African Time….

This past week has been very busy and productive thanks to my local contact. It is just the second week of my field study, but I have already managed to conduct several interviews with both community leaders, professionals working in psycho-social care, and state officials. Last week one of the interviewees included a bishop from the district who is seen as a hero around here. He is one of the religious leaders that have taken a very active role in promoting reconciliation and aiding the reintegration process. I have even interviewed three formerly abducted persons about their experiences of return. While I am quite happy with the results, some challenges remain. First, African time is both a blessing and a challenge. I love not scheduling my whole day which makes me feel less stressed than usual. At the same time, calling interviewees at the time of our meeting to find that they cannot make it or are several hours late is not my favorite way to spend my time. Secondly, the day I was interviewing former abductees, my interpreter got sick (he is feeling better now!). Thus, I had to make use of another guy from one of our partner’s office. It was my first time doing interviews with the use of an interpreter and I am not sure whether I am fully satisfied with the translation. I, at least, felt like some details might be missing. The solution is that my interpreter will go through the recordings and transcription this week.

In the evenings, I had dinner with the founders of Gulu War Affected Training Center and Backup Uganda. Both were a very pleasant experience that must be repeated soon. On Saturday, I went out with my roomies and some friends to the restaurant O’ café for the Open Mic Night. We had Rolex (a wrap with eggs), some drinks, and enjoyed the dances, music, and spoken word performance. It is a biweekly event that is also used as a venue for raising funds to cover the medical bills of some local beneficiaries.

Now, I am looking much forward to tomorrow’s Labor Day celebrations and to visit my friend from the preparation course in Hӓrnӧsand, Matilda, who is doing her field study in Jinja. I am keeping my fingers crossed for good weather, so we can go river rafting and cruise the Nile.

Traditional huts and preparation of sim sim and millet (among others)

Delicious Ethiopian food at Abyssinia (highly recommendable!)

Laundry day in Uganda

Open Mic Night at O’ Café

 

”I can perform just as well as a boy can”

Quotes from the interviews

Student: ” I feel confident to run for president. I know I am able to. And could be Tanzania’s first female president. However, the Tanzanian society does not allow girls to perform tasks that are seen as ‘a man’s job’. Like being a president. Some people think the country is too big for a woman to be running it. [SMILES] BUT I know that girl’s, can do any job a man can. Even better.”

Staff X: ” I do not think international actors are imposing on us when we are given sponsorship… If they give us conditions  ‘A, B & C’ in order to get funding for our project, and the conditions are not harmful to us, the organisation or its goals, I do not see a problem. The opposite. It is extremely good! Sometimes it is healthy to listen to the advice of an outsider. Maybe they have something to contribute and see things differently than us.”

Staff Y: ”Concepts such as gender equity or gender mainstreaming are not so common to hear in Tanzanian secondary education. Luckily some of our students have had that exporsure throught their parents. Others have not. Most of us Tanzanians come to really understand these terms when we study at university level. That is a shame. If I could ask the current president to change one thing, in order for there to be more equality in Tanzania it would be just this. He should make gender studies mandatory from primary education. That way, kids will learn at a young age that there should be equal distribution of chances, opportunities and resources for both sexes. And only then can we teach our children that gender stereotypes is just something society has made up. But also, we must not forget about men from poorer backgrounds. Somehow we have to make sure women get their voices heard but that these men are also taken into account and are not left behind. I think that is what GENDER equality is about.”

All of the above are #Melscopyrights hehe. Through interviews, one focus group session and participant observation, I, in a structured and formal setting, or just over some tea; asked students and staff members what they thought of the school. The organisation that established the school (my focus) JOHA Trust, and the involvement of foreign actors in this particular educational organisation. Most of them were very happy and liked the school. They had suggestions on things that could be done in order to continue JOHA Trust’s objectives of supporting girl’s education. Some that worked at the school felt like the school was ”losing its touch”; as the percentage of students that are funded by JOHA Trust scholarships to study at the school has decreased, for multiple reasons.

The quotes are little extracts from 20-40mins long individual interviews. As I mentioned above, I had ONE focus group session which is a type of group interview where a facilitator (me) introduces a topic and allows the participants to freely discuss it.  I chose girls that are all on scholarship as it relates to the JOHA Trust and their objectives. At first, the 5 girls that were selected for the discussion, were a bit shy in answering the questions I had for them related to the topic of gender (in) equalities in Tanzania and their own personal experiences if they had any. But, after about 5mins they loosened up and we had a nice 30mins discussion. At times they were so eager to answer they almost interrupted each other… It was my first time conducting such a session but I think it went quite well and the students were glad to share their stories.

Participant observation is a type of research technique in which one becomes part of the daily lives of the subjects of the study. In my case, this was the whole point of staying at the school for one entire week. I became a part of their daily life. This is how the girl that asked me to come speak to her class could access me. I was there, present, either by sitting with random students and talking about ordinary stuff. Or by making the conscious decision of attending their lessons and see how a normal school week looks like, to the students of the Barbro school.

Today I am pulling an all-nighter because I have a assignment to hand in a few days from now. And of course, I want to make sure I finish it of on time. Just one last thing, on Friday I am finally (!!!) meeting up with the programme officer at the TGNP- Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (my 2nd organisation of focus). I am going to get some juicy information about the organisation haha. And I have been told there is a library at their offices with similar studies as mine. I am so excited to get some Tanzanian literature in my paper too 😀 So yeah that’s about it. I’ll update on Sunday probably or Monday on how this week went.

Kwa heri! (good bye in Kiswahili)

Week.2 @the Barbroschool

Alrighty, Let’s see how this goes :p Hi everyone! I’m really sleepy right now so I hope I don’t forget to mention all of the cool things I’ve done this week hehe.

As I mentioned in the last post, this week was all about being at the boarding school; observing, interviewing and conducting a focus group session. My stay there was beyond lovely. First of all, just scroll down to my previous post, I took a few pictures of the school and its environment. It’s so beautiful! The trees are green and the flowers all very pinkish. I loved it. There were monkeys on campus. LIVE MONKEYS. Kind of freaked me out a little especially during the night hours when I could hear them outside my window. I think that’s the only issue I had, otherwise I can’t complain. I got my own room in a certain part of the school and there was also a space for drinking tea outside of the room and a table where I could sit and study so I was very comfortable. Generally, the students, teachers and other staff at the school were all sooo warm and welcoming. I felt like I came to a place I’ve always known. It was kind of sad leaving the place after almost an entire week 🙁

Unfortunately I don’t have any pics of the students, and that’s cus I want to avoid issues with parents and such. A cool thing though, I’m attending the form 6 graduation 25th of March, and parents will be there. So, if I’m allowed I’ll take some pics of the students if I find them because I’ve been told the place will be packed! Which is wow. Cus’ the school area if im not wrong is 50 acres, which is a loot of land! :O

I’ll share more detailed about the interviews, observation and focus group session tomorrow, I have some interesting thoughts that were shared with me; and disussions I would like to share here 🙂 .

Let me update y’all a liittle bit more about the rest of the week. So I spent 5 days at the school. Everyday was really good. The students were very interested in my project. One evening a young girl (the classes I didn’t go to) grabbed me and asked ” I don’t get it. So you don’t want to ask us about gender issues????!” my response ”of course I do. It’s just that I chose to go to certain classes because you are way to many students in this school”. The girl ”hmmm… OK, this is what we’ll do. After 1 hour, we willl be done studying can you then come to that classrom *POINTS* and ask my classmates and I about what we think of gender inequality in Tanzania”. Obviously I couldn’t say no. After one hour, as promised, I went to their classroom and had an unplanned focus session sort of with a bunch of younger students. We spoke of inequalities in Tanzania, in Africa, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. And how they’ve experienced it in their own lives. After a while more students came and soon I was surrounded by almost 30 students and I shared with them my thoughts on different issues and they told me their opinions. As I said, I’ll share some of those thoughts tomorrow more detailed…

The last day at the school ended with having some BBQ pork and fried bananas (local dish) with some of the teachers from the school. There discussions of my paper continued. Many, particularly the ones I never got a chance to speak to during the week had a bunch questions and the good thing is.. due to *TADAAAM* Dar es salaam traffic, we had a lot of time to discuss all those topics. The place we were eating at wasn’t so far from the road and we could see the traffic jam from where we were sitting.

Wow. This is getting veeery long. But, I hope you get a sense of how my days are here, or have been. One last thing. This weekend I did something ‘fun’ as I said I would. I went to visit some relatives and ate reaally nice mangos (sidenote haha). Then a friend and I went on an unplanned visit to another city (not so far from Dar) and spent all afternoon there. We walked around, discovering the place, a total of almost 2 miles. Not so sure how I feel about that. Jokes. It was a nice loooong never ending walk in the heat haha.

That’s my week basically, leave a comment if you’ve been here Nella N Roza 😉 this post’s for u haha (my sisters)

Final Update! I think :)

Hello!

You may notice that my updates are not as frequent as those of other students and there is an explanation to that.

Internet. 

Where I live there is no internet. If i go by bike 10-15 minutes to one of the restaurants by the beach there may be internet, but bring your pacience and be ready to change your plans of the day. I knew this before coming here to do my study and I was prepared for it…yet to make a thesis internet seems a bit crucial in order to find all the info, articles and everything.

Another alternative is to go by bus into the closest town, León. Door to door the trip takes about an hour and that is not a problem. But when planning and doing an interview study the plans changes quikely. The partiipants don´t show up and you scheduele for the next day, so OK I don´t go to town…folloing day they cancel again and it is to late to go to town and so on…

But as I have written before, it is all worth it! I just hope that Malmö University understand why I haven´t updated so frequently as they have wanted..sorry Malmö University!

So my study is coming to an end…all the interviews are done, still waiting for some emails from some organisations but in total the field study is done. Now it is ”only” the writing part that is missing. I decided when I got the MFS scholarship that I would hand in my thesis in August instead of in May, since I had no idea how the study would go down here. The minimum stay is 8 weeks and that is pretty fair if everything goes as planned, i not it is nice to have 1-2 weeks extra like I have had. I also don´t know if we are supposed to write the thesis completely during this time aswell, that might be. But I have not had the time to finish mine so I am happy that I have until August to finish it.

In total if you have the energy and interst do a minor field study, apply! Do it! You learn so much from it! Of course it depends on what you want ot learn and do, but either way you will come out of it with an experience that the majority of your classmates does not have.

I don´t think this will be my last update, since I want to share some of my findings with you as well. So hold tight they will come!

Take Care!//Sandra

“It’s perfect”

Last Thursday I made the long, windy and bumpy journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city. One of my motivations for coming here was that I had been able to secure an interview with a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team of the biggest development project here in Nepal. This projects is a 50:50 initiative between the Government and some of the biggest donors and UN agencies operating in Nepal. The project gets a massive amount of funding (over $US760 million in it’s first year) and operates in every single district of Nepal. So I jumped at the opportunity to speak with one of the 4 district cluster M&E staff members. One reason being that this would provide a great research opportunity for my thesis findings. The other being because on a personal level, I was genuinely interested to know how they are measuring the impact of such vast funding, being dispersed into so many projects at the local level, and how these projects are measured as successful when there is so much suffering and hardship visible every where I turn in Nepal. The interview got off to a good start, courtesies were swapped and cups of tea poured. But as I was able to delve into my questions, an air of defensiveness arose. This is becoming a bit common, with M&E being a touchy subject, some people often seem worried that I am secretly their to monitor their work so matter how much I reassure them otherwise.

In this project, the Nepalese Government directs where the money should go to and what the development agenda should be. Multilateral agencies seem to get a say, but it seems to only a certain degree. The M&E staff go with checklists to assess the success of these projects, but there appeared in my view to be little recognition of the corruption in the use of development funding which so many citizens keep telling me about when I state my research topic. But when I asked my interview subjects for their perceptions on the M&E systems in place, their response, “it’s perfect” – nothing that needs to be improved, nothing not working well, everything going great, nothing more to be said. Everyone else I have had the opportunity to speak with so far has recognized innumerable challenges of M&E in Nepal. This was the first time I had heard anyone say with such strong conviction that something, anything, in this country is being done the correct way. M&E is such a difficult aspect of any development project, but more and more I am seeing just how important it is to qualify the projects being funded here. I hope in the weeks to come I am able to delve further into this issue, as well as getting less hostility in my research interviews!