This past Monday marked our first full week spent in Bagamoyo, working with Gladness and Elias at the Sasamani office. It was an amazing week, spent meeting Sasamani students and visiting Kingani Secondary School, one of the three secondary schools in Bagamoyo attended by Sasamani sponsor students. On our first visit to Kingani, we had the opportunity to talk with the Second Headmaster, Mr. Stevens, who shared with us valuable insight on the landscape of Tanzanian education and the most pressing needs he sees for students. We are currently working to understand the kinds of skills that are most important to impart in secondary school students for their academic and social success moving forward, and our conversation with Mr. Stevens was immensely helpful. Mr. Stevens proceeded to bring us to a classroom of around 20 form four girls, who talked to us about what they have learned in school about gender and gender inequalities; we had an amazing informal chat with them about gender roles in Tanzania and the United States. We also met a group of incredible Sasamani students at Kingani. The girls brought out drums and insisted that we dance and sing with them. The girls are also pushing us to learn more Swahili; we promised Kaituni and Esther that we would learn 10 new Swahili words by the time we saw them again on Monday, and so we spent the weekend studying up!
Franceine and I also put our teacher hats on for the first time this week. At Kingani, Franceine taught a form 4 class lab practical involving separating photosynthetic pigments from leaves via chromatography. On Monday, I worked with a group of Form 3 students, leading a class discussion on sociology and gender socialization. We talked about how we learn gender, and brainstormed the characteristics of femininity and masculinity that have become norms in our lives. It was an absolute privilege working with the students, and we are looking forward to doing the same at Kiromo and Matimbwa Secondary Schools in the coming weeks.
Back at the Sasamani office, we had the utmost privilege of interviewing four incredible Sasamani sponsor students, Shufaa, Siaba, Mbaraka, and Ramadan, who have all graduated from secondary school and who have continued to pursue their education with the help of Sasamani. Shufaa has graduated from Form 4 and is currently applying for college; Siaba has just been accepted into a four-year nursing university; Mbaraka is currenly applying for nursing college; and Ramadan has received his Bachelors of Science in Biotechnology from Sokoine University of Agriculture, and is currently volunteering at Ifakara Health Institute doing malaria research, while simultaneously teaching biology and chemistry to Form 1 through Form 4 students at a secondary school in Bagamoyo. It was incredibly humbling and inspiring to hear the stories of these four amazing individuals, who are not only intelligent, determined and hardworking, but also kind and giving.
We feel so at home here in Bagamoyo, staying with Gladness and Allen in their beautiful home; spending time with Elias, Salome, and their 2-year old daughter, Natasha; meeting Gladness’ pastor; being invited to the home of Maria, a tailor who made us clothes from Tanzanian Kanga cloth; and being invited to the home of the Kingani headmaster to meet his children. We are so grateful for the warm welcome, and happy to be here!
All the best,
Last week, Rachael and I spent time meeting with several organizations, including the German Development Agency (GIZ), the Young Women’s Christian Association, Femina Hip and UNESCO, to get a better idea of what the landscape of women’s empowerment initiatives in Tanzania is like. We were able to connect with the Deputy Executive Director for the Young Women’s Christian Association to spread the word about next years’ Women Leading Change conference to their 21 branches in Tanzania along with others in East Africa. During our meeting with Femina Hip we became more familiar with the impact the Fema magazine has had on secondary schools in Tanzania over the past twenty years. Rachael and I have taken it upon ourselves to try to make sure each of the three schools attended by Sasamani sponsor students have active Fema clubs because the issues discussed in their magazines are pertinent to the Sasamani mission of poverty alleviation through women’s empowerment.
For our last weekend of our time spent in Dar es Salaam, Rachael and I traveled to Zanzibar. Due to the help of many friends (I have to say people in Tanzania are by far the nicest I have ever encountered), our ferry ride and transport to our beach bungalow in Nungwi was cheap and stress free. Zanzibar was the most beautiful place I have ever been and by the end of the weekend Rachael and I knew everyone on our part of the beach and every shop owner. We really had a blast and felt at home! We have even decided that we will return to Zanzibar for another weekend before our internship ends. After returning from Zanzibar, we traveled to Bagamoyo to begin our four week stay with Gladness. We are feeling very welcomed and excited to work closely with Gladness, Elias and the Sasamani students.
Talk again soon,
The beach in northern Zanzibar
This past Friday, Franceine and I had the immense privilege of meeting nine members of the cohort of women from the 2018 Women Leading Change program. The women met for an evening of dinner and conversation - an opportunity to connect with one another, catch up, and to continue to uphold and strengthen the powerful network created by the Women Leading Change program. Franceine and I conducted video interviews at the event, asking each woman how WLC has impacted her life and work since the end of the course. They each talked about the individual impact of the program, and almost all touched on how the network of women they have met has not only provided them with a source of professional support, but also one of friendship. It was amazing and inspiring to hear participants talk about the skills they have applied in their careers: how to be a leader, not a boss; how to handle stress; how to take care of self. One participant shared that it has been because of the Women Leading Change program that she decided to quit her job and pursue her own business. She had been working a full time job whilst simultaneously pursuing her own business on the side, and she explained that because of the conference and the support of her coach, she finally felt the bravery to take the leap and pursue her own business full-time!
Beyond planning the WLC event on Friday, our past week was spent researching and reaching out to embassies, education-based organizations, community centers, and women’s empowerment organizations to ask for meetings and begin compiling a list of potential partnership organizations and grants opportunities for Sasamani moving forward. We also started to work on a marketing/PR plan to spread the word about WLC to a wider audience of women leaders in East Africa.
In other news, this week has introduced me to two of my new favorite foods: Chipsi Mayai (an omelet of fries cooked with egg, covered in tomato sauce) and fried cassava. The foodie in me is thoroughly enjoying Tanzania thus far!