Archive for the ‘Women Making Mischief’ Category
On Fridays we explain independent clauses, but on Mondays and Thursdays we taught (until recently) an entirely different kind of English class. We traveled to Gisozi, the site of one GG project started by Evariste in 2008. The Community Vocational Training School teaches tailoring to vulnerable women (widows, orphans, and prostitutes), and in October we attended the graduation of this year’s class of 24 women, many of whom are using this marketable skill to leave prostitution or free themselves from dependence on an abusive husband. At the reception, we were drinking Fanta and eating bread when some of the women asked Evariste if we could teach them English.
A few days later, Christina and I said yes. Although we receive at least two requests per day for English lessons (taxi drivers, shopkeepers, and teammates are all eager to keep pace after the country’s 2008 shift from French to English), we decided that this class fit with our project because it could improve the graduates’ employability. If a tailor can speak enough English to take measurements of and negotiate with tourists and ex-pats, she or he will be quite popular. (Everyone knows Josephine, the go-to English-speaker in our market.) So, we agreed to a month-long class, thinking that was enough time to teach some occupational English.
Teaching women who have never been to school is not as difficult as I anticipated. It took a long time for the one or two illiterate girls to copy from the board, letter by letter, and the general pace was pretty slow, but most of them grasped the concepts the first time around. They are very eager learners. They took notes on everything, and somehow, between sewing, cooking, and caring for their families, they always found time to do the homework. No one complained about writing on their laps while perched on wooden stools and chairs that collapse without warning. For good lighting, they dragged the one-legged blackboard out onto the front porch of the school. We hadn’t quite figured out yet how to prop it up and on the first day of school, it may or may not have careened forward onto me mid-explanation of ‘I am’. A blackboard falling from the sky was a first in all my school experience, but some things are apparently international: the know-it-alls sit in front, the shy ones never raise their hands, and there was a class clown, Josiane. Looking back, I’m impressed she let that blackboard incident slide… by the end all someone has to do was accidentally say “I am a boy,” and she had the female offender collapsed in giggles. The laughter would die down until someone piped up, “Are you a boy?” and we all deteriorated again. Our classroom management skills may be lacking, but it’s ok—they’d mastered interrogatives!
In 1910, the First International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen created International Women’s Day, which wasn’t designated as March 8th until 1977 by the UN. (Ok, so the ‘100th Anniversary’ claim is suspect, and was possibly used last year as well, but everyone here is still excited.) My waiter at breakfast wished me a Happy Women’s Day, and a motorcycle driver shouted well wishes after me as I walked down the street in Kampala. Unfortunately, the sentiment was probably the same as when motos SSss at me every other day of the year, which our Rwandan male friends claim are all for men. “I don’t know why you need a special day for you, unless you’re admitting that the other 364 are for us,” Marlene’s husband told us.
Nonetheless, Women’s Day is a big holiday in Rwanda and Uganda (and an official public holiday in Afghanistan and China among others, according to Wikipedia). Some businesses are closed, organizations host special events, and articles about female empowerment run in the government paper. The Director of the Center for Gender and Cultural Development is hosting a celebratory breakfast at her home this morning, and we are speaking at a conference on gender research and activism this weekend.
In a country where we spend our days hearing stories of discrimination, gender-based violence, and inequality in educating daughters vs sons, formal support for women is encouraging, but according to our teams, not yet enough- that’s why they keep calling us! In the meantime, I’ll continue arguing with Marlene’s husband, laughing along with Elvis at the supermarket because I insist on carrying my own jug of water to the register, and wearing long skirts to frisbee before changing into shorts and running alongside teammates who inform me they’re going to marry three wives. …And then I intercept his pass and all is right in the world.
- Women who are widows, orphans and former commercial sex workers lining up for the group picture at the 2010 graduation ceremony for the Community Vocational Training School, a social venture that receives GG seed funding and training. CVTS teaches the women how to sew so they can support themselves.
Conscious Social Change
Personal Growth Sabbatical
Intentional Fast for Darfur
Journeys to Rwanda
The Transformational Capacity Project
Trauma Healing in Haiti
Women Making Mischief
An Inspiring Start to My Visit with Global Grassroots’ Teams
Women Leaning In and Leading from Within at the “G-Level”
Asking the Poor for Money: Creative Fundraising in Rural Villages
Mixing Cultures: A Job Interview in Rwanda
Literacy: A Love Story
April Showers Bring May Flowers
When communities get smart, girls don’t drop out
On Love. And Shooting B roll of a Filmmaker.
Genocide Commemoration: A guilty conscience on April 9th
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