Tanik Joshipura is 25 years old and worked with TATU Project for one year and a half until November 2015. He left TATU to continue his studies in Development and Economics at the Kansas State University (USA). This summer Tanik came back to Moshi to visit his family. Tanik is born in India and grew up in Dar es Salaam until his family moved to Moshi. He took the time to visit TATU Project which brought back many memories. We would love to share these with you.
I started with TATU Project because I wanted to spend time working in Tanzania. I had been working in a micro lending project in Uganda and I wanted to do something with this knowledge. TATU Project was completely different than the previous NGO I worked for. How can I explain it; the NGO in Uganda did things for people, whereas TATU Project has a way of having other people doing things. Like for example with the Kazi na Sala group, TATU wants the Kazi na Sala group to walk towards something rather than just walking the way for them.
TATU Projects holistic approach is good and bad. Other NGOs only build schools or houses and they are experts in that. It is easier to focus on one subject. But then the overall situation of a community does not improve that much. The holistic approach is more difficult to tackle all the problems that exist in a community, but this makes that everything goes slower. It is definitely easier to focus on one problem and grow expertise in one subject, then to work in a holistic way.
“How much can you do in one meeting a week?”
At the beginning I was sceptic about the group counselling and the team buildings like the self-confidence trainings and the focus on personal development. I felt like we were not doing enough, it was just one meeting a week. I mean, how much can you do in one meeting a week?
… Yet I saw people literally change.
(Women during the WE Grow seminars)
There were some good examples of women being victim of domestic abuse who for a long period of time were not speaking and were almost not participating in meetings. But after a while the group became a safe place for them. You could see them express themselves better in the meetings. The women also became a group of friends outside the meetings. A community which WE Grow helped create.
WE Thrive also had these effects. You saw the women becoming more assertive. The women themselves realized that they had to take up more responsibilities. Sometimes problems that appear along the road can have a positive effect, simply because they need to be solved and the women realize it is up to them to solve them.
I think TATU Project is on the right way. I think the women will be empowered. They will be better off in the end. The group will be more powerful. Everything will have been tested because of the challenges and the bumps along the road. I think we can be sure to leave the projects in their hands in the end.
The Baseline Survey
In the baseline survey we did in 2014 we interviewed a lot of people in Msitu wa Tembo. We asked questions about HIV status, their income, problems in the community and so on. This way we got a gage of what it is like to live in the village. The number of individual problems go down with development. I am really convinced of this.
For example during the baseline survey, I spoke with a family. Their sixteen year old girl didn’t go to school because each morning she needed to fetch water at the river, because they could not pay for water at the pump. It takes her two hours to go to river and a lot of time to come back with the water on her head.
She got violated and attacked several times on the way to the river. The attackers hide in the bushes, because they know she will pass by to get water every day. Since 2014 efforts have been made to provide more water wells in the community and access to water has improved, but you would not connect access to water to these kind of bad situations.
“I felt the urge to do something, but I am not a doctor and I felt really useless that moment.”
During the baseline survey we went to a house. They had one daughter, it was a pretty normal family. The daughter came fully clothed with a big sweater although it was 40 degrees outside. The mother said the daughter had a skin problem, so we asked what kind of problem.
The mother started crying when the daughter opened her hoody sweater and we saw she was just covered with blisters. Really from head to toe, like leprosy. It looked awful. I felt the urge to do something, but I am not a doctor and I felt really useless that moment.
The only thing I could do was tell the family that their daughter had to come to the medical caravan, which was taking place two weeks from then.
She came to the caravan, but the doctors didn’t know what it was, so they took pictures of her blisters and sent them to a dermatologist in Spain. He never saw something like this before neither. So the doctor in Spain started looking on Google for a disease like that and at the end they prescribed some sort of basic anti-inflammatory and told her to come back one week later.
What was my help worth in the end?
The medicines did not cure her completely but in one week her skin was getting much better, it were just dots anymore. One month later I visited her again and her skin was almost back to normal. Like nothing ever happened. This girl suffered from this blisters from when she was ten months old and she had it for over seven or eight years! So because of one guy looking for answers on Google, and still, they did not even really solved it, the blisters went away. Now, every few months or so the family buys anti-inflammatory, and these contains the disease.
But if you ask if we have ever solved skin diseases in Msitu, we would say that we haven’t started yet… It is such a perspective thing. We want to measure everything. But if you go on the individual level, TATU Project really changes lives.
So how can I evaluate my work at TATU, I had the objective of starting the micro lending program and when I left it had not yet started. If you evaluate my work like that, I did not meet my objectives. On the other hand if you ask the girl with the skin disease whether I did something useful, she would say yes. Although basically, I just told her to come to the caravan.