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Wednesday
Apr052017

Women's Day March

On January 21, 2017, thousands of women all over the world came out to stand up for their rights and march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. For many of those women, it was their first time attending such an event. 

For my final blog post, I interviewed a friend about her experience at the Cape Town Women’s March.

Nic Bothma/European Pressphoto Agency

 

Why did you decide to go to the Women’s March? 

I was appalled and distraught to follow the events and surge of conservative nationalism and fascism leading up to and following Trump’s election in the US. Not only does what happens in the US cause waves all over the world, but I have US friends who are directly affected and threatened by this, and I want to do what I can to show solidarity and support.

What was the march like?

It was a very positive experience. Being a sister march here in South Africa, there was probably less grim urgency to it than in the US, but the march brought out many US expats and tourists here, and it was good to have conversations with them. Overall, the mood seemed positive and hopeful, resolved and determined.

Had you been to a protest before?

No. This was the first organised march or protest action that I’ve participated in.

What was it like being a trans woman at the Cape Town women’s march?

It was no problem. I was accepted by the people who I disclosed my trans status to, and I encountered a number of individuals displaying queer- and trans-positive imagery and symbols, which made me feel safe.

Do you think it would have been different at a march in a different city or country?

It may have been… Cape Town is more accepting and inclusive of LGBTI people than most, probably. I would hope that other Women’s March events would be as accepting and inclusive, though!

Did you feel welcome?

Yes, I felt very welcome. I arrived quite early, chatted with the organisers, and ended up helping out with small tasks, and volunteered as a marshall.

How did it feel to have your picture in the New York Times?

I was very surprised! It made me feel proud to represent my community, and made me even more determined to keep contributing my time and effort to the movement where I can.

Are you planning to attend any other marches in the future?

Yes! I want to attend the upcoming March for Science, and I’ve remained in contact with the people involved in the march and follow-up actions on Facebook and online.

 

 Taryn Husband was working as an Intern in sexual and gender-based violence and criminal justice with Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit,   University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Wednesday
Apr052017

Changes

The last few months have been a whirlwind of travel for me and Aurora. We’ve visited family, returned to Halifax early, and have exchanged our shorts and bathing suits for winter coats and toques. But those aren’t the changes that I want to talk about - I want to talk a bit about the exciting recent political developments in The Gambia.

The December 2 election which saw the defeat of longtime president Yahya Jammeh and the ensuing precedent setting government transition was the direct result of tireless mobilizing both online and in the streets. For the first time ever, a coalition party was formed to combine organizing efforts - cementing support from several different groups. A strong youth led movement online helped to spread information and speak out about issues of accountability and civic engagement.

When Jammeh contested the election, one week after conceding it, the #gambiahasdecided movement kicked into higher gear, connecting locals and the Gambian diaspora to keep morale and momentum up, as well as fundraising to put up billboards and t-shirts for people to see their message. A wide variety of civil society groups wrote letters and demanded accountability and respect for the electoral process. And regional and global organizations stood firm in their support for the results, including following up with military intervention.

These are only a few of the forces that came together to ensure a relatively smooth government transition. The new coalition government has only been in power for a little over a month, but has already begun tackling their large and intimidating to-do list to help to restore trust and respect in the democratic process and to begin to rebuild the country after two decades of rule by one person. They have requested the patience of the Gambian people during this time, but have also been clear that citizens should feel safe to voice concerns and criticisms, and that those who have had to leave over the years should feel free to return home.

With all of these changes in such a short amount of time, it will be more important than ever for organizations like NSGA to continue their essential work in The Gambia. Teaching and mentoring the next generation of young leaders, in a country where the majority of the population is under twenty-five, will help to ensure that young people have the tools to be engaged, advocate for their communities, and lead healthy lives, while contributing to their vision for The Gambia’s future.

Krystal Lewis was working as a Media Intern with Nova Scotia Gambia Association in Gambia.

Thursday
Mar232017

Ross

In Jamaica, it’s good to be resourceful and make contacts for a plethora of needs. For example, one of my fellow Canadian interns had a designated ‘pineapple guy’. She promised to buy pineapple from him exclusively as long as she got the local price in return. One of my needs happened to be transportation – transport to and from work, transport to the gym, transport to the dance studio etc. I had a list of my favourite taxi drivers I could call whenever I needed to get from point A to point B, but there was one driver that stood out to me like no other – his name was Ross.

“Ay pretty girl!”

That’s how Ross answers the phone every time I call him. His enthusiasm always makes me smile.

“Hey Ross, I was wondering if you were free at 7pm, I’m planning to go to the dance studio tonight.”

“Yes girl, I’ll be there to pick you up then!”

When I hop into the front seat, he never hesitates to ask me how my day went, what I did that day, how I’m liking Jamaica. My answers are usually positive or “I’m tired”. When I reciprocate the question, his answer was, “I’ve been working”.

At first, I took it at face value and left it at that. But the more I rode in his taxi, and asked him how he was doing, I realized his answer was always the same, “I’ve been working”.

So I asked him, “Working…. doing what?”

Turns out he drives a van during the regular day hours, and operates a taxi from 6pm to midnight. Ross was working more than 12 hours a day.

“Why do you work so much Ross?”

Ross has 3 kids and a wife to support. His wife is a stay at home mom; she loves to bake and also sings in the church choir.

The way Ross describes his kids is always animated. One night I went to my cousin’s birthday party where there was someone making balloon animals. I thought it would be cool to have some made for Ross’ kids so I got a sword and an animal of some kind. After I gave them to him, I saw him the next day and he said to me, “Zoe! My kids love di balloon animals! They fought over it!” He proceeded to motion the swishing of a sword in the air, mimicking their play.

There was another time I remember where he picked me up from the studio with most of his family in the car. We were so squished I didn’t even notice his youngest son was in the backseat till I got out and a little voice said, “byebye!” to me.

I think the reason why I am so intrigued by Ross is because of the way he shares his life through stories.

I remember sitting on the beach at Doctor’s Cave in Montego Bay on a Friday afternoon. I was about to doze off when I received a call from Ross. Curious, I picked up to hear Ross excitedly telling me that his US VISA got approved and could finally travel with his family to New York! I was really happy for him. Although out of all people, I wondered, why did he call to tell me? He said, “I just wanted to tell the world Zoe, this is such great news! It’s good to tell people good news.” And good news it was.

But out of all of the moments we spent together, I think my favourites were the times he talked about his wife. He described his wife as wonderful, faithful, trusting and simply lovely.

“She’s so good to me Zoe, she’s a GOOD woman. Sometimes women stray, and men too, but with a woman like that, there’s no need to.”

I asked him, “What makes a great marriage Ross?”

He replied, “Trust and communication. I like relationships where the two people get to know each other for a long time and get married.”

I said, “Did you wait a long time to get married?”

He meekly replied, “Ah, no. But you see it was ordained! We dated for a year and got married, then God came to me and told me “Marry this girl” and God came to her and said “Marry this man”, so we got married!”

Through Ross, I’ve uncovered many simplicities of life through his humility, liveliness and gratitude. We’ve shared many laughs and conversations that ventured beyond common formalities. For me, there’s no better way to get to know Jamaica than through the people. The moment I knew Ross and I broke the barrier between foreigner and local was when he said, “You know Zoe. I’m thankful for you. You listen to me, you treat me like a human being.”

A realization I came to the other day, was the fact that global development is one of the only disciplines whose focus is on others. So if there’s something I wish for those of you pursuing global development, it is the curiosity to build meaningful connections. Really sit down with someone and ask a question other than, “How are you?” because the questions you ask will determine the answers you receive. And what’s hidden in those answers not only gives you the ability to bridge a connection, but also harness a form of truth. If it is this truth that you seek, then be prepared to feel uncomfortable, because it is this vulnerability that will allow you to tackle the problems you so desperately want to solve in this world. One day you will emerge from your tumultuous mixture of emotions and it is on this day that I hope you feel clear headed and calm. Why? Because you had the courage to ask the questions nobody else asked and developed a library of knowledge because of it. And it is this knowledge that provides you with the foundation for all your solutions for the world.

Zoe Chung was working as a  Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Specialist with Eve for Life in Kingston, Jamaica.

Thursday
Mar232017

Meeting of cattle farmers 

This past February I had the opportunity to travel to the Western region of Uganda to a village near the district of Mbarara. It was past midnight when I arrived the first night and after getting off the bus my fellow traveller and I had to take a boda boda through the bush, on a rough and rugged terrain in almost total darkness. In the morning, I awoke to the sounds of cows “mooing,” something I had never experienced before and found to be much more pleasant than the sounds of roosters crowing which I had grown accustomed to in the city. As I opened my eyes, I was able to see for the first time the beautiful landscape of the countryside, the rolling hills and lush terrain.

It is here in this village where I met a farmer called Robert, who has bred cattle and lived in the village his whole life. Robert and other farmers lead a simple life but are extremely diligent and hard-working. They wake up just before the sunrise to tend to the cows and perform other duties in the village such as fetching water using jerry cans which can total over 10 kms in walking distance.  

Robert raised many concerns he and farmers have had due to the lack of rain in Uganda. Because there is a high dependency on rain to water the grass for grazing, the drought has meant that the cattle have had less to eat and drink and as a result many are dying due to starvation.  This is a huge issue that over the years has caused considerable stress on farmers and their villages who rely on cattle for their income and livelihoods.

The cattle here Robert explains are of an indigenous species, known for their distinct horns, and are quite hardy to adverse conditions. Despite this he has lost some cows and fears that many others will not survive. Robert has had to guide his herd long distances (and sometimes into other districts) in search of water and pasture as transporting water and food from other sources can prove to be quite costly. There are times when Robert has been left with no choice but to sell his cattle at extremely low prices. He notes that in Uganda, farmers are fighting for the limited amount of pasture and water available which has caused considerable strain and tension between groups and tribes.

Increased aid and better preparation for weather conditions are important he notes but in addition to this a more long term sustainable option must be implemented. There is hope as farmers across Uganda have proven to be very innovative and resilient to harsh conditions. For example, cattle farmers have tried to cross-breed their indigenous cattle with other more disease and drought resistant cattle. As well, other districts in Uganda such as Nakaseke and Nakasongola have begun to grow drought resistant grass and crops in attempts to tackle the challenges brought about by climate change.

 

Jessica Chen was working as an Intern in Rural Livelihoods with South and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) in Kampala, Uganda.

Thursday
Mar232017

The Patois Perspective

Patois is the official language spoken in Jamaica. It is a dialect derived from English and Creole. It originated in the 1800s, a time when Jamaica was a colony of ruling European empires. First occupied by the Spanish, Jamaica was later taken over by the British who developed sugar cane plantations across the island. African slaves were imported by the British as labourers to serve on these plantations during this time. Majority of the slaves that were brought to Jamaica originated from the Western Coast of Africa, which influenced the development of the language.

One of the key tactics used by slaveholders to maintain control over the growing population was to divide and rule. This meant that upon arrival on the island, individuals were separated from members of their family and community. This was done to prevent any possible uprising by the slave populations. Given the diversity in culture and language among African communities, this meant that slaves on a single plantation often did not speak the same language. Patois was thus developed as a means of communication among the slave populations that differed from what was spoken and understood by their Masters.

Below is a list of a few popular Patois phrases:

What’s up? – Wah gwaan, Whappen, Whe yu a seh?
Everything is good – Mi deh yah, Everyting criss
I Will Be Right Back – Mi Soon Come
To Eat – Nyam
Jamaica – Jamrock, Jamdown, Yard
Friend – Bredren (male), Sistren (female)
Well Done – Big up! Respect!
I understand – Zeen
Over there – Ova deh
What Are You Up To? – Wha Yuh Deh Pon?

Despite a lot of similarities in words between English and Patois, the Jamaican pronunciation of words is quite different. This was a big part of the learning experience when we first arrived on the island. And now, 6 months later, Zeen.

Manal Rajan was working as a Health Administrator intern with Jamaica Family Planning Association/FAMPLAN in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica.