Browse Tag: Education

[VIDEO] Africans for Africa Update: A Day at The Ibhabhathane Community Centre

This post is part of my Africans for Africa project updates: I’m traveling through Southern Africa for 6-months offering free social media, online fundraising, and organizational development strategy workshops to African women, LGBTI, and youth grassroots groups. I publish stories, reflections, lessons learned, and interviews from along the way.

Never Doubt a Small Group of Dedicated Women…

I recently visited the Ibhabhathane Community Centre, the only pre-school available in Rieebeck East, a small farm village with a population of about 700 people. Needless to say, providing good quality education (much less early childhood development) is a challenge. But a small group of dedicated women are making a difference.

An elderly black South African woman (she’s serving food in an apron in the video) reached out to Yolande, a white afrikaans woman, then a new resident to the small town, asking for her assistance in setting up a small center to care for toddlers; many of the young children were left idle / unattended, without sufficient social stimulation, and were growing up with developmental challenges, further impeding their success at the local primary school.

Yolande, a teacher by training, worked with the local community to open the first creche (pre-school) in an abandoned wooden shack. A few local women volunteer to teach and play with the children every day in their native language, Xhosa. And, over time, they remodeled the shack into a warmer, more colorful space. The roof needs to be fixed, and the floor needs to be re-tiled, so fundraising is top priority for them as they hope to grow and implement higher quality programming (in a more conducive environment) for their children.

A few of their goals include building a comprehensive library of children’s books, acquiring funding for more teachers, and a bigger space so they can take in more children, who, without the centre, would remain idle in the village, as the unemployment (and alcoholism) rate is very high.

Rieebeck East, My New Favorite Getaway

During my visit, I stayed with Yolande, the project leader, and her husband, Marc (a talented visual artist and photographer) in their charming Bohemian style mud house, located just outside the township. The interior was painted aqua blue, and they had beautiful art they’d collected from over the years hanging on the walls. Yolande, who comes from a family of mosaicists, has tiled the counter tops, floors, and walls in a simple, yet accentuating masonry of pastel yellow, silver, grey, and black tiles and pebble stones.

On the night I arrived, they happened to be entertaining friends from  out of town, so we all built a fire for a brai (South African barbequeue), and spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and conversing passionately about the arts, apartheid, and the media’s spin on the murder of 36 protesting mine workers. Nothing like spending an evening outdoors, by a fire among fellow artivists; it was the most fun I’d had in several weeks.

My remaining two days there were a lot quieter, a much-needed oasis of nature, peace, and serenity, especially after spending nearly three weeks in the cold city of Cape Town. I woke up each morning to the sound of their fives dogs, three cats, and a whole lot of chickens, then watched the sun ascend from the horizon (which one can see for miles and miles around), as I sipped Rooibos tea. The landscape was breathtaking, and the warmth with which I was tended to, moving. It reminded me that as a traveler, there’s only one way to find home away from home; don’t search for it whole; find snippets, bits & pieces wrapped in small acts of kindness.

When I left, I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and with two new friends whom I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe next year.

A Bit of Kindness, Returned

Ibhabhathane Community Centre is currently trying to raise about R8000 (~$1000) to get high speed internet installed. Currently, there is no connection in the very small town, and Yolande needs to drive about 45K up a dirt road to the nearest university to use the internet (her mobile data modem is much too slow for anything more than checking email). Getting the infrastructure installed will make it easier for her to improve communications with potential donors (and the outside world in general), and also, increase Ibhabhathane’s social media engagement, which they’d like to use for fundraising.

I made this video for them because I was moved by how much they’ve accomplished with so little, and also, how kind everyone was to me, a total stranger, just passing through. I’ve visited about 20 NGOs since I arrived in South Africa in July, and this is the one with the idea — and the people — that have touched me the most.

So, here’s the short video I made — a snapshot of “A Day at the Ibhabhathane Community Centre”. I hope you enjoy it, and consider supporting them as well. You can donate to their project here.


International Women’s Day Screening of Africa’s “Waiting for Superman” — “To Educate a Girl”

Originally written for

In a world in which over 72 million children are not in school — and most of them are female — what does it take to educate a girl?

Framed by the United Nations global initiative to provide equal access to education for girls by 2015, the documentary film, To Educate a Girl, takes a ground-up and visually stunning view of that effort through the eyes of girls in Nepal and Uganda, two countries emerging from conflict and struggling with poverty.

In Nepal, Manisha, a teenager who works in the fields while her three younger sisters go to school, is contrasted by three young listeners of a hugely popular youth-oriented radio program. We learn how the program has helped them deal with issues of early marriage and poverty in order to stay in school.

In Uganda, we meet Mercy, the six-year-old daughter of an impoverished single mother who is about to embark on her first day of school, and Sarah, a teenage war orphan who is haunted by a tragic past but still managing to study.

Through the experiences of girls out of school, starting school or fighting against the odds to stay in school, To Educate a Girl offers a compelling look at the lives of young women who are striving to achieve their dreams in the face of conflict, poverty and gender bias.

The film, directed and produced with support from the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), is already been compared to Waiting for Superman, another documentary film that focuses a critical lens on the broken public education system in the US and explores the “achievement gap” within schools mainly along racial lines.To Educate A Girl, however, places the conversation about education within a global context–the millions of children around the world not even in school, and the experiences of girls in particular as they navigate culture, poverty, and gender bias in order to access even the most basic education.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, UNICEF will host the film’s New York premier. The screening will take place on March 8th (time), at Teachers College, Columbia University, and will feature a Q&A with award-winning filmmakers Frederick Rendina and Oren Rudavsky, and representatives from UNICEF.

Note: The film can also be viewed in full at

Check out the trailer:

To Educate a Girl (Trailer) from Talking Drum Pictures on Vimeo.

Africa, Make Up Your Mind: Kenya Expels Girls for “Lesbianism,” Permits Same Gender Marriage Between Older Women

Kenya’s views on same-gender relationships involving women present quite the dichotomy. 

Just last week, I stumbled across this video report from NTV Kenya about the suspension of twelve secondary school students due to allegations of “lesbianism.” The girls were sent home by the principal upon receiving information of their “abnormal” behavior from the rest of the student body.

According to a statement made by the principal, Dorcas Kavuku, “these particular girls were not behaving according to the school rules. They practiced lavish touching and kissed each other which is not normal for people of the same gender,” and so she’d sent them home pending further investigation. A similar story was reported last year involving over fifty girls being questioned for “lesbianism and devil worship.”

Is expulsion on the grounds of homophobia “lesbianism” becoming a more popular trend? One would certainly hope not. Given the number of societal challenges that already bar young girls from receiving basic education in Kenya (e.g. early marriage, pregnancy, harassment by male teachers, etc.),  a country in which girls drop out at a higher rate than boys, denying young girls the right to remain in school hardly makes any sense, even with Kenya’s views on homosexuality.

Incidentally, as convinced as the principal is that same gender relationships between girls are wrong, Kenya’s constitution doesn’t necessarily reflect this sentiment. Sections 162 to 165 of the Kenyan Penal Code criminalize homosexual behaviour and attempted homosexual behaviour between men, not women, a loophole Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga disregarded in 2010 when he called for lesbians to be arrested along with men to protect the “cleanliness” of the country. Still, lesbian relations are not currently prohibited in the law, which makes sense given Kenya’s long-standing tradition of permitting women to get married in the absence of a male partner.

According to a BBC news report published yesterday:

Homosexual acts may be outlawed in Kenya but there is a long tradition among some communities of women marrying each other.

This is hard to fathom in a country where religious leaders condemn gay unions as “un-African” – and those who dare to declare their partnerships openly often receive a hostile public reaction.

But these cases involving women are not regarded in the same light.

If a woman has never had any children, she takes on what is regarded as the male role in a marriage, providing a home for the younger woman, who is then encouraged to take a male sexual partner from her partner’s clan to become pregnant.

Her offspring will be regarded as the fruit of the marriage.

“I married according to our age-old tradition, where if a woman was not lucky enough to have her own children, she got another woman to honour her with children,” says 67-year-old Juliana Soi.

This customary same-gender marriage arrangement – practised among Kenya’s Kalenjin (encompassing the Nandi, Kipsigis, and Keiyo), Kuria and Akamba communities – has come under the legal spotlight recently because of an inheritance case currently before the courts; some relatives are fighting to inherit a large house which would, by law, pass to the spouse of the late wife.

As the report gleans, if the court rules in favor of the same-gender spouse, it would challenge the patriarchal approach to family relationships, and give woman-to-woman marriages a stronger footing in the modern world. And modern is the key word, since traditional same-sex marriages have been a historical part of Africa’s culture — in over 30 different populations, including the Yoruba, Ibo, Nuer, Lovedu, Zulu, and Sotho — long before colonialism imported homophobia.

In this light, the dichotomy of Kenya’s views towards same-gender relationships involving women isn’t so confusing; it represents Africa’s struggle to find a balance between preserving the old and embracing the new.

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