This post is written by Claire Bristow, a current student at the University College London and a Global Development Fellow. She will return to Manyeleti, South Africa this summer for one year with Sarah Whitney, her partner fellow, to build the Uta Community Center.
In honor of SMRC’s “Tribute to Women”, I have dedicated this blog post to updates about how the Uta Community Center will target women specifically. In Uta there is no industry. Uta has no farming so very few people have jobs and of those that do, they are hours away and people will live at the jobs. Many women are out of work and live at home, alone with their children, while their husbands work away from Uta. Women who don’t have jobs still have a huge responsibility to complete domestic work and raise their children. Those women that do have jobs have the double burden of the domestic work while also earning money. This means that women in Uta are often overworked retrieving water, cooking for their families, looking after their children and with the added stress of poverty this is something to recognize and commend.
For the strong, admirable women of Uta we want to provide something special through the Uta Community Center. There are a few informal women’s groups in Uta that could benefit from the community center by creating projects, holding meetings and educational workshops. We want to target women specifically because they are so involved in their children’s lives that offering education workshops to them will also benefit their children. Also women are the most at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and also the least likely to have access to antiretroviral treatment. AIDS prevention in South Africa frequently encourages condom use, minimization of partners and treatment of STIs. These three strategies are very important to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS but aren’t always possible for women who have little power to control sexual encounters, especially with their husbands. If the Uta Community Center can empower the women of Uta through education (HIV/AIDS prevention, nutrition education, academic education etc.), then perhaps the women of Uta can have a chance to defend themselves against a deadly virus and help alleviate the burden of poverty and in-access to public services.
Women of Uta also have the capacity to create their own projects to earn extra money for their families. The community center will run a micro-finance program in which women can apply for small loans to start up projects in their community. This will empower women by providing a way for them to earn their own money.
The women of Uta deserve this opportunity to find equality within their homes and their communities, and the Uta Community Center is dedicated to finding ways to achieve this goal.