Monday 5 December 2016

Update from Zeze - WiFi, welding and a community library

Communicating with Zeze has been difficult - the mobile phone signal is generally poor, particularly in the rainy season and so Benedicto would have to go 40 km into Kasulu to send emails and Skype.  But in May 2016 Avanti, set up a pilot Community Hotspot in Zeze providing satellite broadband in the village, courtesy of a grant from the UK Space Agency.

This has meant that MVG are now able to communicate with the outside world.  They are monitoring climate change and water levels in a research project with Kings College, London, and can now email data without having to travel. They have also been able to download resources to teach the illiterate women starting to learn to read in the community library, as well as e-books for the children.

Unemployment is high in Zeze - there are very few opportunities other than the subsistence farming that is insufficient to provide an adequate income.  But when the schools need new desks they currently get carpenters in from Kasulu, as there are none with adequate tools or skills in Zeze.  So MVG is setting up a welding and carpentry workshop to train local youth and provide these services locally.  Getting equipment to a village 60km from a tarmac road and 40km from mains electricity is a slow process, particularly in the rainy season when everything turns to mud, but the workshop is built, the instructors in place and the youth identified, and excited to start learning in the New Year.

One of the issues with farming here is that soils are
depleted and farmers cannot afford good seeds or organic fertilisers. So MVG have set up a farmer training and loan scheme to help them.  The first 31 farmers planted their hybrid maize last week after great rejoicing that the rains had finally arrived, 2 months late. Another issue is access to water.  So far MVG have hand drilled 5 bore holes, including at the clinic, which did not have water.  This is a slow, hard, process, taking up to 6 days of hard physical labour for 7 men.  But it saves hours of walking to collect water for the villagers, and means they don't rely on the filthy ponds some of them resorted to previously.

They've got big plans to improve their community here, and money goes a very long way, so if you are able to donate it is very much appreciated and you can do so here. Asante!

Monday 2 May 2016

Mapping the fight against FGM in Mara

As a survivor of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) herself, Rhobi Samwelly is determined that the girls now growing up in Mara will not suffer as she did.  As a 13 year old she knew well the dangers of FGM, as one of her friends had died from the practice the previous year. She pleaded in vain with her parents not to subject her to it.  Having nowhere to turn she had no choice but to submit to the cut, which almost cost her her life as she bled so much she fell unconscious.

Twenty years later she finally achieved her dream and set up the Mugumu Safe House - a sanctuary where girls refusing FGM can turn during the annual "cutting season".  To ensure girls know they have a safe place to turn, Rhobi visits the remote villages where they are most at risk to tell them about their rights.  But there are no maps available meaning it is very hard to ensure all villages are covered. Villages like Sogoti were forgotten by the outside world. Rhobi had to cut down trees to reach it the first time she visited.  

Now we have added the school to Openstreetmap, but not yet the roads leading to it, making navigation still difficult.  

We want to ensure that girls in villages like Sogoti are protected from FGM and forced marriage.  Rhobi wants an activist in each village that girls at risk can turn to, and each of these places clearly labelled on a map, with a contact number.  Then girls in danger can more easily be directed to people who will help them, and be found easily by safe house staff.

We have started the map - please join us to complete it.and help protect girls like Javita.

There is more information about this mapping project and how much we have mapped here.