In Tanzania, a cultural lens for motherhood

Students gain new perspectives on African motherhood. (Courtesy of Rachel Fikslin)
Students gain new perspectives on African motherhood. (Courtesy of Rachel Fikslin)

Stemming from the College’s study abroad program to Tanzania in the summer of 2013, “Hakuna Kama Mama,” a new photo-voice exhibition illustrating the hardships of women in Zanibar, was held in the AIMM building on Wednesday, Jan. 29. The event was presented by  the College’s women’s and gender studies department and was co-sponsored by The Center of Global Engagement and The Association of Students for Africa.

“The purpose of the workshop was to give women an opportunity to discuss issues that truly affect them, such as motherhood and childbirth,” sophomore psychology major Rachel Fikslin said.

Fikslin was one of the 10 students who participated in the study abroad Tanzania program.

This summer program was led by Marla Jaksch, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies, who taught the course “Gender Politics of Development in Tanzania.”

For the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the students in the class created the exhibition “Hakuna Kama Mama,” depicting the topics of motherhood and maternal health.

The exhibition included an array of outlets, such as photos, artworks and discussions. The photo-voice technique, dominantly used in this exhibition, allowed its participants to express their cultural perspectives where they would normally not have the opportunity to do so.

The exhibition included the participation of 120 women of Nungui, Zanzibar — an island and part of Tanzania on the eastern coast of Africa.

Women of Zanzibar captured what motherhood means to them in their presented photographs, Fikslin said.

The study abroad program in Tanzania not only included participation in photo-voice exhibitions, but also included additional unique experiences, according to Fikslin.

The group of 10 students worked as ambassadors with the “WeCare Solar” organization, which is an international organization that specifically works in developing regions to support and ensure the practices of safe motherhood by providing proper light and electricity.

Through “WeCare Solar,” students at the College installed solar power systems in various maternity wards throughout Tanzania. Due to Tanzania’s frequent electricity inconsistency, the infant and maternal mortality rates during childbirth are very high, according to Fikslin.

“Our solar project made a difference in several communities and also allowed us to collaborate and connect with Tanzanian organizations with the same goals in mind,” Fikslin said.

Tanzania study abroad will again take place this coming year and will include unique aspects such as education, culture and new solar projects.

“Studying abroad in Tanzania was a life-changing experience that made me see the world in a whole new way,” Fikslin said. “It made me realize that things like love and motherhood are universal to all humans, but the way we experience them are completely different across cultures.”

Enrollment for this summer program is still open and ready for students with a desire to help in developing regions.

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