Up until this point I've mostly been doing very unglamorous, but very necessary work alongside their new Executive Director. I really like the new ED. He's about my age, so he's young and he's got a lot of energy and great ideas. I think he and I think alike in our approach to our work and we work well together, which is something I definitely appreciate. For the past few weeks I've been spending a lot of time working on the organization's strategic plan. It's boring work, but very necessary to help set the course for the organization over the next few years. But, a few weeks ago I was able to break away from the office and attend a training that we were running for local leaders.
The ED facilitates a portion of the training. I'm thinking "What the hell is he saying??"
Here's something majorly different between America and TZ: in America you have to schedule a training months in advance, notify your participants, have them RSVP, line up a venue, etc. Here? Nope. I didn't even know about this training until a day or 2 beforehand. I asked if that was unusual and they said no. No one plans ahead. They just called all the participants a day or 2 beforehand and said they were holding the training. People are so excited about getting more education and information to help them in their jobs, so they'll come. And they did!
Participants breaking out into work groups.
This training was for local leaders (mostly Ward Tribunal Officers) who are the first responders when there is an incident (such as domestic violence) in the community. We work extensively with these people in 4 wards in Mwanza to help them know how to respond to and refer victims of VAW. This particular training was talking about the overlap between HIV/AIDS and VAW. Victims of VAW are at a significantly higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because they have no power to control when they have sex or if they use protection. Also, women who are HIV+ are at higher risk of violence for a number of reasons, not the least of them is that the husband/boyfriend thinks she contracted the virus from an affair and retaliates with violence (this is despite the fact that he very well may be the one having an affair).
The training was really interesting for me to attend. I love being out in the community, so I was happy to just be doing that. I still don't understand a large portion of what's being said but I realized very quickly that these community members didn't know a lot about HIV/AIDS. This really surprised me because I was under the impression that Tanzania had received a lot of education on the subject. Obviously not because the participants were coming out with a lot of the old standard stereotypes. I can only imagine how little uneducated, rural people know if this was what educated community leaders knew! That just makes them more at risk. Needless to say, the training was a good one and people left with more knowledge and tools to help women in their community.
So, that's the scoop for now. So far I'm happy with where I am work-wise and I hope it will only continue to pick up as I'm there longer. It's so important for us to be doing something we feel is making a contribution. We have to feel like we are doing something that was important enough to leave our family, friends, home, community, etc. and move all the way across the globe. So far, this is a good start.