Tena West, an African Impact volunteer from Seattle has been making her way around Africa volunteering on programs such as our community project in Livingstone. She is currently volunteering with us in Moshi, Tanzania, where she’s helping to empower local women through education. To celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we’re bringing you her thoughts on empowering and educating the women of this rural town deep in the heart of Africa. Moshi has a population of 185,000 and is home to the Chagga and Maasai tribes. It is known mainly for its prized Arabica coffee beans and its mountains, as Moshi has earned its reputation for being the starting point for climbers from all over the world. Kilimanjaro (or Kili as it is fondly called) is the gem of the area. The surrounding foothills offer lush, tropical forests, which are much cooler than the city of Moshi itself. At 19,341 feet, Kili reigns as the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, while Mt. Rainier, the gem of the Pacific Northwest and my hometown of Seattle, stands at 14,411 feet. While the scenery is lovely, Tanzania is still very much a patriarchal society; only 5% of girls finish secondary school and a vast majority of people live in poverty. The patriarchal attitudes, combined with the lack of education, means that most women end up serving their husbands or struggling to provide for their children as a single parent. Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) is a non-profit organization partnering with African Impact, to empower local women and equip them with knowledge and skills to pull themselves out of poverty and become less dependent on others. GHTA accomplishes this by providing free English, Business, and Vocational skills training (including mathematics, hair braiding, tie-dying, jewelry making, crocheting, soap making, etc). This helps develop skills for gaining employment, which in turn allows the women to better support their families. Upon graduation from the one-year course, some of the women become entrepreneurs and start businesses in the GHTA co-operative where they sell fabric and clothing. GHTA is truly a grassroots, hands-on organization that has a tangible, immediate impact on the womens’ lives, but it also helps build a stronger foundation for future generations of Tanzanian women by giving their female children higher expectations of what they can achieve in life. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of the GHTA and African Impact team here. Since my arrival on October 12th, I’ve been teaching a Business course. The 48 women who were accepted into the program this year are all eager learners, although they sometimes struggle with some of the subject matter. Keep in mind that many of them have not been in school since they were young girls, and some never had the opportunity to go to school at all. So just getting to class on time, sitting in class for 3 hours a day, taking notes, doing homework, and meeting the expectations of their teachers can be overwhelming for them. Some of them shed tears when they do poorly on quizzes, or get emotional when told they have a quiz coming up soon. And yet, they return to school every day to continue learning because they know they are incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and because they are hungry to learn. As a teacher, it is an amazing feeling to work with them on a new topic and see them connect the dots. When the light bulb comes on for them, it is positively joyful! Herman, my co-teacher and the interpreter for the Business Class GHTA emply interpreters to work closely with the volunteer teachers in the classrooms every day. After having taught English to students in Zanzibar without an interpreter present, I can attest to the amazing difference it makes to have a native Swahili speaker in the classroom with you, especially one who is a graduate of the program. I’m honored to work with Herman Chelesi, the interpreter and co-teacher of the Business course. Herman is one of the few men accepted into the GHTA program over the years. GHTA’s stance on accepting a few good men is that educating men about the plight of Tanzanian women can only help the women. They chose well in choosing Herman. He is one of the brightest, most respectful and professional young men I’ve ever met. He also happens to be my Swahili teacher, so trust me when I tell you that this man has an amazing amount of patience! Would you like to empower rural women in communities across Africa like Tena is doing? We have a number of projects just like this ‘Local Women and Children Empowerment Project,' including programs like our Vulnerable Children and Rural Family Support project in South Africa, and Teaching an Community Project in Zanzibar.