Hunter Parker, ICE graduate assistant and MFA Candidate in Dramatic Media, traveled to Ukerewe, Tanzania, to conduct the Girls Personal Development (GPD) project May 29–June 10. Parker and Rachel Hagues, coordinator in the Vinson Institute’s Child and Family Policy Initiative (CFPI), worked with girls 11–18 years old in activities meant to empower them and encourage their continued education and development.
The goal was to get the girls to view themselves as valuable contributors in their communities. Though Tanzania’s law makes primary school compulsory, girls in Ukerewe are often taken out of school at a young age to stay home and help with chores, while boys are more likely to be able to pursue their education. Parker and Hagues hope that this program will convey to the girls and their families that the girls’ education and development is beneficial to the community as a whole.
Parker and Hagues primarily used drama techniques known as Theatre of the Oppressed to engage the Tanzanian girls and help them interact with each other. Women leaders from the community participated in the activities as well, in hopes that they would continue to use them after the project’s completion. The Theatre of the Oppressed method seeks to empower participants as they act out or observe scenes of oppression that they experience regularly in their lives. Girls were asked to develop skits that portrayed challenges they faced in their lives and ways of overcoming and finding solutions to those challenges.
The project is part of the UGA-Gertrude Mongella Partnership, established in 2005 between the university and Gertrude Mongella, a member of the Tanzanian parliament, past-president of the African Union Parliament, and an Ukerewe native. The partnership strives to design strategies and implement programs that encourage sustainable growth in the Ukerewe community. The Girls Personal Development project was funded by an International Scholarship of Engagement Grant from the UGA Office of International Public Service and Outreach.