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Wabash College Bridging the Gap of Education in Africa

by Jeana Rogers

Immersion Trip? No
Research? In a way.
Exploration? A bit of that too.

So why is Wabash going to Africa?

 

Last fall, Dr. James Makubuya stopped me as I was walking across campus. He said he needed to talk to me about a project he was associated with. He explained that he was involved with a non-profit group in Uganda (his home country) to help support and educate women who struggle against oppressive traditions and abuses.

 

 Shifting Ideas Through Education for African Women, Inc. was founded by Sister Stella Sabina Santana in 2004 and is based in Indianapolis (www.siteaw.org). SITEAW works with all people irrespective of religion, color, race, gender, or status to fight traditions that oppress women and children in Africa and other parts of the world. SITEAW initiates educational programs and support groups in order to help women improve their lives. While SITEAW recognizes the importance of traditions within different cultures, they also recognize the importance of questioning and changing traditions that deny the equality and humanity of women.

 

Some of you already know Sr. Stella because she volunteered as a dance instructor for the latest Wamidan production. She was born in Uganda and brought up in the East African cultures of Kenya and Uganda. Sr. Stella’s academic training includes a Masters Degree in Education and Diplomas in Theology, Creative Music and Story Telling, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Psychology of Human Growth and Development.

 

You will have the chance to hear Sr. Stella speak on campus this fall. The Multicultural Concerns Committee, the Gender Issues Committees, and Cultures & Traditions are sponsoring her as a guest speaker late in September.  Watch the campus calendar for an exact date.

 

With the help of many donors, SITEAW has purchased land for a Women’s Awareness Center in Uganda. The women at the Center and local supporters made bricks by hand in order to construct a temporary building for their meetings. They hold support group meetings and classes in this building, under a temporary roof. There is no electricity yet.

 

 

Next week, four people from SITEAW will make a trip to Kenya and Uganda. Dr. Makubuya and I are part of this group. The purpose of this trip is to encourage those who are working and meeting at the Women’s Awareness Center and to document the struggle against the oppressive traditions women still experience in Eastern Africa. We intend to produce a documentary to be called “Omukazi”, which means “woman” in Luganda, the native language of people in the south-central region of Uganda. We will also be developing relationships with other groups in Africa that have similar interests in promoting women’s rights in Africa.

 

The film, photographs, and interviews we gather on this trip will be available to the faculty and students at Wabash for teaching and learning. We hope to develop programs during this trip that will create opportunities for students to visit and eventually teach at the Women’s Awareness Center.

 

You are invited to experience Africa with us during the next few weeks. Follow the blog as we interview women who have experienced female circumcisions and physical abuse, who have been bought and sold and deprived of education in order to keep them oppressed.

 

Emancipation for women is emancipation for men, and educating women is educating society. The collaboration between Wabash and SITEAW emphasizes those two themes. As an all male school this is an opportunity to learn about other people and to help change lives, the purpose of education.

 

Comments

While the project described here seems worthy enough (although I wonder if the author realizes that its worthiness comes from its desire to impose Western Christian values on another culture), I must object very strenuously to the last statement, which while not quite coherent grammatically, appears to suggest that because Wabash students attend a college for men they therefore need special help "to learn about other people." Judgments of this type stem from the worst kind of gender-feminist bias. They are uninformed, insulting to our student body, have no business being made by employees of Wabash, and must not go publicly unchallenged wherever they are found.

What a wonderful opportunity for the students, faculty and staff of Wabash College to learn about a different culture, different traditions, and the difficulties that human beings in another part of the world face. Thank you for finding the time to blog and post images of your progress. I look forward to reading more about the trip as it unfolds!