Village Conference – Constitution for Community-Based Organization

From Samwel:

We had a good meeting and the number of attendance very good, we discussed a lot family planning and  project that we have in our CBO many ladies were very interested in family planning because I had private talking with ladies before the general meeting, men were asking about water, school, and beekeeping  then I told them all the project are on the process to be done but after the registration for our CBO all projects we will done one by one.

We come also in agreement that all Emburbul students will go to boarding school (free) except standard one (age 7-8) only.

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Samwel talking to village gathering

Girls Education

On September 6th, Mapena and Grace took three young girls to Arusha to go to English Boarding School. Since Grace is attending Health College in Arusha, we thought she could be a big sister to the three girls if they were also in Arusha.

The girls will learn both English and Swahili, among other subjects.

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Family Planning is Happening for Emburbul Women

Marie Stopes came to Naniokanoka in August and 13 women from Emburbul and 10 women from nearby villages walked to town to get family planning.

They all got hormonal implants.

Samwel had talked to other village leaders – those who were not against family planning – and that is how the 10 women from the other villages went for family planning.

This is wonderful news!

Progress Report

In June we sent 10 Emburbul midwives to FAME health clinic for training in Family Planning, and prenatal care.

Over the past week we have sent two groups of women with small children to FAME health clinic for training in Family Planning, Lactation, and Nutrition. Seven of the 16 women said they wanted family planning but were afraid their husbands would find out.

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The NGO Marie Stopes reported that it comes to Nainokanoka every three months and the next visit is August 23. Women can go there to receive a family planning method. The various methods offered are IUDs. implants, the injectable, and pills.

We are very excited about this and can hardly wait to see how many women will go to Nainokanoka to get family planning.

The water flow varies. Recently it slowed to a trickle. On investigation, it was found that a spear was used which broke the pipe. Heads of all the villages using the water got together and decided that whoever does this will be punished. Ben has completed a water instruction manual which should help water maintenance happen.

We are gearing up to send 3 girls to primary boarding school. They will probably go to Arusha. We are already sponsoring a health college student, Grace, who starts at Syue health college in Arusha  soon. Grace has been lots of help with the midwives and mothers training.

Questioning FGC

I am reading a book called However Long the Night. It is about the practice of FGC – Female Genital Cutting.

The first thing I learned from the book is to not call it FGM – Female Genital Mutilation because under this name, it is a “heinous act of cruelty born from gender inequality that girls are forced to endure.” … “But the issue is far more complex than this”, the book continues, “and to consider it from the point of view of the millions of women in twenty-eight nations where the custom is practiced is to understand a far different reality. The truth is, women who adhere to the tradition do not view it as an act of cruelty, but rather as a necessary act of love. Cutting one’s own daughter is critical to her future, ensuring that she will be a respected member of her community and preparing her to find a good husband in cultures where marriage is essential for a girl’s economic security and social acceptance. To not cut one’s own daughter would be unthinkable — setting her up for a lifetime of rejection and social isolation.”

The book is about Molly Melchin, an American student who came to Senegal in 1974 as an exchange student. She eventually formed the NGO Tostan in 1984.

Tostan is a new type of educational program, one that engages communities in the process by working in their own language and using traditional methods of learning, such as dialogue, theater, dance.

The book starts in 1996, in a village where a Tostan facilitator was working with a group of 35 women who were in class three days a week for a three year course. The facilitator, in a departure from her normal topics, starts a conversation about FGC and is met with silence.

“What I’m about to read is a statement from the World Health Organization,” she said. “Female Genital Mutilation is an act of violence toward the young girl that will affect her life as an adult.” … “Would anybody like to share their thoughts about this?”

“We all know that mothers practice this tradition out of love for their daughters, so that they will be respected and accepted members of their society. Why do you think the World Health Organization would make such a statement?”

The women were silent and the facilitator ended the session for the day.

Two days latter, the women returned to class.  “We’ve prepared a theater on the topic,” the facilitator said, asking for volunteers to come to the center of the circle. “It’s based on a story about a girl named Poolel. Who would like to take part?”

The women came alive in their roles. As the story went, the day came for Poolel to undergo the tradition. She was taken to the cutter for her procedure, but afterward something terrible happened. Poolel began to bleed profusely, greatly worrying her mother. When the bleeding worsened, her mother took her to the village health agent. Her efforts to stop the bleeding failed, and it was obvious to her mother that Poolel was in great pain. She was eventually taken to the regional hospital, where the doctors tried to save her life. But it was too late. Poolel died the next day.

At the end of the theater, the facilitator asked. “What consequences befall a girl who is not cut?” She was met with silence. For a long time no one spoke.

Then “Takko the village midwife and a mother of three, hesitantly raised her hand. ‘I know this is an uncomfortable topic for many of us here,’ she began, ‘but all last night I thought very seriously about this. We never talk about the tradition, but maybe it’s time.’”

“Takko went on to describe the problems in childbirth she’d witnessed in her work as a midwife, and how difficult it was for the doctor to sew up scar tissue, therefore requiring more time for a woman to heal. She had long suspected that women who could not have children may have suffered infections following the cutting, causing their infertility. In Senegal, the majority ethnic group—the Wolof—do not practice the tradition, and during her training as a midwife, Takko had assisted in the births of some of these women. She had noticed they were more elastic and therefore had much easier and less painful deliveries. ‘What Ndey (the facilitator) is telling us is true. This is not a healthy practice.”

After awhile her friend Aminata  spoke. “As you know, I’m a Toucouleur,” Aminata said, referring to the predominant ethnic group from the north of Senegal, “and according to my customs I was cut as an infant and sealed shut afterward.” The women knew this was sometimes the type of cutting practiced. After a girl was cut, her legs would be tied together until the wound closed. Aminata’s mother had arranged for her to be married at fifteen.

“On the night before my wedding, my mother explained I would have to be cut open the next morning in order to consummate the marriage. I panicked and tried to refuse all of it,” Aminata said. “Marriage to the man chosen for me, being cut open. But I had no choice. The procedure to open me was agonizing.” Afterward, still in pain, she fled her village. “I’d been told that if I wasn’t penetrated that night,” she timidly told the class, “my wound would again close, but I didn’t care. The pain was so severe I couldn’t imagine having intimate relations with my new husband.” She remained in hiding for a few days until the pain subsided. That man eventually divorced her, and she was married a few years later to another. She ended up having several children, but each time she had great difficulty in childbirth. “My body was so damaged, I could hardly be put back together again,” she told the others. When Aminata finished, another woman stood to speak. And after her, another.

One by one, they cautiously shared their experiences of the tradition.

One woman could not tell her story, it was so painful. Her own daughter almost bleed to death, like Poolel in the story. Eventually she became a champion for ending FGC and said she would not let her second daughter be cut. Then the other women in the class joined in and decided that their daughters would not be cut. Eventually they found allies with other women and ended the practice altogether in their community.

Background

Early in March 2016, a sponsor of one of the young men in Emburbul, Mapena, came to visit the village. The villagers honored the sponsor and his friend in a ceremony and then they proceeded to give the sponsor a list of challenges that the village faced.

Since then the sponsor, Ben, and his friend, Karen back in the USA have worked on these challenges.

Karen has a background in family planning and women’s empowerment while Ben is an engineer, and student of agriculture and sustainability.

Mapena has completed wildlife college and is a wildlife ranger for the Ngorgoro conservation district. Mapena’s girl friend is looking to enter community health college in August, and currently works in a health care clinic. Her going to school on her own initiative is a wonderful inspiration for the girls and women of Emburbul.

Samwell is another Emburbul villager who has been very helpful helping both Ben and Karen tackle the various challenges the villagers face.