Tag Archives: women

Photo fortnight

Two weeks go by fast. We didn’t do a proper exhibition in the end; the timing felt a bit too tight to select photos and get them printed before I left, partly because there was no power to use computers when we needed to. Instead, I sent the group out to do some video interviewing (luckily I had spare batteries). Day one of video worked really well – they liked getting out to a new place and asking and answering questions on camera. Day two was hard work though. The group wanted to practice by interviewing teachers and school pupils but got caught up in the labyrinthine formalities of sitting in the headmaster’s office trying to explain their reasons. Finally, the HM, as they’re known here, sent three pupils out to answer the group’s  questions, but they were all so terrified and shy that they could barely be heard on camera, while the teacher has asked them to do it all over again when they’ve had more time to prepare. It was, I guess, a useful learning experience…

So, what was the real value of all of this?  Continue reading

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Sticking around

Home salon

Home salon

There are two other mzungus staying in the village at the moment – a pair of young English volunteers with the UK International Citizen Service programme. They work along with Ugandan volunteers, so the talks they give on sexual and reproductive health can be translated into Luganda or Lusoga.

At the weekend, the volunteers talked about HIV/AIDS to the women at the end of the crafts session. It wasn’t very interactive and it was hard to tell if many people were listening – or understood the dry, scientific explanations. They were silent though, during the condom demonstration, and gathered stacks of female condoms to take home. Continue reading

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Who’s in?

Photo by Shakul

Photo by Shakul

I’ve almost adapted to African timekeeping, but I still don’t get the agreeing to come the next day and then you find out that person had something else on (like school), that everyone else in the group knew about and just didn’t tell you in the first place. Is it that they want to please the figure of authority, the foreigner – and they just tell us what they think we want to hear?

In the meantime, one of the guys who does turn up should actually be in school, but isn’t going – as far as I can work out, because he hasn’t been able to pay school fees. My first reaction was to send him away to avoid encouraging skipping school, but if he really has been sent home, isn’t it better he’s here, maybe learning something? Continue reading

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Vanilla or passionfruit?

Discussing the pros and cons of female condoms in a meeting today with a 50-something colleague I’d just met was slightly surreal. This is our new  HIV & AIDS expert, and she is nothing like the person I’d imagined based on the rather stern, direct, e-mails she’d sent. “I like to be a little provocative”, she said, with a cheeky glint in her eye. At headquarters back in Europe she’s been giving out flavoured condoms and asking her (old and married) co-workers what they think of the passionfruit ones.

Anyway, my colleague is trying to launch our organisation’s HIV & AIDS workplace policy; apparently, we’re one of the last of the development aid agencies to even have one. Tanzania will be one of our first countries to start work. And according to the policy, where HIV prevalence is greater than one % , a ready supply of free condoms is to be provided (just over 5% of adults are HIV positive here). Continue reading

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Trepidation / Inspiration

Putting things positively

Bad experiences accumulate: another friend gets violently robbed. It’s hard to resist the negative feeling that causes, especially when they talk about giving up and going home.

But the good Tanzania is also a bit contagious – the little sparks of inspiration here and there that remind me I’m not done here yet, only just beginning to get to the good stuff.

There’s actually no shortage of media setting out to change the negative images we have, to tell more good stories out of Africa. By now they too seem to be becoming a bit clichéd.

Even better is encountering the positive stuff directly.

In no particular order, then, some of the people I’ve met recently who aint put off by what can be an unforgiving climate to actually make things happen: Continue reading

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Chicken Licken goes to Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a bit gloomy in the drizzle, in low season. Especially when you leave the faded beauty of Stone Town. But I quite liked the cool, grey weather, the empty streets, and the quiet.










Continue reading

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Her brown shoes

Today, in my first video storytelling class, the tutor showed us this video – an example of what a woman in Sierra Leone made when they sent her off with a camera to record something about her life. I love it.

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Through her eyes

International Women’s Day, and all the donors (or “Development Partners”, if you please) and NGOs and media are jumping on the bandwagon to frame their cause through a woman’s eyes. (More on “piggy-backing” your issue onto the topic of the day in this beautifully written piece on famine.)

Well, I’m doing it too. As part of my job here I’m supposed to contribute to another blog. We don’t do anything specifically aimed at women though. Instead, I wondered what issues face women in general, and the one that grabbed me was this: they are often forbidden from inheriting land. Continue reading

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Lonely adventures

Some people wouldn’t consider sitting in Starbucks alone. Others think nothing of travelling solo across a continent or sailing an ocean single-handed. I suppose I am somewhere in between. I like the idea of travelling alone but in reality usually end up getting a bit lonely, or with too much time to think, a bit gloomy. People always insist you meet others more easily when you’re alone, but that only happens if you’re being sociable and open – and unless you’re a natural extrovert, it’s hard work to keep that up after a 12 hour bus journey or a day of museums has plunged you into the depths of despair over the human condition. (Some amusing thoughts on making friends while travelling here.) Then there’s the sheer inconvenience of it all: without a friend to mind your bags while you go to the loo you end up tackling a long-drop and urine-soaked floor by trying to hook your backpack round your neck as you squat and cover your nose and mouth from the smell. Continue reading

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