Meet Cedar Tanzania's new volunteer!

Hello Everyone!

My name is Livia Copley. I am 20 years old and I come from a small town called Zug in central Switzerland. I have a diploma in business and have recently completed a one year internship at a law firm as a receptionist and an assistant. I arrived here in Mwanza on the 2nd of October and I am looking forward to spending the next two months volunteering for Cedar Tanzania.

1.    What inspired you to volunteer with Cedar Tanzania? 

I had thought about doing something for a charity for years but never seriously did anything about it. After visiting the Eskdales, who are passionately committed to Cedar and are very good family friends in Switzerland, I heard all about what Cedar Tanzania is doing here in Mwanza and I was motivated to come and help. The way Cedar Tanzania deals with issues by trying to understand the people and their needs, and by not just imposing a project for the sake of it, is admirable.

2.    How long is your volunteer placement?

 My placement is for two months.

3.    What is your role at Cedar Tanzania?

My role is to assist wherever I am needed. I am working closely with Claire, the Operations and Funding Manager. Currently I am researching and helping to write a proposal regarding the Special Needs Education Project, to be ready for a visit by Interteam.

 4.    What things have you found surprising?

I have come to Mwanza with a very open mind, so I haven’t really experienced many surprises as much as new insights on the different ways of living between our cultures.

5.    What things have you enjoyed? 

I have enjoyed just observing my surroundings and taking in all the differences between Tanzania and Switzerland. It has also been interesting to read about the different issues here.

I am hoping to be able to discuss my research findings in more depth with the Cedar team, as this will encourage other view points and will also help me to form new ideas.

6.    What things have challenged you so far?

I often find myself wondering if something is safe to eat!  I also feel challenged by the lack of personal space here in Mwanza. The lack of hygiene for example that I have noticed around Kamanga village and on the ferry have made me insecure on how close I can get to my fellow passengers! I think hearing and reading so much about health safety has made me a bit overly concerned about infections. Both of these things, I think, will get easier with time as I get used to living here.

7.    What would you say to anyone who said that they could not volunteer because they didn't have a skill to offer?

Anybody can help in some way. I have only just finished my business diploma and don’t have a lot of experience in the workplace and none in this field of special needs research, but I can read and write! I have found that with these skills and the general knowledge that I have built up in business school, I can research topics and assist in writing proposals very adequately.

Being interested in what Cedar Tanzania is doing goes a long way too, as anybody can discuss a topic and think of new ideas and ways to help.

In my opinion, skills that are often taken for granted in European countries, can come in very handy here in Tanzania, e.g. skills in using Microsoft programs and social networking etc.

8.    Would you recommend this volunteer scheme to others?

I am at the beginning of my volunteering time with Cedar Tanzania, but what I have seen and heard, regarding the way Cedar is trying to help, is something that I feel more people need to come and experience for themselves.

 

WATU WENGI! (So Many People!)

Under a blue doomed sky, the people of Kamanga make a circle around the Primary School football field. The leaders of the village have already made their introductory speeches, opening this first ever community wide SASA event, organized by Cedar Tanzania’s SASA team. Abduli, one of Cedar Tanzania’s Field Officers, is now on the microphone, hosting a SASA game exploring issues of power. He sounds in charge. This is a game he has led many times. He makes jokes in between his instructions and whilst the music plays in the background he busts a dance move or two.

There is laughter and fun in the air and the crowd buzzes with curiosity. There has never been anything like this in Kamanga village. But as part of Raising Voices' strategy for SASA, such community wide events are an integral part of spreading the message about how men and women can use their power to support and benefit one another and their families.

Discussing issues of power imbalance in families and their link between violence against women and girls and the spread of HIV/AIDS, is not a topic that is easily discussed in Tanzanian culture. But SASA has found a way, through drama sketches, followed up by thought provoking questions that engage the community in thinking through some of the issues surrounding this very important topic.

Three actors are now in the middle of the field. The first sketch begins. It shows a verbally abusive husband complain to his cowering wife about the lack of food on his plate. Storming off from the house he enters his local bar, where he drinks his daily wage away. The slurred speech of his caricatured drinking buddy is met with much laughter from the enraptured audience. The husband is shown hooking up with one of the bar girls. A loud round of applause follows the actors as they exit the centre of the field.

A SASA Community Activist (CA) is a member of the community that has been trained by our Cedar Tanzania staff, in the different ways of facilitating discussions, on the various issues of power imbalances between the sexes. One such CA, clad in a blue SASA/Cedar t-shirt,  now takes the microphone. She holds it rather nervously and begins addressing the crowd; ‘What do you think of the husband’s attitude towards his wife?’ ‘What could the wife have done differently?’ ‘Who has the power in this relationship?’ Both young and old come forward to offer up answers; ‘The husband shouldn’t speak to his wife like that!’ ‘If he doesn’t give her money to buy enough food, what else can she do?’ ‘He has all the power, and he is not using it well.’ ‘If he gave his wife more money instead of using it on beer and other women, then he would have a happier wife and home!’

Straight away the next sketch is set up. This time we see the same wife refusing her husband sex. He insists and says it is her duty to keep him happy. There are a lot of disgruntled murmurs from  the audience as insistence gives way to verbal abusive, and reluctantly the wife relents and walks slowly to the bedroom.

The next scene shows his drinking buddy come in to visit the husband. He has some bad news. He and his wife have been given some medical results which inform them that they have contracted HIV. The husband stares blankly at his friend and says nonsensically, ‘Now why did you allow your wife to be tested? That was your first mistake!’ The audience laughs at this silly statement, but soon silence falls as the husband realizes that he and his drinking buddy have been sleeping with the same bar girl. Now he faces the dilemma of whether he himself should get tested and whether he should tell his wife that they may now have HIV. Men, women, and teenagers hear the message, and the seeds of change are sown.

Ramsy, Cedar Tanzania’s project leader of SASA confirms the strength of using drama to explore SASA’s often sensitive issues. “The message on power and violence is made simple, clear and easy to understand through the use of multiple SASA strategies, which are applied in an entertaining way; whereby different forms of violence together with their consequences are demonstrated through role play and drama.”

The village is together in this moment. Together they watch members of their own community being the actors in the drama group and being the Community Activists who are engaging the audience in thought provoking discussions. The community also sees the leaders of the village, the chairman and the police chief, stand side by side with the SASA Community Activists. This sends out a loud and clear message, that everyone, from every social strata in the village, champions this message of power balance between the sexes.

The SASA event concludes with games. These games include an egg and spoon race, a sack race and men and women racing each other to see who will be first to finish two sodas and two donuts! The audience cheers as it watches the efforts of the participants. It’s fun, it’s light hearted, it’s memorable and it’s working.

Ramsy hopes that the people of Kamanga, will in the future, ‘support women experiencing violence,’ by having, ‘men committed to change and activists who speak out against violence.’ Cedar Tanzania’s introduction of a SASA event in the village is seeing Kamanga take a big step towards making this a reality. 

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Find out more about Raising Voices and their SASA initiative.

Watch the video of the first ever SASA community event in Kamanga village.

School for everyone!

Watch Mawazo try and beat the odds.

 

Mawazo* is 15 years old. He sits on a mat on the dirt floor, propped up against a sofa cushion. He is inside his Grandmother’s home in Kabusuri, a village in Nyamatongo ward. The room has no tiling, no carpeting, only the earth that it was constructed around.

Mawazo is all smiles today. He has visitors to speak to him and his guardian about how he developed a neuro-disability from prolonged exposure to celebral malaria. 

His story is a sad one. One which exposes the all too often tragic correlation between the development of secondary infections due to delayed treatment of initial symptoms.

Just six years ago, the then nine year old Mawazo had begun to show the symptoms of celebral malaria or ‘degedege’ as it is known in Kiswahili. His convulsions scared his mother so much that she took him to the nearest medical caregiver that she knew of in her village.

The tribal doctor administered traditional ‘dawa’ (medicine) down Mawazo’s nose. His mother watched as he gagged and struggled to keep conscious, but she did not stop the tribal doctor because it is a held belief that one simply does not question a tribal doctor’s actions. In her village it was also believed that ‘degedege’ could not be cured by western medicine but only by the administration of traditional medicines.

Mawazo’s symptoms got worse. So much so that his grandmother stepped in and insisted that he be taken to hospital, but it was too late. The original celebral malaria, having gone untreated for such a long time, had caused Mawazo to have a neuro-disability. His arms and legs are now contorted and he cannot even sit up straight without the aid of a propped cushion. He struggles to form words.

According to Europe PMC group, “Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological complication of infection with malaria. With over 575,000 cases annually, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected. Surviving patients have an increased risk of neurological and cognitive deficits, behavioral difficulties and epilepsy making cerebral malaria a leading cause of childhood neuro-disability in the region.” (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056312/)

Jackie, Cedar Tanzania’s Special Needs expert, sits beside Mawazo and speaks encouragingly to see how well he can follow instructions. He surprises her, as slowly with nervous smiles and giggles he lifts his right foot and begins to write the number one.

It was his Grandmother who had first noticed that Mawazo liked to write numbers and letters down on the earth that he would often be left on. Being unable to move his arms she would watch him try and draw these numbers and letters with his foot. He was remembering his learning from the early days of his life, before the celebral malaria, for Mawazo had been a student in Nyamatongo ward.

Jackie asks Mawazo to demonstrate how he writes the letter ‘a’. He begins by making a number of circular movements before finally completing the requested letter with a kick of his foot and his giggles of self satisfaction mingle together with the clapping from his sympathetic audience.

Jackie sees that Mawazo has potential. She wonders what else he can achieve with the correct medical and occupational therapies and educational support. Cedar Tanzania wonders the same.

We have seen that in Nyamatongo ward, children with special needs and disabilities require support in the areas of health, accessing education, and vocational training and entrepreneurship. One of our values is a belief in equality, “where everyone enjoys the same rights and has access to opportunities to fulfill their potential.” For us this covers all people, including those without disabilities and those with disabilities.

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*(Mawazo: an alias has been used to protect his identity.)

 

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION.

The room reverberates with voices. Nine men and women in small clusters, pages of SASA! scripts in front of them, are acting out an interaction between the two sexes that hopefully will help an audience become more aware of the issues surrounding power imbalances between men and women. This is the hope of the newly formed Kamanga Community Drama Group. Conso and Abduli, Cedar Tanzania’s Field Officers walk around, listening, watching and offering advice about how the novice actors could better their performances.

There is an excitement in the air. Nothing like this has ever happened before in Kamanga, but Cedar Tanzania, in partnership with Raising Voices, has been implementing the SASA! program since 2015, in order to challenge the status quo and begin the process of helping the Kamangan community make better choices that will hopefully end violence against women and girls, stop the spread of HIV and create safe and loving families.

“We know that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of HIV infection. We know that the power imbalance between men and women fuels these pandemics. But how can we address such a complex and deeply rooted issue? SASA! is Raising Voices’ response to this question.” Raising Voices

The SASA! methodology utilizes a variety of ways to help a community audience explore the question of ‘How do you use you power?” Posters and flyers go a long way towards generating community discussions but a dramatized skit does more. Drama brings the issues to life and helps the audience ‘see’ the impact that their choices could have on their partners and their children.

The SASA! program does not allow the showing of acts of violence in any media format, whether in print, film or dramatic skits. Instead, dramatic performances show how men and women can make choices about their uses of power in a non violent way. Questions are levied to the audience after each performance by a Community Activist to explore alternative, non-violent  ways of resolving domestic and relationship issues between men and women.

The program in Uganda has been highly effective, shifting the thoughts and behaviours of people in communities where SASA! has been implemented:

 “I learned that some of the things I used to do were not right at all . . . for instance I thought that whenever I needed sex I had to have it without her denying me.” —male community member.

  “I have changed a lot. I no longer beat her as I used to. I no longer use abusive language on her.”—male community member.

 “In the past, we would just ignore it  if a man beat his wife, but now I think it is not okay to ignore it.” —female community member. 

We hope that one day Kamangan community members will also be able to share these thoughts about how SASA! has changed their attitudes.

Cedar Tanzania is planning a SASA! day event in Kamanga village in which the drama group will be performing a variety of drama skits that will help provoke discussions with the audience. Games, posters and flyers, music and football will help make this SASA! event day memorable and enjoyable, yet also informative . We hope that Cedar Tanzania, in partnership with Raising Voices,  will be a few steps closer towards ending violence against women and children in the village of Kamanga.