents. Luck­ily, I was granted a room. Although a cou­ple nights ago I woke up from a strange drag­ging sound. I climbed out of my mos­quito net secured bed and peeked out the win­dow, that’s when I saw a huge hippo walk­ing slowly right past my room! That was some­thing I’ll never for­get because it was so close, and I was the only one awake to wit­ness it. It’s silly, some­how the only emo­tion I could feel was fear, like the hippo would sense me star­ing at it and come stam­ped­ing through the win­dow. I have had to make a habit of wear­ing ear plugs to bed because of all the strange sounds. Ele­phants rip­ping leaves off the trees, and mon­keys run­ning around on the ceil­ing above to name a few. One thing that really sur­prised me about the ele­phants is the fact that they are extremely quiet when they move. Unless they are pulling branches off a tree they are very light on their feet, which seems strange for an ani­mal of that size.

Marula lodge has become a kind of home for me, we are stay­ing for two weeks, the longest amount of time in one area since arriv­ing in Zam­bia. While we are here we get to work with dif­fer­ent schools in the area, go on safari rides, and work with a non-government orga­ni­za­tion (NGO) called Project Luangwa. My favorite part of the safari rides so far are the sun sets and the sun rises. The way that the fiery red sun rises and sets in the sky is noth­ing like I have ever seen. It is absolutely mag­i­cal against the back­drop of the trees and vast plains. Not only do I get to expe­ri­ence beauty in the form of nature, but I have already learned a lot about the ani­mals in the South Luangwa Park. Yes, park, not a zoo these ani­mals roam free and I feel like the intruder on their ter­ri­tory. I got to see so many large ani­mals that I had only ever seen on TV or in a zoo. Lions, giraffe, hippo, zebras, ele­phants, leop­ards, hyena, warthogs, bison, and gazelles. I learned that zebras travel in a heard because their stripes make it harder for preda­tors to catch them, and that you an tell the age of a giraffe by the light or dark color of its spots. Last night we went on an evening safari ride and we stalked a leop­ard, hop­ing to see it catch a gazelle. Although we did not get to see it in action, the night was excit­ing enough, a bumpy ride in an open safari car at night, ani­mals on the hunt, no wor­ries right? Well I’m still here and enjoy­ing my time. This place feels sur­real to me, like I am in the great­est dream of my life.

For more infor­ma­tion on Project Luangwa like them on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Luangwa/101212036590238

Embarking on a New Journey

Blog by Shau­niece Dray­ton, Com­mu­nity Psy­chol­ogy, Study Abroad–Zambia
Writ­ten on June 21, 2013

Shauniece - Zambia New JourneyIt’s always kind of nerve rack­ing to take that first step towards one of your dreams. But­ter­flies. That’s what I felt when I was sit­ting at the JFK air­port in New York wait­ing for my nine hour flight to Ger­many. It was my first time to Ger­many, and my first time fly­ing alone inter­na­tion­ally. I had one eigh­teen pound back­pack that was filled with all my “neces­si­ties” for a month, and a fifty pound suit­case that was filled with dona­tions for dif­fer­ent schools and orga­ni­za­tions in Zam­bia. Can I do this? Is this really hap­pen­ing? Did I pack every­thing that I need? I remem­ber think­ing to myself I will be away from fam­ily, friends, and my life for over a month, which is crazy because I had never been away for that long. Think­ing about the next month was daunt­ing, like time itself would slow down while I was away.

I live in Seat­tle, but I was about to be on the other side of the world in no less than thirty two hours! It’s so excit­ing to travel, but one thing I had to learn was patience. I had two plane trans­fers and hours of lay­overs before I actu­ally landed in Zam­bia. My first stop was in Frank­furt Ger­many. The Frank­furt air­port was huge, there were plenty of food stores and shop­ping to do, but I had to keep myself occu­pied for a 9 hour lay­over. The best thing about the Frank­furt air­port was the show­ers. After a long flight there is noth­ing bet­ter than the com­fort of clean water and a fresh feel­ing. The peo­ple were nice, but I felt so out of place because I stuck out like a sore thumb! I roamed around, had a cof­fee and sand­wich, and then went to a quite area to nap. In Frank­furt every five min­utes a per­son on an inter­com will announce upcom­ing flights that are leav­ing. This made for an inter­est­ing nap, because I would be half asleep dream­ing I missed my flight, and jump up only to real­ize I still had hours of waiting.

The next leg of my jour­ney took me to Johan­nes­burg, South Africa. At this point I was excited because I was on the actual con­ti­nent of my final des­ti­na­tion. Just a two hour flight away from the place I would call home for the next month. Up until this point I had been com­pletely alone. I was wait­ing in the secu­rity line when I turned around and saw two of my class­mates who would be join­ing me on the trip, and I have say it was nice to finally see a famil­iar face. I spent the next few hours chat­ting with my new class­mates and eat­ing a break­fast con­sist­ing of a vanilla latte and a but­ter crois­sant. Yum!

After two long hours of antic­i­pa­tion I had finally landed in Zam­bia. I did not know what to expect when step­ping off that plane. I did not know what the air was going to smell like, or what the peo­ple were like, but I was excited to find out. Wait­ing in line at the air­port to receive a visa was some­thing that was new to me. When I got up to the desk they asked who I was, my rea­son for stay­ing, and how long I was stay­ing. The peo­ple work­ing the visa desks were all about busi­ness. I arrived in Zam­bia June 23, 2013, my flight back to the states was sched­uled to leave July 24, 2013. This of course was just over a month and the air­port was only allowed to give out vis­i­tor visas for a total of thirty days. They told me that I would have to renew my visa if I was stay­ing longer and gave no fur­ther expla­na­tion. I was directed to pass through onto the next check point. Feel­ing a bit over­whelmed and con­fused about what I was going to do once the time came to renew my visa I moved for­ward into the bag­gage claim area. After claim­ing my dona­tion suit­case and pass­ing through yet another check point area I finally saw Leslie, the direc­tor of my pro­gram smil­ing and wav­ing to us in a yel­low sun hat. The first rush of Zam­bian air I felt was when I walked through the doors leav­ing the air­port. This was fol­lowed by a high rush of excite­ment on what I was about to see as well as the peo­ple I was going to meet.