#Ask4More: A Women Empowerment Program [PROJECT LAUNCH]

After almost 4 weeks in Zambia, Join Hands For Africa is proud to announce our longterm project – #Ask4More: A Women Empowerment Program.

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As the title suggest, we are aiming to inspire the girls of City of Hope, who come from such difficult backgrounds, that they can achieve so much! Africa, as a continent, still suffers from severe gender discrimination and Zambia is no different. Women are expected to take care of the house and rear children. It is such an accepted way of living that most girls do not aim any higher than that. Even those lucky enough to finish their secondary education sometimes only expect themselves to get married soon after they leave school, ending all prospects of further education or even a career.

A United Nations University document proclaims that: “Women’s participation in national educational systems is again biased due to the sociocultural and economic environments. There is also a lack of genuine political will to ensure that girls are given equal access to education in Africa. More than two-thirds of Africa’s illiterates are women. Women are regarded as inferior to men and are not expected to aspire as high as men, especially in what are considered as ‘male’ fields (engineering, computing, architecture, medicine, etc.). It is largely assumed that educating women would make them too independent; in other words, they would not do what they are expected to do – look after the house, bring up children, and cater to their husband’s needs.”

In fairness, the government has been trying to eliminate gender discrimination for quite a while through different legislatures, such as promising harsh prison sentences to men who commit domestic violence. Yet, such laws fail to see the big picture. Women who do not work, who have no qualifications to find a well paying job, cannot afford to report their abusive husband because if he does get convicted, there is a big chance that her and her children will end up begging on the streets.

#Ask4More is, in essence, a 9-week program spread over a whole scholastic year for the Grade 12s, the last grade of secondary school.

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It includes:
– A 41-page instructor booklet, detailing every part of the program, ensuring coherent progress throughout;
– Weekly activities focusing on empowering the girls through various methods, such as entrusting them with administrative roles, etc.;
– Team-building assignments;
– Awareness of other powerful women whose endeavours changed the world as we know it;
Talks by Zambian women who managed to forge a career even though they didn’t have an easy upbringing;
Work placements during the holidays;
University orientation visits, where students are given a taste of what awaits them if only they aim a little higher.

As an organisation, Join Hands For Africa shall be funding the instructors’ wages, ensuring that the program be taken seriously, as well as paying for at least two or three students’ tertiary education, depending on how much we collect from fund raisers back home.

Fingers crossed, we are hoping to be eligible for a grant from the Zambian government of ZMK30 million (~€3,500) with which we would be able to fund up to 4 different students’ university education.

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Much and more still needs to be done but needless to say, we are extremely excited by our program. The change will be slow but gradual and we are positive it will be of great value to many who participate.

NB: In the coming weeks, just after Easter, we plan to announce a bank account where one can donate money specifically for this program, ensuring that more girls shall be given the opportunity of a much brighter future.

For more information, please do not hesitate to send us an email on: info@joinhandsforafrica.com or donations@joinhandsforafrica.com.

Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan

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Chaos, Humidity & Satisfaction – Our Tanzanian Story Begins

Habari from Tanzania!

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It has been quite a busy week, our most eventful yet. Just over a week ago we left our Kenyan home for Tanzania but it honestly feels like it’s been a month. Our journey to Tanzania started at 17:00, amongst the chaos of Nairobi. We had to take a taxi to a nearby bus station. From there we boarded one of the many intercity busses towards the centre of Nairobi where, halfway through, we got stuck in a massive traffic jam. Time was ticking so we had to get off the bus midway and ran, with more than 30kgs on our backs, to a nearby taxi stand. The jam still persisted so we had to hire motorbikes for taxis. Keep in mind the overwhelming amount of luggage we were carrying. Thankfully, we had very capable drivers, although Androo’s bike did break down. Twice. He had to run the last 500 meters..

We made it though, and just in time. Our bus was just about to leave for Tanzania when we boarded and proceeded to hog half the luggage space available.

According to Google Maps, by car, the trip should have taken us about 11 hours. We weren’t so lucky. The bus was somewhat old, slow and bursting with people and luggage. Frequent road blocks and stops at immigration control offices stretched our journey to 23 hours. Twenty three.

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We arrived at our destination at 16:00 the next day, sleeping most of the way. Yet, whereas Nairobi was a cool 22 degrees, Dar es Salaam is nothing but a sticky and humid 33 degree hell. We looked like we hadn’t showered in weeks, but we were too happy that we made it with all our luggage intact to notice.

We have managed to prepare a short video of our travels too. Please note that all footage was taken with a GoPro Hero3, sometimes in very uncomfortable situations, as well as with an HTC One. We used iMovie for iPad to edit it so, excuse the lack of fine tuning. Ideally, everything would have been shot with our DSLR, but it is not advisable to run around with a very visible camera in your hands, so our GoPro had to make do.

Thankfully the Tanzanians are very friendly people, most of them very eager to make sure we have a pleasant experience here. Befriending the locals is extremely easy, and although few know how to speak English, basic communication is possible.

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Our home for the next 8 weeks is situated in the heart of the Mburahati slum area in Dar es Salaam, where we will be working with the Sisters of Mother Theresa. You see, over-population and poverty do not go well together. Parents can barely afford to feed themselves, and so they end up dumping their own children at the door of the Sisters’ convent. Most of their patients are orphans, ranging from newborns to 80 year olds. To some extent, these people are lucky – they have a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in, regular food and a lot of people to take care of them. Much more than thousands of others just outside our wall.

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Our work shall mostly focus on the kids with special needs as well as with the nursery children. We won’t go into too much detail here because we want to dedicate a separate article for this. There is too much to say to blurt it all here.

All in all, Tanzania is proving to be very different from our Kenyan experience and a much bigger challenge. Our freedom has greatly diminished since Dar es Salaam can be very dangerous to white foreigners. Severe poverty breeds savagery, unfortunately. Moreover, the compound we’re staying in is much smaller than Lolgorien’s and bereft of any countryside, replaced with towering grey concrete. Needless to say, this is what we took our trip for, to challenge our comfort zones in every possible way.

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Stay tuned!

Androo & Alan

A Case for Justice: In Memory of Fr. John A. Kaiser

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Fr. John A. Kaiser, an American missionary and the founder of the same parish we are living in, was found dead in Naivasha, presumably while on his way back to Lolgorien, on the 24th of August in the year 2000. Officially, details of his death are still unclear, but the people of Lolgorien seem to be quite sure about what happened on that faithful day.

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This humble man was born in Minnesota on the 22nd of November in 1932. He was built like a bull and even served in the military during the Vietnam war – so one can imagine what thick skin he had. John Kaiser emigrated to Africa sometime after his service in the military when he join the priesthood. He started his mission at the Ngong diocese, south west of Nairobi, later moved to Kissii, until eventually settling in Lolgorien in the early 1990s.

Fr. Kaiser was a very active man. Upon settling in Lolgorien he became a member, and eventually became in charge of, the CJPC – Catholic Justice & Peace Commission.

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One has to put into perspective the conditions he came to live in. Lolgorien was a very underdeveloped village and there was no safe compound, like the one we’re living in today, for him to stay at. It is well known around this area that he built the first rooms – used for catechesis and for the housing of the Pontifical Missionary Children – as well as the church, almost all on his own. One man told us that he used to tie timber to his feet, bricks around his back and scale a ladder to build the ceiling.. all on his own. Help eventually came when the people of Lolgorien saw the astounding determination Fr. Kaiser possessed. He is also responsible for the building of the dormitory at the Ongota Secondary School for Girls.

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Women’s rights in Kenya have only recently been getting better and Fr. Kaiser was one who fought relentlessly for this cause. He raised awareness against FGM (female genital mutilation), fought for children’s right for education as well as national unity between Kenya’s 42 tribes and general development of this stunning country. A true activist!

Unfortunately, as so happens with almost every person who tries to defy the norms, his activism didn’t go unnoticed. He had many supporters but he also had many deterrers – one of them the county MP, Julius Lekakeny Sunkuli, whom he took to court for the evident corruption in Lolgorien.

The case is still open because, before it could ever reach its final stages, Fr. John A. Kaiser was found dead, along with a small pistol, on his way back to Lolgorien. His death is extremely suspicious for several reasons. Official reports from the county claim that he committed suicide, pointing to the pistol as evidence for this theory and the fact that he had a licence to carry a weapon. As with so many other suspicious deaths that happened in this country over time, there is also a mountain of evidence that point to a cold blooded murder, starting from the fact that Fr. Kaiser’s gun licence was to serve his hunting habit. In fact, his shotgun was found well safe and hidden in his church here in Lolgorien. There is no evidence that he ever owned a pistol.

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His memory lives on today in the form of a school dedicated to him by his successor. This year, the school celebrated the 14th anniversary from his death. May he be of inspiration to us all. We can only hope that justice, one day, prevails.

Rest in peace, Fr. John.

Androo & Alan