Friday, November 14, 2014

Success is SLOW

"What are you guys actually doing there?"
"What are you working on?" 
"Is the the work hard?" 

All of these are questions we get on a semi-regular bases from folks back home.  So I thought I would share with you a quick story from one of my projects.  At some point we will update all of our amazing admirers on all of our projects.  It's just that right now, we're not 100% sure what all of our projects are!!   
During my first four months at site I had numerous challenges and struggles. At times, it has felt like the challenges outweigh the successes. Some of the things that have been easier to adapt to than others are cooking on a fire, carrying water, not having electricity and bathing in a bucket. Some of the more difficult things are being isolated, walking an hour to find food/vegetables, only having access to food/vegetables once a week, feeling like the community does not want us, and not having neighbors. Through all this I feel like I have two major successes during my first four months at site:  being a counselor at Camp GLOW 2014 and co-facilitating my first child projection/child rights training. Since I have already shared with you about GLOW I thought I could fill you all in on something that is happening in our community.  My first training stands out in my mind as my personal best success. Though it was a difficult day, when it was over I felt like I was in Malawi for all the right reasons.
The training consisted of 19 teachers from three different schools and was mostly men. The topics covered ranged from basic human rights, to child abuse, to the role of a duty bearer in the case of child abuse. One of the topics found us discussing some of the situations that might put a child or a woman at risk of abuse. This brought up three disturbing myths:
1) Males cannot be raped.
2) Promoting condom usage leads to more sex, which leads to more STDs, pregnancy and HIV.
3) Children and women are abused for a reason; they would not be abused if they had not done something to solicit the attention.
All of these myths bothered me and set me on the defensive at first but it did not take long for me to feel thankful that I was there when they did come out. My colleagues leading the training with me, while not in agreement, did not contradict these opinions. As each topic arose I was able to have lengthy discussion as to why these were false and to have the teachers come up with realistic opportunities to discuss them with their learners.
The one that took the most amount of time in discussion was number three. Half of the participants, both male and female, felt that if a person was abused physically, emotionally, and especially sexually they must have done something to lead to that result. Whether it was doing a chore incorrectly that would demand physical punishment or wearing short skirts and flirting with a teacher there was always a scenario that would lead to it ultimately being the victim’s fault that abuse had taken place. At one point, to make sure I was understanding, I posed the question: “In the case of abuse who is at fault, the abused or the abuser?”. There was an overwhelming response that it was the abused fault “If she didn’t want to be raped, why would she wear short skirts?” is what one male teacher said to me.
Again, while this was disappointing to hear from a group of teachers I was so happy that it came out in a child protection setting. We were able to discuss the definition of “power”, “abuse”, “rape”, and “duty bearer” in a way that was culturally appropriate but also made sure that the essence of these words and definition, on a global scale, were not missed. Not every teacher left that training with a changed mind, but a few did. Later I posed the question: “Do you think anyone wakes up in the morning and says ‘I want to be abused today’?”. Some of the participants that had earlier stated that it was the abused fault changed their answers and said of course not.

It was hard and frustrating but so rewarding to be able to use my previous skills and passions and apply them to the work I am doing and will continue to do in Malawi. I not only broadened my knowledge and understanding of a topic I am familiar with but I was able to transfer some of my knowledge to others.   

1 comment:

  1. I know these viewpoints exist everywhere, but it must be to an alarmingly high rate there. Congratulations on handling such delicate trainings!