Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Picture: Conducting land transfer focus group (from left to right: Youth, Kazungula Ke Kosi (Cheif), Lyndsay, Myself, VDC member)
You might think it strange that I haven’t written much about day to day life and what I am actually doing work wise here. The reason for this is while work is super interesting and quite the learning experience it is also emotionally draining. I have had the opportunity to sit in on paralegal advice and mediation meetings with our boss and some of the different people passing through the office looking for help. And while these meetings are confidential I can insure you that listening to stories of abuse, emotion, trickery, and drama leave me feeling as if I have just stepped into a novel. As the words pour out of the people mouths, can see them as if written on the pages of the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency.
Lyndsay and my personal project has been to write an action study report on land transfers in the Chobe district. Conducting three separate studies in the communities of Kazungula, Losoma, and Pandamatanga. This has entailed meetings with Land Board, The Ke Kossi (Village Chief), Village Development Council, data collection from the register, running a focus group with key respondents and youth and also conducting interviews throughout the community.
We have first hand experienced what Ntema calls the snowball effect. A compiling of issues ultimately building off of each other. Landlessness further amplifying poverty, leading to alcohol and substance abuse, prostitution, increased HIV/AIDS, OVCs (orphans and venerable children). In alignment with Ditshwanellos mandate the programs goal is poverty eradication rather then poverty elevation. This problem is tackled with a multi dimensional approach of awareness, advice and advocacy. Through informing people of their rights and the value of their land we are able to target the problem of landlessness created by the increased number of land transfers by vulnerable people.
In the interview process we have come across three obstacles so far. First off the always impeding language barrier. Even though English and Setswana are the two national languages in Botswana, many people speak their traditional tribal language still and only have broken Setswana or English. In many cases Susan has had to help translate. We have slowly been picking up bits of Setswana and along with basic introductions have mastered the phrase “No I am not trying to buy your land.” The second thing working against us has been the issue of substance abuse. Finding ourselves limited to the mornings as after lunch an alarming number of people hanging around are drunk and along with extended conversation its just generally more difficult. The most personal and challenging hurdle I have encountered is that often when people hear we are from the human rights office they ask for help and so with no expertise other then an open ear and empathetic nod we listen to their stories…No papers. Signed papers. Wrong papers. A young girl sick. Growing tumor.Shrinking heath. A toddler going hungry. No uniforms no school. A mother overworked. Searching for work. A dead father. Drunk father. No father.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
It consistently amazes me the amount that you can learn from another person. On our first day of work Lyndsay and I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of our colleagues. We talked and talked and in a conversation about the pros and cons of tourism I wanted to share part of what she said that I have been thinking a lot about.
“The river is very sacred to my tribe for fishing and the waterlilly. If you pull the root its like a potato and you mix it with meat and it is very good. Now you cannot go and get it because the owners of the buildings and the developments will chase you out because those are there for the tourist. They are very beautiful to look at. There must be a balance so that not only the big guys benefit. It can’t be at the expense of the local people. Where we used to fish they build a fence and now you have to pay ten pula to go in that area. If someone can’t even pay ten pula in the market for meat and now they must pay ten for their fish. Something that used to be free. What are they supposed to do?
But the pros are now there are stores and so we don’t have to go to Namibia to buy our clothes. I can get them right here. But in general the tourism is good. It has brought lots of opportunities. Now I will see someone who failed prime three (the equivalent of middle school in Canada) and is now a guide for tourism and is making a good live. He is now making more then a schoolteacher. It is good to give the opportunity.”
I feel very lucky to have had this conversation and be able to write it down after so that I could remember the way she phrased things and to use her words. I am so happy that we will have the opportunity to work with her and as she said, “to exchange learning from each other.” Already in this one morning I feel like I have gained so much perspective. The culture in so rich that you can almost taste it in the way that she spoke.
In showing her pictures of Canada and explaining things that have always been so normal for me such as the four seasons. It was shocking to realize just how different things are and yet with these huge differences how at the same time how universal the human race is. The other day while walking around, we saw a group of kids playing and they followed after us giggling, while playing tag, testing us. I really value what Thomas noticed and think he put it really well saying “it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, kids will be kids.”
I think this is such a compelling statement and describes how I feel now when describing the differences to our colleague and seeing the marvel on her face, all that I could think of where the similarities. How extraordinary is it that all around the world people are people.
Going through the pictures from Canada I feel a great sense of national pride as well and appreciation to call such a beautiful place my home. In our conversation, she was saying that when she was a little girl she used to dream of going to Canada because even the name sounded beautiful. “Canada, you know when you can dream about such things.” How extremely lucky we are to be so well traveled, to see so much of the world. I feel far more appreciative for that then anything else. More so then having a house with hot water and a shower. It was incredible how blown away and in awe she was, saying “this is too much” again and again as I quickly flipped through outdoors club photos of fall colors, winter, mountain climbing, ice on the lake and describing snowshoes and cowboy hats. How it can be flat in Saskatchewan, snow in the mountains in Calgary and then green rainforest on Vancouver Island. I want more then anything to take her there.
Walking back to work after our lunch break still talking about culture and differences, she said, “ I now understand why it is so different here for you.” And when Lyndsay said “Yes, its been difficult adjusting.” Her response was “Yes, but everything can adapt. Even if you live by the railroad, you will eventually not hear the sound. And then if you leave you will find it difficult to sleep without the noise.”
And so it is for me already I was shocked lying in bed that night as the sound faded away.