Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009: Home and looking back.

I have been home for a week now and I am glad I did not have to go to work right away. I sure never remember experiencing jet lag before but this trip took it out of me. Of course it is at least 15 years since I last travelled to Europe and that was only ½ way. Any I felt low energy and sleepy all week and enjoyed laying around not doing much except taxes, mail and assorted chores. Now I feel ready to hit the bricks tomorrow.

Spring is late in Vancouver this year, waiting for me to get home for it, I like to think. It is starting to burst out and I have been walking around a fair bit taking some pictures. On Friday I did the first hike of the season and my legs still remind me how much conditioning one loses over the winter. I did a lot of walking in Africa but it was on the level whereas this hike to the second peak of the Chief in Squamish is a vertical gain of over 550 meters. The beauty of it was a great reminder of the glories of home.

I also thought a lot about my Africa adventure and feel ready to do some analysis of it.
The recommendations I made re WAR were largely management focused. Everyone agreed the work I did was satisfactory. The WUSC / L4C support officer observed that my recommendations would apply to many NGO's and indicate the need for work at a deeper level to bring about a paradigm shift in thinking about organizational process in a place like Botswana. The recommendations are all management issues and I could have gone much further, but I held back by what I thought was my stated role. The recommendations certainly give a lot of support to further longer volunteer placements as well as L4C assignments to bring some infrastructure changes to the place - but long term philosophical change is imperative. The relationship, structure and colonial patronizing perspective of the Board of Directors is certainly a BIG block to progress. Past Clients need to be on the board and much more. These are purely my observations although an number of players , rather quietly affirmed them.

The WUSC / L4C officer and I discussed future work and on my 40 hour trip home, I concluded that I would like to do more. Working with a man like the WUSC /L4C officer and his knowledge of HIV in the Africa would be a honour and great learning experience. With my skills, I can contribute a great deal as there are not enough resources. The recent campaign that was launched re 'one life and one partner', is a start but has much farther to go. It makes me think of George W's 'abstinence' only approach to HIV. It is possibly a part of the publicity needed but needs much more as the statistics of infection rates in the USA bear out. In a culture where polyamory and multiple concurrent relationships [at the village home, the farm home and the cattle post] are the norm as I am told and where men still have to pay for their wives leading to concepts of wife ownership and it seems to ultimately lead to gender based violence in a culture where aggression is quite repressed outside the home - providing WAR with serious work and education [ I worked with 3 young women at WAR who were engaged and waiting for their fiances to raise their bride price], the message of one relationship appears to be naive and out of the loop. Protection and condom use has to be included at some point and there is a role for much policy development and promulgation.

I would like to be a part of all that if I can fit in. Great shifts are happening in a country that is catapulting into the 21st century and has lost much of the generation of its 40 - 60year olds [several WAR worker in their 20's had no surviving parents and did not offer causes of death - stigma]. The focus has to shift to life - personal and economic - soon. I don't know how I would fit in. I enjoy working and would want to do that. Consultation to the Task force or organization on HIV/AIDS headed up by the former President would be a wonderful opportunity. Perhaps occasional 3 -4 week periods, or a long term assignment - who knows - something will arise

Another perspective is in working with the gay community in the future. I met with 3 people from Legabibo [ lesbian, gays, bisexuals of Botswana] on my last night in Gaborone and Botswana and got very interesting perspectives from them. They seem to operate and live quite openly and are doing what seems like good work which countered my previous impressions of a very underground existence – although it is by no means ideal – it seems no one wants to acknowledge the reality of homosexuality. The coordinator sent me a report on the health services study they conducted and other impressive materials they produced. She had on a tee shirt with Feminist on it and the man present had a shirt that said Fag Power on it. None of the three were subtle, quiet or apologetic. They said that mostly people don't want to talk about sexuality and they are kind of ignored.

It sounds like some progress is being made slowly and they are trying to get into government policy. However every time they get homosexuality into a draft policy on HIV /AIDS, the next version of the draft that they see has the reference removed. This would be a place that work in the HIV / AIDS education and policy arena, could bring some information and exposure to the idea of differences in sexuality to the public as well.

Also, I think back at the North American liberation experience which took / is taking more than 30 to 40 years. Botswana is going to squeeze that into a much shorter period like their move into technology/the modern business world.

Well, I am open to opportunities in the future and will put it out there, But now I am back and will jump back into the world of my work in Canada.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to seeing how all these ideas will unfold, Adriaan.