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