11th March 2020

Each For Equal: International Women’s Day 2020

 

By Terri Place
Founder of The Baobab Home

 

We are all interconnected. Whether we like it or not, what each of us does affects us all. If we do not keep within our hearts and minds the idea of “each for equal”….usawa…..then our actions will negatively impact the whole of creation. International Women’s day is a reminder, but each for equal is a way of living every day. If you are not working toward it, you are probably working against it.

I am a mother to many girls and boys, in a country where traditional gender roles are the dominant example. At times, this can feel like pushing a big rock up a hill. Everytime I witness injustice done to women and girls here…..I know that none of us are free. It’s not just about ‘educating girls’, although that is an excellent starting point. Boys and men who take their privileges for granted must also be educated…in a loving and respectful way. We have to convince them that a more just and equal world benefits us all.  I like the idea of mixing up gender norms a bit. When you look at our teaching staff, you might think that we favor men. In actuality though, our predominantly male staff is a positive step. Most primary teachers are women. Most of our kids come from very poor house holds and the majority have no strong and positive male role model at home. Hiring male teachers who are kind, sensitive, and who do not hit the children, actually goes a long way in promoting each to equal. Both girls and boys urgently need male role models who are strong enough to be kind and sensitive.

 

There is so much to be done.

When I question what steps to take to ensure each for equal, I think the most important thing we can all do is to check ourselves. Am I walking my talk? Do I talk about women’s rights, but support bride price and hyper sexualization of women in the name of “culture”? Do I keep quiet about domestic violence? I think we all have to start with ourselves and make sure we are really living with integrity.

 

At Baobab now, we have a majority of girl students. In addition, we are helping some of the women on our staff who are in traditional roles to branch out. For example, we have sent one of our house mothers to get training to help run our fish ponds. I know that a few years ago, she never thought she’d be stretching herself in this direction. I think it’s been good for the kids to watch her evolve and grow into her new role. Also, we have 4 farmers on staff. One of the men was hired as the lead, but in fact, it’s Pendo, a Masai woman, who has shown the greatest promise. We’ve supported her twice in short courses for extra training and it’s so good to see her grow in her knowledge. She’s breaking down cultural and gender norms and we’re supportive of her growth.

Do I believe? Yes there is nothing I believe in more. I believe that the world is profoundly out of balance right now. Striving toward equality means striving to attain some balance and that affects everything…the environment, women, men, endangered animals…….we are all connected. Just like the saying ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem’. The more people who know and understand the importance of equality, the more chance we have to restore balance to our world. 

The Baobab Home has been CEG’s partner in community development. You can follow them on Facebook to know more about their work.

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