Tag Archives: gender

Arrival and First Field Visit

14 Jun

Hello all! I am safe and sound in Addis Ababa. Firstly, all the rumours you have heard about Ethiopia – the friendly and beautiful people, the good food, the amazing coffee – they are all completely true. I am settling in with the city, although work is starting out slowly.

However, I did get to visit one of World Vision’s ADPs (Area Development Program). Jeju is east of Addis Ababa and is one of the ADPs in Ethiopia sponsored by World Vision Canada. World Vision Ethiopia has 5 main projects in this area: livelihood development, water projects (such as irrigation), education (such as building schools), health (like building primary care clinics) and savings accounts for children.

Wisdom Microfinance is World Vision Ethiopia’s partner for livelihood development projects, and it is these projects that I am working on. In Jeju, Wisdom Microfinance has over 2,000 active borrowers, making it the organization’s largest branch. The loans given out are in 4 different categories: personal, family, agriculture and business. The borrowers are over 75% women and this area has less than 1% of borrowers default – an impressive number, even in microfinance! The average loan is approximately 3,700 Ethiopian birr (about $200) and are paid back in anywhere from 3 to 15 months. The impact of this project reaches approximately 10,000 children, and all of the borrowers I had the opportunity to meet were sending all school-aged children to school.

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Three borrowers at the Wisdom office to receive their loan.

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Some of the borrowers we visited and their families. One of the borrowers I met told me (but keep in mind that it was translated from Oromifa to Amharic to English): “This is a great project. Before this, we had no opportunity and no access to financial services. But now we have this opportunity and can farm and send our children to school.”

So, if you are a World Vision sponsor, this could be the type of project that your money is going to support!

All in all, it was a successful first visit, and I am very excited to dive into work and to visit the ADPs my project is focused on.

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Stigmas Against Breastfeeding in Public

17 May

Throughout my time in Botswana, I saw and experienced many stigmas, including surrounding breastfeeding. It was expected that all new mothers should breastfeed and that if she did not breastfeed it was assumed that she was HIV-positive. Therefore, mothers would proudly breastfeed wherever she was – at a shop, on the bus, or at a restaurant. 

In Canada, we still have the expectation that all mothers should breastfeed. However, it is stigmatized whenever a woman does it in public. I worked as a lifeguard at a public pool and since it is legal in Ontario for a woman to be topless (regardless of if she is breastfeeding), we could not ask a woman to not breastfeed. But, if another customer complains about it, then we were instructed to tell the breastfeeding mother that she was making others uncomfortable. I have heard similar stories of this happening in many public areas.

So while society expects women to breastfeed, women are shamed for doing it publicly. They are expected to breastfeed – but only in private or with a scarf or blanket covering their breast.

Why does this stigma exist?

Please read the rest of this post, originally published on the International Women’s Initiative Survivors’ Blog

Video

The Impossible Dream?

16 May

At training for my new job, we spent an afternoon exploring gender issues and gender analysis strategies. This animated video from 1983 by the United Nations was played for us to generate some discussion.

I think that it highlights the double work-load that many women face, and how some women may feel like they are stuck with an impossible dream. It also made me realize two things:
1) How far some families have moved from her reality, and;
2) How many families’ reality is still the same as the video.

What do you think? Can we achieve the impossible dream in our lifetime?

Bride Price in Botswana

22 Mar

This is an excerpt from my original post for the International Women’s Initiative’s Survivor’s Blog. To read the full blog, please follow this link

“At the most basic understanding of lebola, paying a bride price turns a woman into a commodity that can be bought and sold. The meaning and the implementation of the lebola has changed and been molded over time and current practices do not necessarily represent the tradition of a lebola in Botswana. In theory, the lebola is supposed to be a man’s way of showing appreciation and recognition of the woman’s value to her parents. However in practice, the lebola often limits a woman’s control and decision-making power in her marriage.”

Better Late than Never

26 Feb

Hey all, sorry for my lack of updates lately! I have been having a difficult time since the holidays, and have definitely been feeling a little homesick and more than a little unmotivated. There hasn’t been a lot of work for me to do at my organization which was very frustrating for me, but finally things are starting to pick up. I have a few small projects to work on and I have been able to attend a few regional forum on the organization’s behalf. A lot of what I am doing is preparing material for the organization once funding comes in. For example, I am designing a gender workshop with many different sessions (sexual health, domestic violence, alcohol and values and norms to name a few) so that when I am gone, they have all the necessary materials to facilitate the workshop. 

Apart from work, I am definitely feeling a lot more at home here in Ghanzi. I have made a good group of friends and feel like I am starting to fit in better socially. It definitely makes a difference when you get invited to parties, to baby showers and other social events! I am also getting SUPER excited about my upcoming vacation with Heather and Kelsey to Namibia and Cape Town! 

Marriage can help further your career – but only if you’re a man

28 Jan

My youngest brother was born with health complications that made it necessary to have one parent caring for him full-time. My mother assumed this role, and never returned back to work full-time once her maternity leave was finished, in order to care for my brother. This decision made sense because although my mother had a great career as an equine researcher at a university, my father had a higher earning potential as a software engineer. But even if my mother had returned to work, she would have been years behind on the career track compared to a counterpart that never took time off.

Alexis Coe wrote an article in The Atlantic which discusses the role that gender plays in the promotions of professors. She writes that female historian professors who had never married were promoted from associate to full professor in an average of 6.7 years, while their married counterparts took an average of 7.8 years to be promoted. On the contrary, their male counterparts who had been married were promoted in 5.9 years, while unmarried men took slightly longer to advance at 6.4 years. So why does marriage help further the careers of men while slowing down women’s careers?

Read the rest of this post on the IWI Survivor Blog

Gender and Health Workshop

3 Dec

This week Gantsi Craft hosted a gender and health workshop in collaboration with Letloa Health (another branch in the Kuru Family of Organizations). The aims of the workshop were to raise awareness and encourage open discussion on health and gender issues. What made this workshop unique compared to workshops in the past, was that it was held with both men and women.

The first day we had officers from the Ghanzi Clinic to come facilitate a session on family planning. The participants seemed really engaged and asked questions about different forms of contraception. It was particularly encouraging to see men be curious and ask questions about contraceptives that are used by women (the IUD had the most interest and questions).

The Ghanzi Clinic officer then demonstrated how to properly use a female condom, which got a ton of giggles and awkward faces from our participants – it reminded me of a grade six health class! But that was nothing compared to when she demonstrated how to properly use a male condom – by using a huge dildo.

As funny as it was to see all of the awkward reactions from participants, it highlighted how important workshops such as these are. Since sex and gender are not openly talked about, it is so important to have workshops where people can gain information, and most importantly, ask questions and generate discussions.

The most useful dialogue came on the second day. We did an exercise where the facilitator would read a statement, then participants would stand by one of the following signs: Strong Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree. There was often a very clear gender divide on some of the statements, such as “It is harder to be a woman in this world.” We discussed every statement, and it was really valuable to have both men and women explain what they feel.

Overall, I was really happy with the workshop – it felt like I had finally done something that was actually in my mandate! Now I have my fingers crossed that we will get funding to do these workshops in all of the settlements we work with.