Day 2-Sazira Secondary School –LL

Day 2 at Sazira secondary school was a content full session. The students decided to name their group “Badili Mtizamo”, which is also the name of our program. It means “changing the way we see things” in swahili, which is a fitting name because it implies a reciprocal relationship where upon both us and the students will come out of this program with a different perspective. We started the session by summarizing a handout that we had the students do last class where they had to decide whether the career, trait or activity listed was the role of a girl or a boy. For most of the jobs and traits a majority of students selected that both girls and boys carry out those roles, but they did identify some roles as more common for one gender over another. For example, fetching water, firewood and cooking were more commonly the role of a female, and tending to the animals and having a career as a carpenter was more commonly the role of a male. In this way gender roles do have real life implications, but with that said we really wanted to stress that the students should not let their sex restrict them from being who they want. “I have the right to be whom I choose to be”.

After that we separated the students by gender to conduct the focus group discussions on gender, discrimination, love, abuse, and assertiveness. We noticed from the last class that the girls were much more shy, quiet and reserved than the boys and we hoped that by separating them based on their gender that they would feel more comfortable to speak. Within my focus group the girls were still very soft spoken and hesitant to contribute to the discussion. Beyond the girls being more shy to begin with it also seemed that some of the students had difficulty with English. Translating keywords into swahili seemed to help everyone get on the same page. I noticed that while the students were hesitant to share their thoughts with me, after I posed a question the girls would have a discussion amongst themselves in swahili. Thankfully one of the students would translate for me and fill me in on what was being said. Being more of an introvert myself I am one of those people who are less likely to contribute to group discussions at my own will, because of that I also know that just because someone is quiet it doesn’t mean that their mind isn’t engaged. Getting the students to start thinking about the concepts is a good start. I expected it to be a slow process to get the students to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts with us but I am hopeful that we will reach a point where we can engage in a two-way conversation. At the end of the day, as Inno pointed out, we can’t empower these girls, they have to empower themselves. The best we can do is to provide them with the proper tools and to build a good support group amongst their peers that will last even after we have left.

When we joined up all the girls to have a discussion on ways people try to force/pressure you into doing things you don’t want and ways to be assertive and say no, the girls seemed to be much more receptive of the information. They would laugh at our over-the-top demonstrations and nod along to acknowledge their understanding. We knew we were beginning to break through because one of the students asked a very valid question in response to our assertiveness tactics. “What if the other person becomes more angered or react in a violent way when I respond assertively?” We could feel that that was a fear that the girls shared. Is it worth it to stand up to the abuser if there is the risk of putting yourself in more danger? Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to fully address the concern but it is a discussion we fully intend to have in sessions to come.




Just a quick note on the intro! -DF

The first days in each classroom went great! We were very well received by both the staff and students, and a positive energy certainly developed once we overcame the initial shyness barrier of the large group. All of the students were eager and engaged, and some interesting questions began to break through. While I was facilitating a short concept-development discussion on “health” in general, several of the groups mentioned substance abuse sourcing from a range of perceptions. Some suggested drug abuse having a negative impact on one’s health, while others questioned how drug abuse had anything at all to do with health.

In the second day at Sazira School, when we were in small groups having a separate conversation on discrimination and assertiveness, drug abuse was the first thing mentioned as we brainstormed types of abuse. I defined this as a form of, “self abuse,” and we moved on to the target discussion of other forms of abuse, including physical and sexual abuse. Substance abuse is not something that we plan to cover in the remainder of the curriculum, but it is certainly interesting to see the varying opinions on the topic. I wonder if the students mentioned it because it is something they talk about in other classes, or if it is an issue outside of the classroom among their peers. Both boys and girls, between sessions at each school, had raised questions about cigarettes and drugs having an impact upon mental and physical health

In either case, perhaps it is a worthwhile discussion topic in the future, or perhaps worth having a separate program to address these questions and clarify the disagreement among the students’ responses. We haven’t yet reached too far into our question box, so we will see where that takes us! I’m not sure if this is even an issue with the students in the area, or whether it simply came into the conversation because they heard these words in other classes. This is just a thought for future planning, especially since we are quite pressed for time with gender and sexual health as it is.

More on this to come! I am very curious to dig into the anonymous question box we have set up, to find out which directions this will lead us. We will keep these thoughts posted!


meeting the students – jb

We started working in the schools last Friday. We’re working at two while we’re here; Sazira and Kunzugu Secondary School. Our students are high school aged students, 14-18 years old. Sazira Secondary School is new to the Badili Mtizamo Program, but Kunzugu School has participated for the last couple years. Both schools have been extremely welcoming in what we’re doing. In fact, Delfena stated that Kunzugu School has said that they have noticed great change in their students, and they think the program has great value. I don’t think I was expecting this kind of response, but it makes me really happy to know that the program has a big impact on the students.

I was feeling really nervous while we were driving to school on Friday. I really did not know what to expect. I was not sure about the students English levels and as a result, our ability to create meaningful dialogue about very serious subjects. At the beginning of class Delfena intoduced us and what we would be doing with the student. We also tried to make it clear to the students that we’re here to learn from them as well, as we are students too.

Our first assignment with the classes was to discuss what jobs, traits and characteristics were for boys or for girls. For example, is a teacher a man’s work, or woman’s work, or both? This activity proved a bit difficult. The students, from both schools, had difficulties understanding how to do the activity and I think many of the students responded the way they thought we wanted them to respond (ie. both a man and a woman can be a teacher). I think as we progress through the material we’ll be able to explore this more.

The classroom was silent, and participation was lacking for a great portion of the class. I was feeling really nervous of how the following classes would go if the demenour didn’t change. Fortunately, after we broke off into smaller groups there was a huge change. The students appeared to feel more comfortable with us and each other. In our smaller groups we came up with definitions, ideas and concepts to help us understand gender roles, health, respect and sex. The students are all very smart, and they have a very solid understanding of these concepts. I think back to when I was their age, and I’m not sure I did; specifically what gender roles are. I guess that’s what is interesting about gender roles, is that they are often so engrained in daily life we forget about them and they way they affect our personal world view and our communities.

There were two standout moments for me during my first days at each school. When I was facilitating the discussion on sex in the smaller groups we talked about how in English sex has two meanings: (1) the biology that defines a male and female, and (2) an action. When I had suggested that sex can occur between two people, the students clearly defined the action of sex as being between a male and female. No one in the classes discussed same sex sexual relationships. Even when I suggested that sex can occur between people, the students explicity stated between a male and female. I have many friends and family members who identify as being gay, however in Tanzania, this is against the law. The discussion, or lack of discussion, I had with the student in regards to same sex sexual relations, made me curious of life for LGBTTQ* in Tanzania. How strict is the law? Can people safely express their orientation, and if so how? Is the LGBTTQ* forced to engage in relationships secretly? Can those who identify as LGBTTQ* access health care openly and freely?

Also, while I was facilitating the discussion on sex, the topic of abortion came up. A student made a comment of using a sharp pointy object to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I was fairly shocked when I heard this, because everything I know about abortion includes seeking professional help. I defined what the student said as ‘abortion’, and I asked where woman could go to get one. I remember feeling happy as one of the students told me ‘hospital’. I’m not sure if the initial comment was due to a barrier in language, or if it is common for abortions to take place without medical help, but I had felt that the student was referring to was a home practice. I’m not sure how common abortions are or if they are even legal in Tanzania. I hope to explore all my questions with CPAR.

My questions also have me thinking about what the needs are for the students in our classrooms and how, as a group, we can best address their needs. I want to ensure that I am culturally appropriate in my responses to the students. I want my responses to allow the students to critically reflect on their ideologies, and society’s ideologies surrounding the issues of sexual reproductive health and gender. There are no right or wrong answers. I know I need to remember to use empathy; to see the world through their eyes. Tomorrow for our class we are facilitating discussions on discrimination, assertiveness and gender violence. All of this will be extremely important to bring to my work tomorrow.

talk soon.


P.S. check out #umsle2015 on Instagram to see some of our photos

Getting Started – mm

Day one in Kunzugu school yesterday.  Among the many differences between Canadian and Tanzanian schools, I am surprised by the formality in the classroom. We did do some research on the Tanzanian education system before we left, but I don’t recall reading anything about teaching styles or classroom etiquette.  I was fully unprepared for the delightfully well-behaved group of 14 – 18 years old that we met.  Taking nothing away from the group of students that we met at Sazira school – they were also excellent, and admittedly part of me wondered if that was a fluke…

I thought that perhaps we would be seen as the “substitute teachers” and that attentiveness would drop.  Perhaps students would be skeptical of us, maybe just due to the language barrier.  Instead, we had the attention of the entire class for the duration of our time together. Despite a slow start, probably a little shyness on everyone’s part, students were politely raising their hand to answer a question, standing up to introduce themselves and quietly moving around the room in their assigned groups.

I can’t decide if it’s just been a while since I’ve been in school, whether this is a cultural and structural difference between school systems in different countries or whether the approach to education is taken a little bit more seriously here.  Students in secondary school in Tanzania need to pay for their secondary school education, or rather, their parents do.  I understand that it’s roughly 20,000 Tsh per semester with an added contribution for lunches, uniforms, etc.  Perhaps this has an effect?  The population in the catchment area for these schools is primarily farmers which could mean some difficulty coming up with the required money at the required time.

When I think about this some more, it occurs to me that these students are quite privileged as not all children in their age group will be able to attend secondary school.  This makes me think of the years when I took school completely for granted.  It was a nuisance at worst and a means to socialize at best.  Not that we had enough time together for me to fully know, but I certainly felt as though the students yesterday were in the classroom to listen to us, not to chat with their friends or pretend they didn’t hear the question (that was my go-to back in the day).

So I’m really grateful.  For a very good start in both schools and for the chance to make good on some undervalued years spent ducking teachers and avoiding homework.




Here we are, we made it to Bunda! After being here for nearly a week I decided that I should get a good workout in. It seemed like a good time Monday evening when we returned from the CPAR office. Since the sun was beginning to set, the guesthouse casted a shadow on the courtyard sheltering it from the hot African sun. I changed into a t-shirt, shorts that went down to my knees, put on my headphones and walked barefoot out onto the courtyard with a skipping rope in hand. I started skipping to warm-up then moved onto a series of exercises that consisted of squats, lunges, burpees, core exercises and push-ups. My group mates sat around the table in the courtyard enjoying the weather and a cup of tea. It wasn’t until I started my second set that I realized that just outside the gate of our guesthouse a small audience of local children had gathered to look on at us. At first I didn’t think much of it since we often attracted stares and attention from the locals where ever we went because we looked different, but then I realized how silly I must have looked performing my exercises. It became humorous at one point because some of the kids started copying my motions.

In a place where walking is the main mode of transportation, and chores like carrying water require physical exertion, exercise is incorporated into the daily lives of the people in Bunda. Exercise for the sake of exercising is a privilege and the need to exercise derives from our privileged lives. In a world where there are people who don’t have enough to eat in the first place, choosing to physically exert ourselves only causes us to consume even more food. Our lives of excess eating and lack of need to physically exert ourselves due to the conveniences of running water, electricity and transportation makes exercise a choice rather than a daily necessity. This makes for an interesting comparison to a place like Bunda where physically exerting yourself is not a choice and physical/financial access to healthy nutritious food is often times not sufficient.

Next time you go for a run, head to the gym or workout, think about how privileged you are to be able to have that choice and how privileged you are to be able to properly replenish your body afterwards.



A Perfect Start – DF

What a journey so far, and it has hardly been a week! The people, the weather, the food –everything has been brilliant and incredibly welcoming, “karibou sana!” It is quite clear we are new to the area, as we have been the focal point of many stares, pictures and endless friendly greetings. However, I am blown away with the amount of kindness and benevolence we have received from the CPAR staff, the school staff, and the local people of Bunda.

The children too, have already reserved a small piece of my heart. In this short amount of time, the young children have genuinely opened up my insight to some Tanzanian culture. They are very curious about us; they enjoy practicing English or even just waving from a distance and smiling from their ears. We were so impressed with their skills when we brought out the soccer ball! The talent, sportsmanship, respect, and organization level they displayed had credited them a much higher level of maturity than their physical age suggested. This is a perception I see through my own eyes, as I compare them to most of the children I have worked with back home.

Why is it that these children seem so “grown up,” and mature, when compared to the image I have for children of the same age range back home? Based on my brief observations as a pedestrian in Bunda, I am making the assumption that the parenting styles are a key source of the difference. I am certainly not suggesting that one form is right or wrong, but I am noticing several differences. For example, children in the Winnipeg are often closely watched by their parents, with fewer responsibilities around the house, whereas the children here are always playing, walking, attending church, and completing chores without the close tuck of a parents’ wing (from what we can see from a distance). Perhaps this earlier onset of responsibility and independence allows these children to excel quicker in competence, maturity and other social skills. I am aware that there are very good reasons behind the parenting styles in each culture, and it is likely that these family dynamics only account for a fraction of the outcome. I am obviously far from the details yet, as this is just the formation of my inference, and I am eager to learn more from these children.

At the end of the day, a few conclusions about these children that I have begun to consider thus far include; they are much better soccer players than any other ten-year-old child I have ever seen, they learned how to use my new camera embarrassingly quicker than I did, and they exhibit a remarkable amount of respect to us and to each other. I am so grateful for the spontaneous soccer game that we played with the children, as it certainly broke through a shyness barrier that may have existed between us and their curiosity. I look forward to our future encounters with them, and I am excited to learn more from them in the days to come, as well as from the secondary students that we will meet tomorrow in the classroom.

One more thank you shout out to everyone from CPAR, our hosts at the guest house, and from the rest of Bunda that have made our first week such a positive experience,



Jambo Kutoka Bunda! – mm

I’ve been thinking a lot about the parallels between reserves in Canada (especially Manitoba) and the Bunda district here in Tanzania.  It’s difficult not to sound paternalistic when speaking of things I know so little about, but I’m interested and am in search of a role to play.  I don’t have all the answers, probably not even one, but from my vantage point as a fairly healthy person who is currently pursuing post secondary studies, I know what it feels like to live without pain and insecurity.  I know what it’s like to have possibilities and have access to food whenever I need it.

After speaking to some of the CPAR staff, I’ve learned about some recent initiatives aimed to ameliorate methods of crop production and harvesting in this region.  This includes the diversification of crops as well. I’ve learned that only recently have carrots been introduced as a crop into the region.  Currently not a favorite among the locals, carrots are fairly hearty and easy to grow and contain many nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet.  Diversification + increased yield may mean more food to sell and eat.

People around Bunda are traditionally farmers, so this initiative makes a great deal of sense.  The end goal of perhaps achieving greater food security in the region, the trickle down effects of this being innumerable.  A worthwhile endeavor. But what about Canadian reserves? Granted this is not an area of expertise for me, but I wonder how and what initiatives are currently being undertaken to address the lack of food security in these areas?  I ask this earnestly, because I truly don’t know. Historically, Aboriginal people have hunted and fished for their food. If these methods are no longer utilized, what then? Some farming maybe, imports, but are these solutions culturally and sufficiently appropriate?

The other aspect to consider is how methods to increase food security are being approached and by whom.  Here in Bunda, CPAR staff are from Tanzania and live in the community that they are developing programs for.  This seems an important feature in developing solutions that are appropriate for the area…but maybe not?  Are there NGOs, agencies and groups staffed by Aboriginal people located on reserves that are implementing similar programs?  While this appears to be a good method for Bunda, is it appropriate in a different context?

Just some things I’ve been thinking about lately.  I’m excited to learn more about CPAR, their programs and the methodology behind them. Can CPAR’s approach be emulated or would it prove ineffective due to cultural, geographical or social differences?  How do agencies around the world audit what’s previously been done in order to tailor it to their needs without recreating the wheel?

More to come!  Still healthy, happy and looking forward to starting the program at the schools.  Thanks for reading.