The women’s group was originally started by a group of women who came to Jesca asking for help because she's a lawyer. Jesca soon decided to start an organization that fought for social, economic, and political equality. The group slowly began to grow and now has over 100 members ranging from ages 17 - 87. In their culture, women usually stay at home, take care of the kids and husband, and make food. But these women grow crops, make coffee and jams, and many clothing items to sell. Many of them also work on their own farms and take care of livestock. Also many of them have small businesses which has made the women more independent. Some of these projects are what we have been working on the past few days.
The first day we went and met all of the women at Jesca’s parents house, which past student trips have visited. Each of us had to stand up and introduce ourselves in English and Jesca translated in Swahili and vis versa. After this Jesca talked about the origin of the group and the daily life of each of these women. In all honesty this meeting went too long and many of us were getting antsy. The next day we arrived at the house and was told we would be making coffee. It’s not as easy as some of you may think. First you put the coffee beans in a bowl type thing and smash them to separate the shell from the bean. Then you shake the beans to get rid of the shell completely. Thirdly you roast the beans over an open fire. We had about 4 to 5 stations where we were roasting coffee and each station had about 3 people. This was because eventually smoke from the fire would get in your eyes and you would begin to cry and that is when the rotations of people would come in handy. Lastly you put the roasted beans back into the bowl type thing and grind them into a powder, which would be the coffee we Americans buy in the store. We also helped bag the coffee. It was interesting because the women made their own bags out of plastic by hand using a fire to melt it.
The third day we went to the house assuming we would be making a dam or jam but when we arrived we were told to start washing sorghum. We all looked around at each other like what the heck is sorghum. We were separated into groups of 3 and were given a bucket. little tiny seeds (sorghum), and water. So we began grabbing a pile of these seeds and rubbing them between our hands in the water. Then we would switch out the water and continue the same process. All of us thought this would be super easy but to our surprise it wasn’t at all. After we rubbed the seeds between our hand we had to shake the water out of the seeds. This shaking process was done over and over again for what seemed like forever. None of us knew the reason for what we were doing. But once there were sewing seeds we began to see dirt at the bottom. The technique of shaking the seeds was that the seeds were lighter and the dirt was heavier so as you lose more seeds you are soon left with only dirt. Then we fully understood the reason why washing sorghum was such a long process. The best part was that after we were done we realized our hands were very soft which made most of us happy, especially girls.
The fourth day (which was today) was by far the toughest and took the most out of us. Today we were told to take out our gloves and bring them with because we would be building a dam. We had to walk a long ways from the house and also had to walk into the forest of banana trees. Everyone was super confused about what we were supposed to do. A man began cutting down some trees and one of the branches hit Sophie in the head. But no worries Sophie’s parents!!! She was perfectly fine after it happened. Anyways he cleared out an area and told us to start digging. We dug for about two hours but it seemed like we didn’t even make a dent. Some of us were hoeing and the others would shovel out the dirt. Today, many of us were not happy because everyone was covered in dirt and were getting bit by bugs so when we were told to start walking to the bus, we were grateful. This hole is supposed to be 3 feet deep so we will be working on this project for the next few days. When we finish the dam the women plan to put fish in it so they can fish and use that as another way to make money.
Through all of these projects we are very aware at how hard these women work on a daily basis. We are always complaining about being tired or needing a break but not once has one of those women said they needed a break of complained. They are always happy to see us which really lightens the mood and makes it easier to keep working. Everyone is looking forward to the next days working on more projects.
Hey Gwen and Mark, I know its been pretty quiet around the house without the favorite child. I’ll be home soon to keep you guys busy! Love and miss you and say hi to the cats for me;)
Also Koala says hi to whoever wants to accept it. Ha.