I asked TATU project co-founder Albane Gaudissart whether she would do it all over, co-creating TATU project. She looked as if I asked a stupid question. “Of course I would. Immediately!” Three years into TATU project, we sat down and took time to reminisce.
The Women Empowerment group was our first project. We announced a village meeting to pitch our ideas to the women. There were about 100 women present, so you could feel there was definitely a collective desire for, well, something. During this meeting the women were getting up and discussing, they said and made clear they wanted change. That they were sick of working hard without having a say on their children’s future.
For the women it is sometimes difficult to explain at home what they are doing, but overtime we hope that everybody will understand our initiative. That is also the reason we are trying to set up different projects respecting our holistic approach. We want to have an impact on the overall community.
“They said they wanted change.
That they were sick of working hard without having a say
on their children’s future”
One day, all the volunteers were locked up in prison. That’s was a scary day
There were definitely bumps in the road over the last three years. For example: after a while, when the project was set up, we encountered some difficulties in the village. People were threatening to kick us out because they said we were not doing enough. A meeting was held to address these concerns, where some people called us liars and accused us of not helping the village.
But the women of the group came to the meeting and defended us, which gave us an idea that we were doing a good job. Another day all our volunteers were locked up in prison because they were not carrying their ID copy, which was evidently a bad excuse from the village authorities, pressuring against TATU.
All the volunteers were scared, because they were actually locked up in Tanzanian prison. But some of the village members and women came to the prison and stayed with them. “Don’t worry, you’ll get out, you have done nothing wrong” they said and they made sure nothing happened to the volunteers. These and other examples make you feel that the inhabitants are really supportive of the TATU Project.
“I think that a lot of the progress the group has made,
can not be turned back. Like self-esteem for example”
It is always a good lesson to be around the people of Msitu wa Tembo
Looking back, I would definitely do it all over. I have personally learned so much from the women. They have such an interesting culture and human values, like humility and tolerance. Something people in Europe and France can learn from. It is always a good lesson to be around the people of Msitu wa Tembo.
A challenge for us is the complexity of working with a community that is different from us. Dealing with a different culture from ours, but also something’s that have been existing for years, like corruption or masculine domination. You realize that every little project is a whole world on itself.
I am very happy we stayed in one place. It allowed us to work in depth and really understand the people we work with. We are still learning every day.
“We are still learning every day.”
I think that a lot of the progress we have made can not be turned back. Like the increased self-esteem of the women for example. Improvements in infrastructure could be turned back, therefore it is a challenge to work as sustainable as possible, by involving the people from Msitu as much as possible. If their vision would change over time, in the use of the infrastructure for example, then it is not our problem anymore. That is the idea of empowerment. They do as they like with their infrastructure, hopefully following the same principles they were originally based on.
The Kilipads ladies or the women from the whole sale shop are already basically running things on their own, which in my opinion proves the sustainability of these projects.
Sustainable investment pays off in the long run
The support of friends and family has been incredible. Everybody who visits can feel that there is a lot of energy going around. Our network and our donors are very generous and very open to our work and we are so happy they want to contribute. The partners as well have been great. They all value the sustainable approach and the fact we have a long term relationship with the villagers.
“All our donors and partners value the sustainable approach.
This is why we can work the way we do”
The challenge is to balance ambition with the local challenges and rhythm. Therefore we are grateful that the people supporting us and donating understand this. If a project is not evolving fast enough, it is because it has its reasons. Thanks to this understanding, we can take the time to do more training or to discuss more thoroughly how we’ll implement a project to make sure everybody is on board. I think this approach is really worth it. This makes the investment sustainable and profitable in the long run. And that is what it is basically all about.”
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