You’ll find answers to all of these questions and many more by reading comments from Faculty of Social Sciences interns on this blog. Students posted all around the world will share their experience, challenges and success stories with readers. Please visit this blog regularly to find out about their adventures!
Please visit the French version of this web page to read the French postings published by our Students.
Valerie, International Development and Globalization,
Uniterra, Tanzania - Friends in Development (FIDE) - Communications and Documentation Officer
Whereas most people associate Tanzania with wildlife and landscapes, the thing I will remember the most about Tanzania is the generosity and friendliness of the people here. “Polite, considerate and friendly” are words often used to describe Canadians and those seem to apply perfectly to Tanzanians as well. There are 120 ethnic groups and therefore 120 tribal languages in Tanzania, which makes the country the second most ethnically diverse in the world. Despite this diversity, Tanzanians live such in harmony with one and another. Once again, this makes me think of Canada as it is perceived by many, myself included, as a multicultural country that embraces all races, ethnicities and religions.
If not for the people, I will miss Tanzania for its food which is very simple and yet so rich in taste. Living in the small city that is Babati, I have had the opportunity to eat local dishes every day, whether it was rice and beans with milk tea (black tea infused in boiled milk) for lunch or chips mayai (omelet filled with fries) for dinner.
Living in a very small town has had its pros and cons. On one hand, most people here only speak Swahili and the diversity of restaurants and shops is very limited as is the number of foreigners here. On the other hand, I get to interact with the same people every day, practice Swahili and eat more local food than I would if I were living in a bigger city like the majority of volunteers are. Altogether, this has made my integration into my host country easier and I feel as though I am experiencing the local culture more than I would have thought.
Having the opportunity to put to practice what I have learned in class for the past 3 years is truly rewarding. As I am currently developing a gender equality policy for my organization, I was grateful for the “Women, Gender and Development” course I took during the fall semester of 2018 as it provided me with knowledge about theoretical and practical approaches to women in development and issues women face in Southern countries to use for the aforementioned policy. Though, reading back on my class notes from different DVM courses made me realize how applying the theories we learn in class is not as realistic as it might seem. In the case of women’s empowerment, I have found that most theories fail to address the core of gender inequality which is in the private sphere and is engraved deeply in cultural norms and traditions. As pessimistic this might seem, it is the reality I am faced with. I am, though, finding smaller but still meaningful ways of supporting excluded groups (women, youth and indigenous) through everyday actions, whether it is buying from them at the market or giving them a forum by interviewing them on their past and current living situation.
My job as Communication and Documentation Officer with Friends in Development (FIDE) is located in Babati. In a few words, FIDE is a local NGO using local expertise to lead community-based rural development projects in different regions in Tanzania in order to achieve a poverty-free, equitable and environmentally sustainable society. It works in various fields, such as agriculture, health, education and water supply, partners regularly with local, national and international organizations to help implement its projects.
The work culture in Tanzania was definitely a challenge throughout my whole mandate and even after 3 months, I can’t really say that I got used to it. For instance, being productive all the time isn’t a thing, whereas frequent tea breaks and 2h lunches are. During these 2h lunches, everyone eats together, and no one brings their own food unless they are willing to share with the whole office. Also, no one tells you what you are supposed to do and you are expected to create work for yourself. Last but not least, everything takes time here and you can’t rely on schedules. This is where the whole “hakuna matata” saying means more than just “no worries” – it also refers to time as in “do not rush”. Without a doubt, the latter has made my work more difficult and longer than it could have been.
However, when looking back at all the tasks I have achieved, I have done more than the Uniterra team and I had anticipated in my work plan. In fact, in 3 months I have:
Redone completely the website;
Updated the website and social medias weekly;
Developed a Gender Equality Policy and presented it to the staff and board;
Designed a newsletter;
Developed participants form to track the gender, age group and knowledge level on specific subjects of beneficiaries at trainings and meetings;
Conducted interviews with beneficiaries to see how their situation improved;
Created a guide on how to use WordPress for my coworkers.