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2 posts from November 2013

11/15/2013

"When you educate a girl, you educate a nation"

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Gaborone, in collaboration with the University of Botswana Office of International Education and Partnerships, hosted a screening of "Girl Rising" on Wednesday, October 16th, to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th.  “Girl Rising” tells the remarkable story of 9 girls who overcame struggles in their home countries to access education and improve their lives and the lives of those around them.  After the screening, we hosted a panel discussion featuring seven remarkable Batswana who have all been involved in gender issues for years.  They commented on the larger themes of the film, referencing specifics of the stories and connecting them to life and culture in Botswana.

The event was a great success, thanks to the many community partners who supported and participated in the screening.  CIEE Staff, along with panelist Desmond Lunga from Stepping Stones International, raised awareness about the plight of girls by announcing the screening at RB2, a local radio station.  Other supporters included the African Women Leadership Academy, the Botswana Department of Gender Affairs, Stepping Stones International, and the Goddess Foundation.

Image1Panelists from L to R:  Dr. Gloria Maseko, teacher at St. Joseph’s College; Dr. Mpho Gilika, lecturer at University of Botswana (UB) and founder of the African Women Leadership Academy; Ms. Manikiza, a UB law student and gender affairs activist; and Lebogang Maruapula, co-founder of the Goddess Foundation

Image1Panelists Continued from L to R: Keotshepile Motseonageng, better known as poet, singer, and UN Goodwill Ambassador Berry Heart; Portia Loeto, Project Coordinator for the African Women Leadership Academy; and Desmond Lunga, MenCare Consultant at Stepping Stones International

The captive audience of Batswana youth, adults, international students and ex-patriates thoroughly enjoyed the event.  One audience member commented, “The film was great and the panelists were informative.  It helped me to understand my privilege.  I loved that there was a platform to discuss issues surrounding the girl child.”

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After the film, the panelists inspired the audience with their stories of personal and community triumph, as well as a call to arms for Batswana to spread the message of girl empowerment.  One panelist urged Batswana to change the society to encourage the girl child to think positively and overcome situations like rape and poverty; “we cannot deny that we have these problems in Botswana,” another said. 

As well as acknowledging the problems we face, the panelists had a bright vision for the future.  “As I look at the film, I look back and I think about my life.  I see where I am and cannot grasp but can only say, ‘Gosh, I made it!’”  One told us, “it is your strength that helps you to overcome,” reminding us that, “when one person starts singing, others join.”  The last panelist ended by telling us that we must “arm ourselves with our own vision to change the world.”

Based on audience reactions, it seems like they are ready to do just that:

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“As a young girl, I think we should be persistent.  I love Wadley.  She has really inspired me.” – Student at St. Joseph’s College, a local senior secondary school.

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“Although all women in the film are different and special in their own way, the film made me to be thankful to be what I am.” – CIEE Student.

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After the conclusion of the panelists’ remarks, the audience engaged in a lively discussion about men, women, privilege, feminism and equality.  The consensus was that combating inequality must start with the individual.  We can support people emotionally, engage in community service, be mentors and volunteer.

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CIEE will continue to work with local organizations to spread the empowering message of “Girl Rising.” 

11/11/2013

Lessons and Memories in Botswana

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Post by Ryan Gilliom from Haverford College

Halloween 2013 marks exactly six weeks until the end of our program.  For most of us, this is a bittersweet time.  Bitter from the prospect of projects, finals, and leaving Botswana, sweet because many of us miss home.  Returning to the holiday season will be a delight, but those of us returning to wintry climates will have some major temperature adjustments.  For me, the climate will not be the only adjustment.  I have learned so much this semester, and most of that is rooted in the incredible differences between Botswana and US culture.

I have learned patience in my daily interactions.  Botswana moves at a significantly slower pace than America.  At times, as my colleague David wrote in his blog a few weeks ago, people seem to move with “almost deliberate sluggishness.”  This is a perfect description, and it ranges from wait staff in restaurants to people on the sidewalk to the cashiers in the dining hall.  Slow sidewalk walkers are one of my greatest pet peeves, but in Botswana it serves a vital purpose: keeping cool under the hot desert sun.  I didn’t learn this until summer, but now that it’s hot, I’ve fully converted to a Motswana on the sidewalk: slowly meandering to my destination, toting a parasol for shade.

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The bright sun illuminating a rainbow even before the storm has passed

I have also learned the intense sense of community that interconnects Botswana.  A major place I’ve learned this is on my weekly taxi rides to my internship.  Our CIEE cab driver, Bethel, has one of the warmest hearts I know.  He loves all of the CIEE kids, and always nags me about learning Setswana.  Whether we’re chatting or riding in silence, Bethel occasionally slows the car and honks, waving out the window to someone he knows (another thing: Bots is small).

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My host-parents for one weekend in Kanye, incredibly kind and caring even for those 72 hours.

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My classmate Corinne and me with some friends we made at a wedding in Kanye.  Another thing about Bots: it’s completely appropriate to just show up to a wedding without an invitation.

When I arrive at my internship, the receptionist D.K. always greets me in English and then gets right down to drilling me in Setswana.  Each week she teaches me a few new phrases, standing in front of my desk, repeating them until I pick up on what she’s saying. It’s brutal, but I appreciate her help—since our Setswana class ended mid-semester, I’ve lost much of what little we learned.  D.K and I have desks next to each other, and we’ve formed a bond even though we don’t chat much. 

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My roommate Abang (in stripes) on her birthday, with her sisters and friends after they surprised her with a cake.

That’s the nice thing about living in a country with a “small-town” vibe.  People who you may just meet a few times are still genuinely interested in you and your wellbeing.  I’ll miss that aspect of Botswana.

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