Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Everyone's Welcome at the Table by Amanda C.

Amanda C.
Nyamasheke District
Southwestern Province

"How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?"

This past week UN Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, gave a speech on gender equality to launch the HeForShe campaign. Her speech formally invites men to participate stating "men don't have the benefits of equality either." I agree. There is a saying in Rwanda that men keep their tears in their belly. Showing emotion and being vulnerable is not a commonly valued trait among Rwandan men.

But what if it was?

There are some amazing Rwandan men who value honesty, family, and equality. They don't just talk about it. They show it- like my friend in Giseyni, Papa Treasure. He loves cooking for his wife and learning new things in the kitchen, and the best part is he's not ashamed. Or my friend, Papa Prince, who will wear his infant daughter on his chest in public and will come home after a long day to play and help feed her. These are just a few of the men breaking tradition and taking small steps towards equality.

I'm beginning to truly believe men are the change agent for gender equality. "When they [men] are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women won't have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals." 

Together we are stronger. Together we can elicit change.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

To listen to Emma Watson's full speech, Click Here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Basket-Weaving Into the Future by Hannah N.

 Hannah N.

Ruhango District, Southern Province

One of my favorite things to do in the afternoon is to go to Mpanda village and basket weave. I have been going to the home of Mama Deline since last October to visit and converse over brightly colored thread, needles, and ibyatsi—long, dried strands of grass. We sit on straw mats against her compound’s wall and share our daily goings-on with one another, as well as with her two daughters, Lucy (age 11) and Deline (age 5). As we weave together, Deline may spontaneously erupt into laughter, or Lucy will look up at me, smile shyly, and return to her basket. 

Sometimes, neighbors will join us, proudly weaving and joyfully discussing any and all topics. Which, of course, is the best part of these afternoons: sitting back and listening to a mother, her friends, and her daughters talk amongst themselves. It is a beautiful thing, to see love and friendship flowing between them in the form of conversation. There is a strong bond created over this activity, and it is by no means secondary to the income generated through the selling of the baskets. I admire these women for their talent and their camaraderie; they use their skills to build relationships AND to build their fortunes and lives. 

Mama Deline, her children, and her neighbors are affecting positive change in this community through a most simple, and artful way. Together they form healthy relationships and earn the respect of their peers and husbands for their ability to basket-weave. I am so grateful to be a part of this pastime with these empowered ladies.