Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

227. Opening Part II

This post narrates glimpses of development work of VSO Mozambique. However, this is written in individual capacity and VSO Mozambique does not necessarily endorse the viewpoint. Names of individuals and places are either not mentioned or changed. If you want to know more about VSO, click here or  here
Understanding a new environment is mostly challenging – even in the era of Information and Technology. As an outsider one has limited access to people’s lives and their perceptions about life. In addition to that as an outsider I am exempted from the general norms and rules of the society; which has a tremendous potential to create superficial interpretation of what I come across. So, cautiously I try to evolve general understanding not only based on my experiences (as I know my limitations) but also based on the experience of others – which they share.

Understanding a society poses another problem; especially when I try to understand through urban societies. With the increased influence of Market Economy and to certain extent its impact on traditional livelihoods; societies are no more homogeneous today. There are multiple streams within any urban society. So I keep on checking and crosschecking notions, practices, ideas, norms, rules and also exceptions – as change is constantly happening.

Due to my active participation in the VSO project (titled The Business of Girls’ Education), I get opportunity to interact with girls (and boys) in primary schools; teachers in primary schools; community members who are involved in School Management through School Councils and officers of Provincial Education Department. We have many discussions on barriers faced by girls in continuing education (and how to overcome those collectively) and that gives me ideas. These interactions throw light on Gender Roles, Gender Based Division of Labor, Access to and Control over Resources, Decision Making in the society. Triangulation is done by habit (not systematically, I must confess) and it fits into what I knew about this society even before I came to Mozambique.

We are in another school; meeting the 6 Lead Girls is an important agenda of the visit. We find that Marta is missing from the group and there are still 6 girls. Since Marta did not appear in the school this year, the school has substituted her with another girl –Cecilia. I do not want to discourage Cecilia, but I want to know where Marta is.

“Did Marta attend the classes regularly last year?” I ask the teacher; an enthusiastic and experienced teacher who is with us in the school.

“Yes,” replies the teacher.
“Why is Marta not coming to school?” I ask. Everybody chooses to remain silent.
“Is she transferred to other school?”
Silence. Not deliberate, but nobody knows.

“Is she not well?”
Nobody knows.

Looking at Cecilia’s face, I dare to ask, “Is she married?”
“Yes,” responds Cecilia

One more 13-14 year girl is married again. In 2015? Yes!

“Is she still in this village?” I continue asking. “Do you know her home?”

Cecilia knows Marta’s house. So accompanied by two girls and the teacher, we walk for twenty minutes.

We come across a cluster of huts and everybody stops. It takes some time for me to realize that the  cluster of huts belongs to one family and unless the Head of the Family (invariably a Man) permits us to enter, we cannot move further.

The father arrives. He might be 40 or even 50, it is hard to tell. The teacher speaks in the local language and explains the purpose of the visit. This is not an occasion for taking photographs. I am using neither camera, notebook nor pen.

“Oh! Marta is married. I have no problem if she continues going to school; but her husband should give her permission,” he explains frankly.

Marta’s husband is studying in the nearby district and Marta continues to stay with her parents. How old is he? May be 20.

“I did not want my daughter to marry, but she married what I can do?” says the father.
“Can we talk to Marta, please?” I ask.

Father goes to a hut in the backside to call Marta, but she refuses to come out. So, with the permission of the father, I go to that hut. But Marta refuses to come out. One of her aunts is there. With her permission, I enter inside. Marta does not know me, we have never met. She pulls her face down, covers it by both the palms and clearly speaks, “I do not like school, and I do not want to go to school.” I am surprised by her clarity of thought. At that moment I do not want to invade her privacy, I do not want to threaten her by my presence. I come out of the hut and tell the aunt, “When Marta wants to meet us, we will come again, let us know.”

On the way back the team discusses. “These girls! They want to marry. Even when her father did not want, she married. What can we do?”

I ask about the lobolo (the bride price) the father would have received. It is about 3000 MT (approximately USD 90). In addition to this the groom clears surrounding land and builds a new hut for the girl’s father (or family).

We could not stop marriage of this girl. However, we can at least bring her back to school. But why did Marta hate the school so much? How many more girls would be preferring marriage, feeling that school is not a place for them? And what exactly happened in the school? Are girls punished? Do they have to do more work in school too? Is it a language issue? (Not Portuguese but local language is spoken in the village.) 

We need to think. We need to strategize. We need to connect not only with the girls and teachers, but also with the community. Yes, through school councils, we have established initial contacts with the community, we need to strengthen those.

To talk to girls regarding consequences of early marriage is necessary but not sufficient. Adults have lot of power over their children, so it is important to work with adults.

And we need to work with boys as well. 

Are our efforts good enough to open better life opportunities for girls like Marta?

 to be continued...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

226. Countdown

This post has been published by me as a part of Blog-a-Ton 55; the fifty-fifth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. In association with Rashmi Kumar, the author of Hooked, Lined and Single and Jyoti Arora, the author of Lemon Girl.

Sometimes I don’t understand my anxiety. I know you are not accountable to us and you always keep the date. However, I still check weather predictions. The news of your arrival helps me to survive the heat.

It is unfair to say that summer is always horrible. The kids have vacations; ample mangoes and rounds of ice-creams. Meeting friends and traveling. However in the corner of my heart, I know I am waiting for you. I know some people around me do not bother about you. They think everything could be purchased by money power. They are wrong. I argue with them. Such arguments make me feel vacant within. I wish you come a bit earlier this year so that I can forget and forgive these people.

In the world I live, there are multiple worlds. Women walk miles for a pot of water; farmers will be forced to either end their life or migrate. Animals are thirsty. The trees are dirty. The sky seems distant. The Sun blazes and we wait for you.

The evening brings cool breeze. On the western horizon I see black clouds. Will you come today? Oh, No!  Within few moments the clouds move. May be not here but somewhere it is raining.

I am away from home for a week. It was work, so I could not avoid it. And then I see you meeting my home town – on the television, in the newspapers, on FB, on social media. Everywhere. Well, what wrong have I done so that you avoid me?

I am frustrated with the heat, with the work, with the world. I feel lonely. I feel like crying. I just want to go away. Problem is: I cannot go away from myself. I know I would be happy again when you come. When are you coming?

They say that you have arrived in Kerala. Good to know. This means another seven days. Life ise worth of all this waiting.

Where is the umbrella? Do I need to purchase raincoat? What about Floaters?
That is the problem of being a human. On one side, I wait for you like I have never longed before. On the other side I am thinking of all the things to protect me from you. Is it not ridiculous? Yes, it is. I can see you smiling on my contradictions.

I feel you around. I smell you. I look at the elephant like clouds, big, black. But they keep on disappearing. Why?

Will you come tomorrow or today? Will you come in the morning or in the evening?


Finally you come.
You make this world beautiful. You change lives. You make lives. You bring smiles. You bring value to everything around. You bring smiles.
Thanks for coming!
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: 48. Image Credits: Monsoon by Yann (Wikimedia Commons). Shared with GNU Free Documentation License CC Attribution-Share Alike.