International Women’s Day 2018: Press for Progress
Today, we are seeing a strong global momentum striving for gender equity. Women around the world are speaking out to “Press for Progress”, which is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.
March 8 recognizes women’s gender struggles all around the world and celebrates the women and men who embrace the ideal of gender parity and work tenaciously to make this a reality.
We urge everyone to “Press for Progress” through positive action. DONATE, VOLUNTEER, LEARN, SPEAK OUT. In short, BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT.
In Longido,Tanzania, we see the effects of gender inequality. Girls and women have very little voice and are often denied the right to education or the right to be able to make a living to support their families. The results can be devastating: poverty, poor health, poor nutrition, and lack of resources to respond to a rapidly changing world.
TEMBO is helping to “Press for Progress” by providing educational opportunities for girls and literacy training and access to micro-business loans for women. Often our programs make the difference for a woman between destitution and self-sufficiency. TEMBO’s staff in Tanzania and volunteers in Canada vigorously “Press for Progress” for gender parity. Now, more than ever before, women in Longido are seeing possibilities for themselves and their children.
TOTS Programme: Small steps that lead to Big Change
As women strive towards gender equity around the world, one of the challenges of “Pressing for Progress” is the need for people to preserve and honour their unique culture. This is very true for the Maasai women in Northern Tanzania. In the tiny village of Ranch, Kesia, a Maasai woman says: “I will never forget the importance of culture and custom. We need to keep the good parts of our culture.” But Kesia also sees that there are aspects of her culture that need to change. She is part of a programme called TOTS (Training of the Trainers) coordinated by TEMBO Trust. Here, eight women from four villages, attended several seminars learning about the risks of early marriage and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).
FGM is commonly practiced on Maasai girls in Northern Tanzania. This procedure is a precursor to prepare the girls for marriage. The practice often has negative effects on women’s health especially as it relates to sexuality and childbirth.
Photo: Women in the TOTS program complete a series of seminars in February 2018
Paulina Sumayani, Executive Director of TEMBO Trust, says that the goal of the program is “to spread the message on the negative effects of FGM and to help people understand the Alternative Rites of Passage idea”. This Alternative Rites Ceremony celebrates a girl’s passage into womanhood but eliminates the actual genital cutting.
The hope is that the women in the TOTS program will spread these messages to the people in their villages. Paulina feels that the women “have leadership characteristics and can act as role models in their community.”
Do the TOTS women expect to face challenges in their community? Although they concede they may face opposition, they say that they want to be introduced to their community and to the village leaders as teachers. Then, the people will listen. TOTS participant, Nalepo of Longido Village says” I am proud to have done an Alternative Rites of Passage ceremony for my daughters. I do not think I will have problems.”
The TOTS program is another great example of how small steps to “Press for Progress” are changing the lives of women.
Help us continue this important work by donating to TEMBO and finding out through our website how you can be involved.