In this guest post, Steph shares her tips and experiences for volunteering in Tanzania with Mikono Yetu – an organisation working for female empowerment.
Thanks Steph for this guest post about volunteering in Tanzania!
This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania to volunteer with a grassroots, women-led, non-profit organization called Mikono Yetu Centre for Innovation and Creativity. Mikono Yetu (which translates to ‘Our Hands’) is committed to impacting their local community through the education and economic empowerment of women and girls affected by gender-based violence in Mwanza and its surrounding rural regions.
About Mikono Yetu
In Tanzania, despite the abundant natural resources, gender inequity remains in the opportunities available for female land ownership. This is problematic, as it does not allow space for women and girls to move out of poverty by becoming economically independent in trades that require land. It also hinders the ability of women who experience domestic violence to leave the abusive situation.
Through education surrounding the responsible use of natural land resources and skills training in sustainable livelihoods, women involved with Mikono Yetu can become economically empowered. Through this process of education and skills training, the women have increased options to step out of the cycle of violence and improved confidence to become leaders in their families and communities. They are also more able to make independent decisions surrounding their lives, their bodies and their children.
Steph’s Experience Volunteering in Tanzania
As one of the first volunteers to work with Mikono Yetu, my involvement has varied significantly from week to week as we learn together how to best maximize the volunteer role. Ultimately, this variety has been very interesting and rewarding; it has allowed me to learn about Tanzanian culture through multiple contexts from spending time in rural villages to assisting in project management tasks from the city of Mwanza.
Part of my role as a volunteer has been striving to expand the organization’s reach, to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs and to also assist with fundraising initiatives.
A) Expanding the Organization’s Reach:
The program started with a modest 20 local women and has grown to helping over 120+ rural women gain employment. Women have learned skills to earn income through agriculture, tailoring, soap making, yoghurt production, and taxi driving. While this is a fantastic start, the organization wishes to expand its reach to help even more women, as well as integrate skills training for additional sustainable livelihoods.
Their current initiative is to harness the power of the local jatropha plant. It’s all-natural seeds can be used as an environmentally friendly alternative to burning charcoal; it is also healthier for the respiratory system, which translates to improved health and safety for those using stove top cookers.
Further, through planting additional jatropha trees, the local ecosystems will flourish. Bees can form a symbiotic relationship with the plants, benefiting from its flora while assisting in the pollination process; eventually down the road, women can be trained utilize the bees to harvest honey and earn additional income from a sustainable source.
B) Program Evaluation:
Another aspect to expanding an organization is to assess how effective it is through program evaluations and participant feedback. We have been working with a translator to interview 10 rural women who have been impacted by Mikono Yetu to gain their perspectives of the organizations role.
The results have been extremely positive! With the participants consent, their stories were transcribed and videotaped and will be used to demonstrate the importance of projects that facilitate economic empowerment; it can also highlight to other women that economic independence is possible!
As with most non-profit organizations, fundraising is required in order to continue with the program goals and missions. A fundraising endeavour I am currently involved with is called “Mwanza’s Blackest Woman”. It is a cultural event that will take place in the community to educate on the negative health impacts of skin lightening practices.
This event was proposed because many Tanzanian women practice skin bleaching to obtain a lighter skin color. It seeks to reinforce that beauty exists in all shapes, sizes and colours and to empower women to embrace their beauty. Through local food, traditional music, drumming and dancing, hair braiding and crafts, women will have the opportunity to connect to their culture and network with others. The organization will have the opportunity to gain exposure and new referrals, while ultimately raising funds.
A second fundraising endeavour the organization has just launched is a Christmas tree adoption program run by local women. For just 3$ USD, a woman will plant and maintain a tree in your name. Not only will the women gain employment opportunities through this initiative, but the new trees can also mitigate the negative impacts of climate change in Tanzania.
Don’t forget to adopt a Christmas tree – it is never too late, or too soon to get involved!!!
Overall, my volunteer opportunity with Mikono Yetu has been a valuable and life-changing chance to learn about Tanzanian culture and gender rights from an African context. Moreover, I know the experiences and insights gained from working with this wonderful organization will impact my life moving forward.
Thanks Steph for this Guest Post about volunteering in Tanzania! Who is Steph?
Steph is an Occupational Therapist and health sciences PhD student from Ontario, Canada. In her spare time she writes and photographs for her travel blog The Pink Backpack. You can find her on Instagram, twitter, or snapchat!
Have you volunteered? We would love to hear from you!
If you have volunteered with a small, community-based organisation that upholds the values of responsible volunteering, we would love to hear from you! This wonderful post from Steph is part of our monthly volunteering guest post series. If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
For more volunteering stories, make sure you read about Amanda’s experience volunteering with refugees in ‘the jungle‘, Anna’s guest post about why you should volunteer with the community, not for it, or even MY post about volunteering at a rescue shelter in Guatemala City.