One of the goals I had set for myself before embarking on my journey to Tanzania had been to form relationships with the girls at SEGA. I set this goal because I wanted to know who my project was affecting. Beyond that, I wanted to understand what life as a student in Tanzania was like as well as life as a young woman in Tanzania. I believed, and still believe, that having open and honest conversations with these girls would serve as some sort of cultural bridge to enhance my knowledge of what the Tanzanian experience entails. This past week I had the chance to interact with a number of students and I must say, these conversations have been more insightful than I anticipated. I learned about the girls’ dreams and aspirations, their familial responsibilities as young women and so on.
In this post I would like to share some of the most interesting interactions I have had with some of the young ladies at SEGA.
As I was sitting alone in the classroom in which I conduct interviews for my global health program, I noticed that there was someone standing outside staring into my classroom. I waved at her and she immediately walked into the class with, arguably, one of the broadest smiles I have ever seen. I could not help but to return the smile.
One thing led to another and before we both knew it, she was telling me about what she envisioned for herself in the future. She told me that her dream was to start her own fashion line and to become a model. Of course, wanting to know more I asked her to elaborate on how this dream came about. She then continued to share with me that her parents have always wanted her to delve into either medicine, law or engineering but she is determined to do something which will make her happy hence the aforementioned goals. She also explained that as a woman, she wanted to pursue a career which would make her famous enough to have a voice that can be heard. It only got more fascinating from there as she told me about her intentions to use her fame as a means to shed light on issues facing women especially female genital mutilation as it is still prevalent in some parts of Tanzania. As I type this, I have a huge smile on my face as I hope you do too. I am not only humbled by her desire to use her voice to address something so powerful but I am also ecstatic because young women around the world continue to prove that my favorite quote- “if you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation,” holds so much truth.
The next day I was graced with the presence of yet another student who walked into my class just to say hi but ended up starting a conversation which I allowed her to control the direction of. I am glad I did because she eventually began to talk me about how SEGA teaches them how to clean, i.e. the girls are responsible for cleaning their classrooms, dining hall, washing their own clothes etc. She then continued to talk about how her parents always make her cook and clean when she is at home because she is a girl. Confused as to whether or not this had turned into a venting session, I asked her if these were things that frustrated her and to my surprise, she laughed and said not at all because these skills would make her a good mother and wife just like her mother. This conversation reminded that there is always a way to find a silver lining.
I am so honored that I have the chance to spend my summer with such inspirational young ladies and I am even more honored that I have the opportunity to engage them in conversations. Until I part ways with these girls, I plan to engage as many of them in conversation as possible. I strongly believe that getting to know a country’s people is essential to getting to fully know a country.