CAMEROON: Lessons from the Kitchen | World Pulse
I have come to appreciate the NECESSITY of an event planner. The amount of coordination that has consumed my life the last few days has been intense and overwhelming to say the least. What motivates me to continue is that the occasion is a small tribute to GREAT women who tirelessly give of themselves daily without complaint – Sweet African Mothers…
Here is one of my classic tunes by Prince Nico Mbarga…”SWEET MOTHER”
From our Week 3 “Celebrating the inspiring women in our lives” discussion series, most of you shared the strong impressions your mothers have had on your lives. You identified key character traits that you aspire to develop within you over time. I too echo in the impact my mother (Rosaline) continues to have on my life. Her strength, faith, generous, selfless, and lively spirit inspires me to always give wholeheartedly in all that I do. This is why you will always see a smile from ear-to-ear as I continue work on the New AGE (African Girl Evolution) Project. My mother is and will always be my inspiration to nurture beauty everywhere I go.
Rather than share a summary of the discussion threads, I would like to share with you the beautiful writings from an African Mother with a beautiful and passionate spirit…Enjoy!
Happy Women’s Day
A day to look within you, and realize your beauty.
I have been slowly wading my way through “HALF THE SKY” by Kristof and WuDunn. It isn’t a read for the faint of heart. Very descriptive, lively, and at times gruesome portrayals of some truthful atrocities that affect women worldwide and some compelling innovative interventions. I just finished the “Investing in Education” chapter during my train commute this morning and I just have to share this bit with you on how good intentions can become very costly – the cassava project… Enjoy!!!
While empowering women is critical to overcoming poverty, it represents a field of aid work that is particularly challenging in that it involves tinkering with the culture, religion, and family relations of a society that we often don’t fully understand. A friend of ours was involved in a UN project in Nigeria that was meant to empower women, and his experience is a useful cautionary tale. The women in this area of Nigeria raise cassava ( a widely eaten root, vaguely like a potato) and use it mostly for household food, while selling the surplus in the markets. When the women sold the extra cassava, they controlled the money, so the aid workers had a bright idea: If we give them better varieties of cassava, they’ll harvest more and sell more. Then they’ll make more money, and spend it on their families. Our friend described what came next:
The local women’s variety of cassava produced 800 kilos per hectare, and so we introduced a variety that got three tons per hectare. The result was a terrific harvest. But then we ran into a problem. Cassava was women’s work, so the men wouldn’t help them harvest it. The women didn’t have time to harvest such huge yields, and there wasn’t a capacity to process that much cassava.
So we introduced processing equipment.
Unfortunately, this variety of cassava that we had introduced had great yields, but it also was more bitter and toxic. Cassava always produces a little bit of a cyanide-related compound, but this variety produced larger amounts than normal. So the runoff after processing had more cyanide, and we had to introduce systems to avoid contaminating ground water with cyanide – that would have been a catastrophe.
So we dealth with that, and finally the project looked very successful.
The women were making a lot of money on their cassava. We were delighted. But because the women were making so much, the men came in and kicked the women out of the cassava fields. The tradition was that women raise staple crops, and men raise cash crops. And the men reasoned that if cassava was so profitable, it must now be a man’s crop. And so the men took over cassava, and they used the profits for beer. The women had even less income than when we started.
Please note that the above humorous posting, pictures, and excerpt does not place fault on my fellow African brothers for seeing and acting on a good opportunity, or the aid workers’ genuine desire to empower our women. Perhaps its simply just a case of misunderstood culture…However, I think one of the moral lessons here has broad application to our personal lives: because you see a specific need or problem, don’t just jump to rectify it…rather, seek to understand the context and the wisdom acquired later will enable you create a practical and sustainable solution…Be good to yourself today!
Some people call me an idealist and borderline delusional optimist. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone labelling people because I sincerely believe that they restrict and box one into a category. However, in this case I am quite happy to be called such…For I am thereby encouraged that there is growing awareness as I fiercely dream and pursue that which is right – Women and girls empowered to live and enjoy life!!! Environments made conducive for their growth and surplus opportunities for them to thrive. Women’s issues integrated into comprehensive national policies. Female leadership driving global agendas whether in the health, private, or business sectors.
Can you imagine a world where a significant risk factor for HIV, violence, maternal mortality, malnutrition, death etc…is NOT being born a girl…
TED a nonprofit that shares Big visions from true innovators in Technology, Entertainment, and Design, recently had the TEDWomen Conference in Washington D.C. Amazing women from all over the globe coming together to share their ideas, realities, and solutions on how to reshape the world. Check out what Hilary Clinton (U.S. Secretary of State) had to say on Empowering Girls – video.
With the advent of globalization, many more opportunities to travel and seek out greener pastures are available. International mobility has increased profoundly over the past two decades. It is not atypical to find societies that are composed of high numbers of transient populations than locals or natives. Nowadays, it is fairly common to have been born in Kenya, schooled in the U.K., and now currently working in Canada.
My purpose for creating this space, your space, aka “My Kitchen” is to start crafting and cooking solution-focused conversations around a seemingly insignificant issue that emerges as a result of cultural shifts due to immigration – Identity Development.
Intended population = recently immigrated African young ladies (15 – 24yrs). Why? Do you recall your adolescence? Trying on different identities, setting future goals (at times unrealistic), interpersonal relational pressures. Now imagine adding unto this already stressed transition into young adulthood relocating to a new culture, a new language, and new societal systems. It can be overwhelming!!!
I hope you entering my kitchen will not just stop at talk, but will be an opportunity for inter-cultural education, self-reflections, and other-inspiration. Cherishing what makes us unique and helping others learn from us what is important to us…but above all helping younger African sisters become more comfortable in their own skin and more trusting of their inner voice. Guide and support them as is true of the African Woman’s nurturing spirit.
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