Pcv 2 April 2009

Post: Ouassa-Pehunco (Beket)
Pickup Location: Parakou
Brief Project Description: The health center in the rural village of Ouassa-Beket organized a celebratory event in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2009. It was held in the main hall of the Maison des Jeunes et Loisirs, a community center that is found in the village. With 84 women in attendance, the event was also opened to 46 children and teens that observed the event but that did not directly participate in the scheduled activities reserved for the mothers.

The program began with a welcoming speech by both the Peace Corps Volunteer and the health center’s chief nurse, Sarah Saka, who was able to translate the entire event into the local language—Bariba—as a majority of the women could not understand French. These first few minutes were used to explain the goals of having a celebration of women in the village, that is recognizing the efforts that women from around the world have contributed to female empowerment in various cultures. Another goal was to create an opportunity for cross-cultural exchange, particularly by introducing a practice that honored females and their significance to a place where traditional practices have often reduced the roles of women to having domestic responsibilities and to being submissive to their partners.

As the village enters the hot season, many of its water sources have been diminishing. It was particularly with this concern—and with the approval of the health center—that the PCV held a health information session on water sanitation and preparation at the event. This included an activity on hand washing for the women, where they were able to see the difference between washing their hands with and without soap; a call-and-response exercise based on when one should wash their hands to prevent the transmission of germs; and how one should prepare water for safe drinking. As a final activity, the PCV welcomed the participation of all the women in a “Cake Walk” dance, where they danced in a circle with numbered pieces of paper to local drummers until their number was called. With that, they were given a question about the health session in order to assess what they have learned. There were four women whose numbers were called, and all of them were able to respond correctly, receiving a prize consisting of Aquatabs and jewelry for their efforts.

After the health information session, the women left to the procession of 3 village drummers to the foyer of the building, where they were presented with dinner and drinks. And, in appreciation of their attendance and participation, the health center announced that it would be distributing a packet of Aquatabs—10 pill packet for water treatment—to each woman that came during the next week. In collaborating with the PCV for this event, it was with the health center’s hopes that the women of Ouassa-Beket could make this event as their own and continue celebrating it with future generations of females.

Dates of Project: March 8, 2009
Number of People Involved: 84 women, 46 children, 1 female PCV, 1 female nurse

Item Number Cost
Salt 1 large packet 500 CFA
Garlic 20 heads 500 CFA
Black peppercorns 1 large packet 500 CFA
Onions 15 1500 CFA
Maggi cubes 1 bag 950 CFA
Fresh peppers 2 bags 100 CFA
Cabbage 2 heads 400 CFA
Carrots 5 bundles of 4 500 CFA
Potassium blocks 1 small packet 25 CFA
Cement market bags 2 200 CFA
Wood for cooking 1 batch 200 CFA
African drink (millet) 2 liters 1000 CFA
Rice 25 kg 10500 CFA
Tomato paste 2 large cans 3000 CFA
Peanut oil 3.5 liters 4500 CFA
Spaghetti 6 packets 2000 CFA
Aquatabs 1 box (20) 2200 CFA
Mint syrup 2 1.5 liter bottles 3000 CFA
Sugar 4 kg 1200 CFA
Beef 20 kilos 10000 CFA
Ice 15 packets 1000 CFA
Total Cost 43,775 CFA

Amount Requested: 24,775 CFA
Note: Community contribution amount includes 200 F/woman in attendance, as well as 2,200 for Aquatabs that the health center has donated.

Closing Report

What I enjoyed most about the event was that it was the chief nurse, Sara Saka, who volunteered to inform all the women in the village and also to prepare the food. A method of organizing them—as suggested by both the Chef du Village and Sara—was to collect 200 CFA from each woman who wanted to come in order to help purchase ingredients for the meal. That amount turned out to be over a 25% community contribution of the total expenses for the event. And, although I assisted Sara in reserving the location, all that I really had to do was to plan the health information session. Another success of the event was that over 80 women had come to the celebration when I was hoping for at least 60. Towards the end of the evening there were even some women who ended up paying their 200 CFA, as they had changed their minds to come.

Although many later approached and thanked me for organizing a celebration of women in the village, there were some who were rude and angry with Sara for not having prepared enough food for everyone that showed up. This, however, was confusing to me as many eventually came up for second servings before returning to their homes with them. There were some women that even brought their children over to receive food, as well. In addition to that, we had also started the event two and a half hours later than we had planned because there was a problem with the rice cooking too slowly. And though Sara and I tried to start anyway, this forced a few women who volunteered to stay behind and watch the food to miss out on the event almost entirely.

As advice for someone attempting a similar project in the future, I would suggest preordering food from the local restaurants or food stands. This would hopefully prevent time disputes and angry, hungry women. Also, although we made this event especially for the women of the village we could not avoid keeping the children and men out from sneaking in and being loud. This made it difficult for the women to hear what Sara and I were saying during the health session. With this, I would have the Chef du Village reiterate the details of the event or change locations.

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