It’s hard not to develop an affinity towards a part of the world when it has played such a large part of your personal narrative – at least that’s been my experience with the continent of Africa. What I find to be even harder though, is not falling in love with the unique sights, sounds and smells that characterize this region, especially as I get to experience it more and more.Now, that will probably come as a surprise to many, especially those who view Africa as a desolate place where people live in trees and roam with lions (yes, people have actually said that to me). Then there are those who view Africa as a stagnant place, where technology and innovation are absent, and the notion of progress unfeasible. I’ll never forget the time when I was recommending an Ethiopian beer to someone and their response to me was, “Ethiopia makes beer? How civilized!” (I promise, I’m not making this stuff up)
So when the opportunity presented itself to serve as a Peace Fellow with the Kinawataka Women’s Initiative (KIWOI) – a dynamic group of women who discovered an ingenious way to transform discarded plastic straws into beautiful handicrafts – I felt compelled to apply. While much attention has been paid to issues of African poverty, hunger and disease, I wanted the chance to project a different image of Africa this summer – one that captures the resilient spirit of marginalized and vulnerable people (especially women) who are devising solutions to their own development challenges.
Over the course of my fellowship this summer, my aim is to discuss not only the successes of my organization, but also their challenges. I hope to use this platform as a means to spark a dialogue not only about the range of development problems that exist in Africa, but the different ways that community-based organizations like KIWOI are making a social impact.
Posted By Meron Menwyelet
Posted May 13th, 2013