Emma Hill is a technical writer who lives in Madison with her boyfriend and cat.
What do you do for BTF?
I help research & write blog articles, and I help feed the social media machine. I also helped with the African Eats cookbook. I recommend the ebook. Check it out here http://www.blurb.com/b/7687289-african-eats
How long have you been involved with BTF?
I’ve been involved since September 2016.
What do you like most about working with Brighter Tanzania?
I like being able to learn about an entirely new subject. I didn’t know much about Africa or Tanzania when I started, and it’s been great learning about another corner of the globe.
What’s one interesting fact about you?
I’ve travelled to 12 countries.
What’s one major accomplishment you’d like to see BTF achieve in the next year?
I would like to see a working vegetable garden, a coop of laying chickens, and perhaps a milk goat. Saving Grace has such young students, and their households don’t always have enough food. I think a veggie garden and eggs would benefit the students’ physical & cognitive growth. An expanded sponsorship program, or a variation might provide the funding needed to start and maintain a garden & animals.
How has working with BTF changed you?
Working with BTF has helped me become more aware of what I have, and to be grateful for the things that are too easy to take for granted. Saving Grace students and their families endure hardship and obstacles with hope and dignity. I hope that my efforts at BTF can at least indirectly help their children secure a better quality of life.
Have you met any of the Saving Grace students?
No, I have not meet any of the students. I love learning about them from Facebook, Felicia’s trips, and from emails with Grace.
Women in Tanzania are in the midst of a historic struggle. They demand land ownership.
Photo by maxpixel
While it’s legal for women to own land, only 20% of women do. It’s common for a woman to access land through a husband, father or brother. If the provider dies, the woman and her children risk being turned off their property by other relatives, or by governmental or corporate interests collecting land for agricultural development.
Traditional cultural attitudes, bureaucratic mismanagement, corporate corruption, and lack of sufficient rural education pose obstacles to women's ability to own land or defend their ownership to competing interests.
It’s common for land ownership to not be documented. This can make it hard for women (or rural farmers) to defend their property rights. Recently, USAID launched a pilot project to map geographic and demographic data using mobile phone technology. The program aims to help Tanzania’s authorities secure village land rights and speed up land rights registration. It remains to be seen it the program's initial successes can be applied throughout Tanzania. (1)
Owning land is a critical step in securing stable homes and business. Land ownership enables Tanzanian women can control what their farms grow and invest in modern farming methods.
Tanzanian farmers with small plots of land are threatened by large agricultural corporations. Local farmers are often uneducated about their land rights and are often unable to get bank loans to support their farms. Tanzanian women demand that laws be more protective of small farmers. They also want more land rights education and citizen participation so that small farmers can give "informed consent" when major corporations want to use their land.
The push for equitable application of land and inheritance laws is largely the result of two related forces:
1) the steady increase in adult education and women’s literacy and
2) women’s gradual economic empowerment.
Due to changing economic pressures, and increased access to education, more and more women are starting businesses. They have a stabilizing effect on their local economy by providing employment, selling to residents and buying from local vendors. Women who contribute to, or fully provide, the family's income have more power at home and are more likely to assert their political rights.
In Tanzania, inheritance laws and land use rights are especially contested. There are a number of discriminatory laws that prevent women from inheriting or owning property, and general ignorance of how to best make use of existing property laws. In the past few years, Tanzanian women have been agitating to change discriminatory laws and increase women's education of existing laws. When women are able to control their land, they are better able to feed their families and run a sustainable business. Educating women on land rights often has the effect of educating the whole community, as men and women will grapple with this threat to tradition and the potential for economic advancement.
These shifting attitudes on inheritance and property also enable defense for land use changes. In Tanzania, like much of East Africa, agriculture is king. Agriculture makes up a significant chunk of rural and national employment, and a significant chunk of the land used. Yet many of the farms are run by "smallholders", single families who use hand and animal labor to farm small amounts of land. It's very inefficient, but most of these farmers are too poor to buy modern equipment.
The Tanzanian government is faced with the difficult task of making the agricultural industry as efficient as possible. Their growing populations and fragile economy require it. But issues like corruption, poorly documented ownership, illiterate farmers, negative bias against herding communities, and speculative land grabs have made a fair redistribution of farming land almost impossible. Whole communities are sometimes forced off their land and under-compensated.
Yet communities that are educated on their civil rights and property rights can assert their rights.
If Tanzanian women succeed in securing their true property rights, they’ll have taken a major step toward alleviating poverty and social inequities in their communities.
Kwanza starts this Tuesday, December 26and continues until Monday, January 1.
Kwanza is a relatively young holiday, celebrated in the US, Canada and parts of West Africa. Maulana Karenga, founded Kwanza in 1966 to celebrate African American culture & community. The holiday promotes the Seven Principles of African Heritage.
1) Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
2) Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
3) Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
4) Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5) Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6) Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
7) Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Families celebrating Kwanza set up symbolic display: seven candles in a candle holder, vegetables, corn, a unity cup, and gifts on a mat. The house is often decorated with African art, colorful clothes like kentia, and fresh fruit. It's estimated that several million African Americans celebrate the holiday each year.
Photo by Christopher Myers, Wikimedia Commons
Today is Human Rights Day! Every 10 December, we are called to consider a broad range of issues that threaten or protect human rights. Human Rights Day was begun on December 10, 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. (1)
Human Rights is a broad topic. In recent decades it's been used to describe natural rights, civic rights and political rights. Human rights has often been a central rallying point for a number of social and political movements that sought to eliminate injustices and improve quality of life. This holiday becomes a day for diverse activist groups and people from all walks of life to call attention to their specific focus for human rights. It's also a time to remember past leaders and agents of change.
Here are some notable human rights statements.
The struggle for increased human rights, and better protection for those rights can be so broad it can be hard to relate to. To condense human rights into a single issue, we'll look at land rights in Tanzania. Stay tuned next week for an article about Tanzanian land rights & land use!
Add some East African flair to your Thanksgiving this year with 2 recipes from Brighter Tanzania's cookbook! (Coming soon.) These are great additions to a breakfast, brunch, or even dessert!
Edit: Stick a fork in it, our cookbook is ready for purchase, in softcover and ebook format. (I personally prefer the ebook format!)
East African Chai
Chai is how many East Africans start and end their days. The basic flavor profile below is typical of East Africa. There's a lot of regional variations in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Even towns and individual households have their own twist on this basic recipe. The spices used in East African Chai have strong flavors; slightly different ratios, substitutions, and brew time variations can change the whole experience.
Chai Tea with decorative cream. Photo by Felicia McKenzie.
Mandazi, or “African doughnut” is a sweet, fried dough common to Tanzania and Kenya. They are wonderful with powdered sugar, syrup or a dipping sauce of your choice. Mandazi is often served with Chai.
Mandazi and Coffee. Delicious. Photo by Felicia McKenzie.
Mandazi cooked in a traditional kitchen. Photo by Steph Walczak.
Universal Children’s Day is celebrated every November 20th. This year, Google posted a special google doodle in honor of the event.
Google Doodle celebrates Children's Day (Photo: Google)
Universal Children’s’ day was begun in 1954 by the United Nations. Thereafter, November 20 has been a significant date for advancing the rights and status of children. In 1959, on November 20th, the UN General Counsel adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In 1989, also on November 20th, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Universal Children’s day is not only the anniversary of these historic milestones, but it also seeks to raise awareness of international child welfare and to encourage activists around the globe to improve child welfare. The political and social agenda behind Universal Children’s Day is, by necessity, very broad. The welfare of children vary widely by country and region, according to available resources, economic and technological development, educational opportunities, medical access, and cultural beliefs about raising children.
In general, the holiday, as well as the Declaration and the Convention, seek to:
Hello from Tanzania!
Things have been going quite well since I arrived on Friday afternoon, and it looks like much of my agenda should be accomplished before I leave.
We have procured a number of items desperately needed at the school, including new teaching books to replace those that had been worn out, erasers, pens, and even a new jump rope for break time.
A local carpenter has been contracted to build two new desks, and we have discussed building the library shelving and a file cabinet for student records.
A few changes have been made to the design of the library, and have therefore changed the design of the bookshelves to A-frames. This does make the shelves more expensive than originally anticipated, but using this style of bookshelf will ultimately give us more versatility.
More updates should be forthcoming!
Today is Election Day here in the US, and although I’m sitting in front of the computer watching the results come in, I think I’m more anxious about tomorrow. That’s because tomorrow is when I finally return to Tanzania. The entire day is bound to seem excruciatingly long; I no doubt will check my email every 5 minutes for updates from Grace, and only give up when it's time to board my flight.
It probably seems silly that I’m so excited for a 2 week trip devoted to working. The thing is, I began this organization because it’s my passion in life.
Having way too much fun with Grace at the snake park back in 2013.
Despite my initial reservations about beginning this journey, I’m ecstatic that I did. I can’t imagine what else I could possibly be doing with my life that could give me so much gratification, or keep me this dedicated and focused. I came to love doing this more every day, even as things continue to get more difficult and convoluted. I’ve learned so much by taking on this role, about myself, about other people, about business, and about Tanzania.
So returning to Tanzania to continue doing something I love doesn’t feel like work to me. Its simply a new challenge, to grow the school, the organization, and myself.
There have been a few changes to my arrangements for this trip, although it shouldn’t impact my ability to accomplish any of the items on my agenda. Grace’s husband is not currently travelling for work, which means she will be staying at home with her family instead of staying at the school. Because the school will now be empty at night, Grace has asked me to stay with her family. They have already set up a room in preparation for me, and it sounds like the entire family is as excited for my visit as I am!
My accommodation change also means that I will not be able to visit the students at the school during class hours until Monday. Although I'm disappointed I won't get to see them in action for a few days, it does mean Grace and I have some time to prepare. I've packed a book to read and a large bag of Lego candy to use for a counting lesson, and we'll have to find a non-disruptive way to work both into the lesson plans for the week.
With all that's been happening lately, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful volunteer staff keeping BTF afloat in my absence. After all, none of this would be possible without dedicated people to carry it out! Asante sana!
It’s the final countdown!
In only 21 days I depart for Tanzania once more.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic preparing for this trip. Even though my airfare was purchased months ago, there is still a lot of planning to do! I recently purchased a train ticket to get to my departure city, round trip bus fare to get to and from Nairobi, and bus fare to return from the airport when I arrive back in the US. I’ve still got to arrange transportation between the train station and the airport, from downtown Arusha to the school, from the school to the hotel pickup in Arusha, and from the bus drop off to get home!
With so much travel planning still happening, I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to laying out a plan of action for Grace and I to get to work when I arrive. As discussed in my previous post, there are a lot of projects I intend to work on during the course of my stay at the school. Once I’ve laid out a schedule for working on everything I can be sure that my trip will really be worthwhile.
One incidental plan I hoped to accomplish while visiting was helping Grace get the library completed. However, our crowdfunding campaign to invest in the library isn’t attracting as much attention as we had hoped. Given the small amount of funds raised to date, Grace and I may focus our energies on purchasing books for the forthcoming library, as we have decided that we will use any funds collected from this campaign to do at least that. Although we won’t have a permanent place to keep these books, the students will still benefit from the addition of reading material to their school.
As I count down the days to my departure, there a few things I will be focusing on:
This trip should result in a lot of changes for the better, and help us take the next step forward in our development plan. Hopefully, more trips like this can be planned for the future to better integrate the management of the organization with the daily realities of the school.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was established by The United Nations’ (UN) International on October 17 1993. It has been observed each year since. It raises awareness of the need to eradicate poverty especially in developing countries. 
Poverty is expensive.
Poverty (defined as inadequate income, nutrition, and basic resources) deprives individuals of their potential in 5 ways: [1,2,3, 4]
Parents and families who are below the poverty line often lack the tools and resources they need to provide for and protect their families. When people don’t have enough to provide for themselves, they don’t often have enough to share. Severe poverty makes it very difficult for communities to develop economic resiliency, and inhibits the growth of local social and economic networks. Finally, severe poverty deprives nations of the income potential of millions of people, and the waste of this human capital contributes to global food shortages. [1,2,3, 4]
Poverty poses very broad problems, so various global and national NGOs, like UNESCO and other major organizations, have decided to focus on 17 sustainable development goals. As you can see here, theses are broad, far-reaching goals.
Eradicating poverty is a huge challenge. Brighter Tanzania Foundation focuses on alleviating poverty through education and investing in the local economy in Arusha, Tanzania. All our school’s supplies, maintenance, and labor needs are met by local businesses. Donations to BTF go directly to Saving Grace Day and Boarding School, and from there, out to the rest of the community. That money spreads when businesses pay bills and pay employees.
Local farmers bringing their goods to market.
Brighter Tanzania also offers education intended to build the foundation for academic, emotional, and economic success. The academic portion is a standard primary education- literacy, numeracy, and creative expression. Saving Grace also incorporates what we call the “Real World Learning” program. This program teaches “soft-skills” like empathy, work-ethic, integrity, as well as basic trade skills like sewing, cooking, etc. This dynamic combination of traditional academics and our “Real World Learning” ensures our students have the skills to succeed in secondary school, or contribute to their family’s income by aiding the family business, or finding gainful employment. We encourage all our students to advance their studies, as every year of education has significant impacts on income and access to healthcare, quality food, and better jobs.  However, we must be realistic. Some of our students may be required to contribute to the family’s income. We strive to develop well-rounded youth capable of meeting and overcoming life’s challenges.
Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
Phone: (608) 886-9160
8383 Greenway Blvd PMB 633
Middleton, WI 53562