Partir, c’est mourir un peu.

(To leave is to die a little)

Good morning from a chilly airport in Brussels,

Yesterday was the day, I left Ghana. It was still impossible for me to believe, somehow it still hasn’t really hit me. Except for the sadness, and already missing soo much.

A funny thing happened though since I had been thinking about extending my stay, it turned out that I had overstayed my VISA! I almost had a heart attack when the people at immigration said I had overstayed my VISA, and that it was a very very serious offense and that I would get a penalty! Somehow I had thought I had a 3 months VISA automatically when entering Ghana, did not even check the stamp when I arrived, where they had written 60 days… After being taken into an office at the airport to a very angry woman, she said I would have to pay a fine. Again, heart attack because now I thought okay if I’m not getting arrested or something crazy like that – at least this fine is going to be HUGE. Haha, nope. 80 Ghanaian cedis, which is about 145 SEK. I wanted to laugh, but it was not the moment. I was still scared too, so I was already almost crying. But the lady warmed up, we talked about nice things with Ghana and I was good to go! So a suggestion from me, check your stamp at arrival haha!

Anyways, the week has been hectic. I had 3 interviews, all insanely interesting and helpful! I still can’t believe all the amazing people I have met during my time in Ghana. So many people fighting for human rights, and children’s rights, it gives me hope for the future.

But like I mentioned, I feel very sad and empty right now. I feel like I have left a piece of my heart in Ghana. The food, the people, the music, the weather, the city, the traffic, the languages – yeah you get it. I could go on forever. It has been so different from Sweden, it has forced me out of my comfort zone sooo many times. More times than I thought I was ready for even, but here I am, so grateful and proud of my experience in Ghana. It has been lifechanging honestly, and has brought back some light in my life that I have been missing for a long time.

My last thought goes to all the amazing friends I have had the opportunity to meet and spend my 9 weeks with. They truly are some amazing people, they are what I will miss the most. You all know who you are.

Medaase.

Less than a week left, and finally got the dream interview!

Sunday afternoon and I’m writing this only having less than a week left here in Ghana. This past week I’ve really been debating with myself whether or not I should stay a few more weeks here, at least till my VISA expires 3 weeks after my departure date… A big part of me really likes it here, and it already feels like a sort of home. On top of that, I’m not too excited to go back to Sweden at the moment. But a part of me also feels ready to go home, mainly to be able to see friends and family. This last week I’ve just felt really lonely. Also I really really cannot wait to get back to Sweden and all the Swedish food! I’m honestly writing a list on my phone of things I’m gonna eat when I come back, no joke.

The main reason why I feel ready to go home is because I have now scheduled another 3 interviews this coming week, and I feel like the material I have now is what I wanted from the beginning, and good enough. One of these interviews is with the chief of child protection at UNICEF! I couldn’t believe it when I got the answer from him, I cried haha. They were always on top of my list of organizations I wanted to interview. Everyone kept telling me they were a looong shot and it would be quite impossible to get an interview there. Well, if you really really want something fight for it and it will work out one way or the other.

Now I’m heading to the Accra Mall, to sit down at the coffee shop and drink plenty of my favorite coconut icepresso and study! That place has really been a comfy place where I have spent many days studying, drinking coffee, meeting new people, and, buying my new phone, I will miss it!

Meeting so many inspiring people

Hello, from a very rainy and windy Accra!

I can finally say this past week has been very busy, with interviews! YAY! Last week included a smaller breakdown, both because of the lack of internet which is really making everything A LOT harder, and because my lack of interviews and just some general homesickness (never thought I’d say that!). But as usual, after surviving a really bad day like that the next day brought a lot of positivity and strength and motivation! So on Thursday I went about 2,5hrs drive from Accra to an NGO and spent most of the day there, interviewing staff. They had built like a whole small community, with a school even, for rescued child trafficking victims. It was amazing to see and spend the day there. Then both my Friday and Saturday was spent with another organization here in one of the slum-areas in Accra. This is an organization that a Swedish woman started, that I found by finding her old master thesis online. I had a very useful interview with one of the staff, and on Saturday I got to join the youth ambassadors meeting they have every Saturday. They had a little small presentation for me about educational systems in Ghana and child trafficking. WOW, so so grateful for this experience. Afterward, I got to present what I’m doing in Ghana and my studies, and since they had shared the educational system in Ghana I shared what I know about the educational system in Sweden. Huge huge differences, here children who want nothing more than to go to school cannot, or even if they do they face sexual abuse and rape by their teachers, and in Sweden, there’s so many who are complaining about even having to go to school… Perspectives… Then we just continued having very interesting conversations about child trafficking and governments, what needs to change for trafficking to end etc. I left that place with such a warm feeling in my heart.

Stolen phone, discouraged and other struggles 5 weeks in.

My apologies for the delayed update. I got my phone stolen, and couldn’t get a new one until a week later. Plus there hasn’t been any wifi at the house for the past week now so I’m surviving on some mobile data for the most important things.

I must admit that the past 2 weeks have been quite challenging for me… put aside the stolen phone, no internet, plenty of personal struggles and challenges, I feel quite discouraged regarding my field study while writing this post. The stolen phone and lack of internet have really put me back when it comes to reaching my contacts etc. On top of that, my “plan” was to hopefully have conducted all of my interviews by the end of my first month here, that hasn’t worked out. I still only have 4 interviews from one NGO. It is not that I didn’t expect these obstacles, and I always had an open mind knowing there is a big possibility I wouldn’t be able to finish my interviews in the first month. But it stresses me a lot, and me + school-stress is not the best combination… The one thing that calms me a bit is knowing that I have the possibility of staying here in Ghana a bit longer if I need to since I don’t have anything urgent that I have to get back to Sweden for at the moment. Actually not even until mid-August… But it’s hard when you feel so motivated and prepared and then there are things you can’t control that stands in your way…

A little different kind of post today, but this is my reality at the moment and I think it is important to share all the stages of this study, both good and not so good.

To finish off on the positive side, I have managed to go on weekend trips almost every weekend. It has been amazing to see more places in Ghana outside of Accra, I will try to post about it in the coming days!

Some fun random facts about Ghana that I’ve experienced so far!

Hello from a new week in Ghana!

Spending this Monday trying to plan this coming week and what I want/need to do! I am currently writing a letter to the minister of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection here in Accra, to hopefully be granted an interview with the director of the human trafficking department there. I really really hope I will get that interview, would be SOOO helpful! Other than that, this weeks will be filled with studying as usual. I am still trying to find a good location where I can sit down and study, so far it is either at home in the house or a cafe in the mall. I miss a good old library…

I thought I would share some things that I have noticed so far after my 3 weeks here, that are quite different from Sweden. Most of them positive, some a little less.

  • People always say good morning, good afternoon, good evening before beginning a conversation. Took me a few days to pick that up, they must have thought I was so rude…
  • The traffic here is CRAZY compared to Sweden. Everyone drives like crazy, honking to everything and nothing, and I wouldn’t say traffic rules are what decides how people drive. I’m taking both Uber, but also the local ‘bus’ called trotro which is the cheapest option. It is all the same, you kinda feel happy you are still alive when you get out of the vehicle haha! It is definitely true what they say, if you can drive in Accra you can drive anywhere in the world!
  • People are so friendly and welcoming. Maybe sometimes a bit too much for a European… I love the fact that everyone talks to everyone, every house is open to everyone, people sit outside and talk and just spend time with each other. It is a whole different culture in that sense compared to Sweden, where most people just want to stay in their own corner and spend as little time as possible with strangers or interacting face to face.  But the downside might be when the Uber driver says he loves you and asks to marry you after 5 minutes in the car. It happened to my roommate from Germany, it seems like she handled it well whereas I’m thinking I would’ve either freaked out and jumped out of the moving car or gotten quite angry… Neither which would be a very good solution haha, so I am happy she told me about this so that I’m prepared with a chill answer if it would happen to me. + always sit in the backseat, less risk for it to happen!
  • Obruni – white man. This is the main word Ghanaians use to get my attention on the street. At first, I found it to be a bit strange and felt uncomfortable, but after discussing it with some Ghanaian friends I’ve understood that it is not an insult or a bad word per se. As I connected it to be, like if someone would call black man after a Ghanaian on the streets in Sweden – we all know what would happen then.
  • Goats, chickens, lizards, cockroaches, (huge) spiders and dogs are everywhere. In our yard by the house some chickens from the houses around daily come for a stroll, it freaked me out at first but now I kinda like it! Regarding the spiders, I killed one my first week here, but now I have named the one in my room because I consider him my roommate! Can’t say for sure if I like having him there just because, or if it is because seeing him in his usual spot calms me knowing that at least then he is not in my bed!

 

Kwaheri Zanzibar

It’s safe to say that during two months in Zanzibar, I’ve experienced some very unfortunate situations. Everything from getting robbed and injured to getting typhoid fever my last two weeks. But nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed this time to the fullest and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. For me, this MFS has been both a personal journey as well as it has benefitted my studies and given me an incredible eye-opener to a whole different culture. I’ve made friends from all over the world, learned some Kiswahili, lived 5 minutes from the most beautiful sea and in the heart of a UNESCO heritage city. Most valuable of all, I’ve gotten to collect data on one of the most interesting places in the world.

 

 

I now have 8 weeks of observations and several interviews done, which I concluded in the last week. To be honest, studying colorism has been a bit tricky, something I knew would be a difficult topic to discuss from the get-go. In many cultures, it’s not common to speak about the discriminatory practice and it is not viewed as a form of internalised racism. Approaching people with my subject has therefore been a challenge as many people were of the idea that it’s simply evident that being of lighter skin is better and more beautiful. I’ve discovered that colorism, in fact, does affect women in various ways, be it in unconscious or conscious. Some of my interviewees witnessed being teased in school for the color of their skin, received nicknames based on their skin complexion and overall, described that women with lighter skin color have it much easier in several settings. At the same time, I learned that the revolution in Zanzibar and the unity of the people has, according to my observations and my interviews, led to colorism not being as palpable on the island archipelago as on the mainland of Tanzania.

I’m thankful for SIDA for giving me this opportunity and in general, thankful that I live in a country that has the means to be able to provide young generations with this type of life-changing experiences. I’m thankful for all the friendships I made,  my interviewees who so kindly offered me their time , the staff at SUZA who not only taught me swahili but also helped me understand the culture of Zanzibar and assisted me with knowledge and help in all my endeavors. My journey ends here for now, but I will definitely be back soon. Asante sana Zanzibar, you have changed me forever.

 

 

Life is changing…

Hi everyone!

This Friday I celebrated 2 weeks here in Ghana! I can’t believe how fast time passes here, it is crazy! It stresses me a bit, to be honest, but really trying to just keep calm and enjoy as much as I can.

So far I have spent a few more days with the first organizations I met with, conducted some more interviews etc. Otherwise, regarding the field study, I’ve been trying to get in contact with some of my contacts, and also making new connections and meeting new people that have been able to put me in contact with valuable persons that I will be able to meet up with! Connections really are everything when it comes to a country like this I have noticed, meeting someone who gets to talk to you in person and see you and hear about your project and can immediately think of friends or relatives that can help you!

The life in Accra is otherwise quite amazing, I’m getting comfy here, I have my house, my roomies, I know the roads, places to eat and where to buy the most amazing fresh fruits! Last week two of my roommates left though, so the house feels quite empty… You really become like a family living here, so we had some tearful goodbyes, but we will for sure meet again in the future!

Also, got very sick last week and after a few days I couldn’t stop thinking I had gotten malaria… So I headed to the hospital for some tests, but luckily it was just some infection that some antibiotics is currently taking care of.

Last Friday I was able to take part in something very amazing, scary, huge, life-changing and overwhelming. I was able to take part in a presentation in two different boys schools here in Accra, regarding the SDGs. A project that is called The World’s Largest Lesson. Where the aim is to educate children about The Sustainable Development Goals. Some of my contacts are from the organization AIESEC, and I will be joining this project related to the SDGs. This is a major advantage for me in my field study, my university study, and for me personally! It is connected exactly to my passions, my goals, and my studies. Back to the presentation, it was in front of hundreds of children (and some adults), and I had to use a microphone…! I have never been very comfortable speaking in front of a lot of people, always tried to avoid it. But I did it! Looking back, I’m not sure how I was able to but I did it! Even though my voice was shaking, my brain froze a few times and I forgot the most simple words in English… And the sweat, it is already SO HOT here, but nervosity makes me sweat, and I had to wear a grey t-shirt… You can imagine the rest haha! BUT I DID IT! It was overwhelming and huge, and life-changing for me because the second I started something fell into place inside of me. I felt that this is exactly where I should be, right here right now. In front of hundreds of children, speaking about their rights and how they are our future and can help make this world a better place. I have goosebumps writing this. I am so grateful for where I have gotten.

As if this wasn’t enough, I got accepted to my master’s program I applied for!

This post feels a bit all over the place now, but that is kinda how I feel now being here. So much is happening, I’m learning so much – about the world, but also about myself. I hope everyone else out there doing their MFS are able to enjoy this life-changing journey as much as me!

Gender (in?)equality and prejudice

My stay here in Stone Town is almost coming to an end. Having spent more than seven weeks here, I’ve reflected a bit surrounding gender equality, prejudice and preconceived notions about Africa and developing countries in general. Before coming here, I, like perhaps many others, assumed that I would be going to a country where gender inequality was highly prevalent. I spent a lot of time thinking of how I would respond if somebody questioned why I travel alone as a female, why I’m not yet married or have any children etc. I also mentally prepared for the eventuality of males trying to hush me down, ignore my thoughts and undermine my ability as a woman and, worst case scenario, how I would behave when experiencing sexism or harassment without jeopardizing my own safety. I believe these thoughts have developed because of a narrative that has always been presented to me about developing countries and how they are far behind when it comes to gender equality and how the Western world is advanced in this area.

Instead, my prejudices have been challenged and many times, gotten a big slap in the face. In the second week of being here, I had a conversation with my Swahili teacher (who is a male) about gender inequality. We started talking about the subject when he told me about something interesting he had come to find out somewhere, which he found shocking and disturbing. He told me that he had heard that over in the US, women with the same education and work experience as their male counterparts were not receiving the same salaries as the men. I still remember his surprised reaction when I explained to him that this unfortunately, is the case for many other countries, including countries in Europe. He went on to say that it would be impossible for that to happen here in Zanzibar and even illegal. We later continued on having a long discussion about gender inequality and how it manifests itself differently depending on the country.

Now, I am no expert in Tanzanian/Zanzibari policies and regulations, nor am I saying that Zanzibar is without flaws, because that’s far away from the truth. But one thing I do know is that ever since I came here I’ve seen women in top leading positions, giving out assignments and orders to their male colleagues and employees. Something I honestly did not think I would witness prior to coming here. The head dean at my university is a woman, several of the people in charge that I met at different ministries and institutions while applying for a research permit, have been women. I’ve seen a majority of female doctors at hospitals, many of the police officers I’ve met have been women and, even in my hostel where I am currently living, there is gender parity in housekeeping, reception and in the restaurant. I say all this to say, that in a developing country that is predominantly Muslim, I have witnessed a gender parity and a sense of equality that I would not have expected before coming here. I also believe, that my own country of Sweden who prides itself in being the first feminist government in the world, has a lot of inspiration to draw from this small island off the coast of East Africa.

Having no phone on a paradise island makes it a bit hard to complete eye-catching blog posts. But when you have sunsets like these and new-found friends that capture them for you, it’s not that bad 🙂

Focus Group Interviews

My week in Lokichar was highly eventful and went a lot better and much quicker than I thought. I was introduced to my contact person there through Friends of Lake Turkana who came to see me as I arrived to plan our week and the interviews.

The plan was to interview 3 local tribes affected in different ways of the extractives, as well as other key people and one of the managers of the oil company operation in the area. We managed to hold focus group discussions/interviews with the tribes and the information collected has created a good foundation for my work. We also visited a couple of sites holding hazardous waste and collected information regarding the impact of this on the environment and living standards of the nearby tribes.

I was invited to and participated in an information meeting for CSO’s by the oil company, however the interview I was going to have with one of the managers kept getting cancelled and postponed and it later came to my knowledge that the person in question had deliberately been avoiding me. Through some further contacts made during my stay in Lokichar this was later resolved after I had left and the person in question have now confirmed with me that he will agree to having a meeting which will take place after the new year.

I have had to reschedule a lot and re-plan my visit due to Christmas Holidays. After the 12th of December (Jamhuri Day, the day Kenya celebrate becoming a republic) most people go on leave return after the new year. However, before this I had to go down to Nairobi to extend my visa and fly back up to attend a 2 day conference which I will write about in my nest post.

 

 

Friends of Lake Turkana

As of now I have spent just over two weeks in Turkana County. My first two weeks were spent in Lodwar networking and getting both my head and my way around my study and my approach. As mentioned in my previous post I had a few meetings and todays post was going to introduce my meeting with the organisation Friends of Lake Turkana.

I was met by the executive director, Ikal, and her colleague Andrew. They were both happy to receive me and assist me in answering questions in regards to the current situation of extractives in the area. Friends of Lake Turkana are actively working in representation of the local communities as well as communicators to them from both national and local government and were therefore very well informed and had no hesitated answers to my questions.

I introduced my study and my aim from which we had discussions of how I could possibly move forward and how they could be of help. It led to contacts in the field in Lokichar, as well as being invited to come with one of their representatives to a meeting held Tuesday 27th when Kenya Land Alliance was launching a report regarding land acquisition and community compensation. The meeting lasted for approximately 6hs, and was not only informative and contributed to material to my study, it was also a great opportunity for further networking.

Through connections received by Friends of Lake Turkana, that is on site in Lokichar where the oil fields are, I have now started my interviews with the local communities. I left Lodwar after the meeting on the 27th and arrived in Lokichar in the afternoon. In the photos below you can the landscape we drove through to get to my new destination.

Next week I will write about my first time and experience in Lokichar and the plan for my coming weeks as I have had to rearrange and re-plan most of the rest of my trip due to new circumstances.