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.