Conducting Interviews in Rural Tanzania
06.07.2009 - 07.08.2009
Another group we worked with during our course was WOMEDA, which stands for Women's Emancipation and Development Agency. WOMEDA was a wonderful organization that worked with women to help them uplift their social standing through providing them with knowledge about how they can empower themselves. WOMEDA recognizes the underlying social problems restricting women and tries to address them through various programs. Some programs they implement include affirmative action programs, they form social awareness groups, and provide women with legal assitance (i.e. property rights). WOMEDA understands that if you give women skills, they will have opportunities to progress economically and personally on their own without the help of their husbands and other men in the community.
Our group was asked to conduct interviews with women in the rural area. The purpose of the interview was to gauge women's knowledge about their rights and other helping organizations in their community. Over the course of 2 weeks we conducted 6 interviews with a total of 7 participants, 2 participants were men. One thing that seemed consistent in all of the interviews was that women wanted a voice in their communities but felt tied down with their immense poverty and need to work constantly in order to maintain their households and family. One of the questions we asked was what their biggest concern was, many answered that they were concerned their house would fall on their children or that they needed more food and water. I was expecting to hear that they were concerned that their voice wasn't being heard in the community or that they felt restricted by what they could accomplish in their lifetimes. It became clear through the interviews that these women face hunger and being scared daily and because of that they do not have time to think about being represented politically. WOMEDA tries to alleviate some of the stress they face daily by educating them and also providing some basic needs such as bedding and school uniforms and supplies for the children.
I'm including an excerpt from an email I sent while I was in Kayanga. I feel it really expresses what I was experiencing at that time:
This week has been pretty intense to say the least, traveling A LOT to very remote areas to interview different families who receive help from WOMEDA. Our first interview was definitely the most intense thing I have ever experienced. We were under the impression we would be interviewing women about water tanks and their rights in the area, which most of the interviews are, but this interview was a surprise. Upon arriving we realized it was a 17 year old boy named Sweetbot and a 15 year old girl named Joyce who were the head of the household of their 6 brothers and sisters. Their father passed away and their mother went crazy and left them. Sweetbot apologized for talking softly because he has been suffering from Malaria, he explained that he had some medicine but was not able to see a doctor. One of the children also suffered from elephantitus in his hand, I had NEVER seen anything quite like it. He said it was painful but he grows accustomed to the pain, they are not able to get him surgery.
I am really sorry if that is intense for some of you, it is just what I am facing daily and it is really opening my eyes to the greater issues facing developing countries. We have visited schools, water engineers, agricultural organizations, and the district commissioner and many of the issues are focused on lack of government support and international aid. Without empowerment and the ability to access news and current events many of these people are unaware of how to lift themselves out of or better their situation. I talked to a 54 year old women who was one of the most intense and expressive people I have ever encountered and she just kept reiterating to me how she wished she had a voice and people would listen. I think when I return to the states that is what I want to work towards, empowerment within communities, within the states and abroad, because how are we supposed to address issues without the voice of the person facing them. =[i]
Since completing the program we have met with many other nonprofits who work on the same model as WOMEDA, which is empowering individuals. Organizations like International Youth Foundation and The Hunger Project recognize women play a major role in shaping communities and if they are able to make changes, the entire community benefits.