Girls taught on equality through art

Tuesday October 24 2017

Students from Jangwani Secondary school taking

Students from Jangwani Secondary school taking part in the Social Inclusion Drawing Competition. PHOTO|ERICKY BONIPHACE 

By Elizabeth Tungaraza @TheCitizenTz

Old adage has it that a picture is worth a thousand words. This turned into reality during a recent outreach programme at Jangwani Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. Pictures drawn by 126 female students during a World Bank Competition gave the saying a richer meaning.

A 16-years-old student, Diana Mbele, drew a picture portraying a Maasai girl hiding under a tree, after running away from her family while escaping Female Genital Mutilation. Diana, who was among the six winners in the Social Inclusion Drawing Competition said most girls end up uneducated due to various outdated customs, which are still being practiced in our societies.

“Lack of access to education in turn excludes the girls from development processes in their communities as well as of their own welfare,” she noted.

What Diana and her schoolmates drew during the competition illustrates the girls’ views on social exclusion. They were asked to draw their minds on key drivers of social exclusion that kept people from taking part fully in processes that improves their lives and the wellbeing of their societies.

Naima Besta, social development specialist with World Bank Tanzania, said although ‘social inclusion’ was the central theme of the competition, understanding social exclusion was equally important for the students to be able to identify their key drivers.

“People have multiple intersecting identities, which to some extent are highly contextual,” she said, grouping such identities in form of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and disability just to mention a few.

In the competition, students were told to draw what they think will illustrate social exclusion in order for them to build an understanding of social inclusion, which occurs when people are systematically involved in their societies.

“For example, students were asked to draw things they thought are the causes of poverty and how to reduce poverty. To draw what they thought promotes shared prosperity and improves individuals’ and groups’ ability for involvement in their society,” noted Naima.

Enhancing students’ understanding

Naima said the aim of the competition was to enhance students’ understanding on social inclusion phenomenon and what is been done as well to address and improve the situation.

According to her, social inclusion is about working actively to address the underlying causes that results in exclusion. “This will in turn help in full inclusion of the poor and vulnerable into the development process,” noted Naima.

“The students, as the young generation, should have an understanding that in our societies there are individuals and groups of people who are consciously or unconsciously excluded in various matters pertaining to their lives,” she explained.

“There are those who are impoverished, poor and voiceless; orphans, disabled, unemployed and uneducated; women and the youth,” added Naima.

According to her, what is crucial is how such individuals and groups of people can be actively included in the development process. “Is their ability to do something affected by the environment or by what others do and think about them? Do they have opportunities and equal chances for each of them to translate their capabilities into better wellbeing? Is their dignity respected and recognised? These are some of important questions the community should genuinely find answers to,” she said.

“Inclusion means the process of improving the terms under which individuals and groups of people can take part in the development process in their societies and they can equally share whatever comes out of those efforts in terms of benefits and outcomes,” she further elaborated.

Eumesta Siara, academic teacher at Jangwani Secondary School, is optimistic that the drawing competition has added useful knowledge to students about social inclusion. “The subject the organizers chose is a very powerful one. It is not so common to use fine art in such outreach programmes as the subject is not taught in most schools. However, fine art has the ability to present the message loud and clear,” noted Eumesta.

During the competition, organisers asked students to use their own skills and knowledge to draw the pictures that will illustrate the key message about social inclusion phenomenon. “Some drew pictures with a message about outdated traditions and customs, while others centred their key message on the plight of women,” she added.

“Some 126 students, who took part in the competition, drew very nice pictures with the key message. It was a tough task for the organisers to pick the best six pictures,” said Eumesta.

Nasra Ramadhani, who is a student with disability, emerged the winner in the drawing competition. She drew a picture of a person with disability being helped by other able persons. “With the picture, I want to communicate a message of extending a helping hand. Also to show my appreciation to people who treat well persons with disabilities, including me,” said Nasra.

Naima, the social development specialist with the World Bank Tanzania, was quick to comment on the aspect, saying in most cases, some parents have the tendency of hiding their children with disabilities, denying them access to education. “In most public buildings, facilities are not friendly to people with disabilities,” she noted.

Women are not involved in decision making both at a household and community levels in most African countries. “Patriarch system is very dominant in most of these societies where male dominance over women is very high, hence women are left out of the whole decision making process,” said Naima.

Diana, a Form Three student whose picture’s message was centred on female genital mutilation, hopes that communities that still practice the outdated tradition will abandon the shameful act if members of the community become educated about the effects of the female cut. She urged the organisers to take such outreach programmes to as many schools as possible, saying it is a better way to change the perception of the youth about various issues concerning social exclusion.

According to Naima, street children are the most vulnerable group that is excluded in almost everything concerning their lives and wellbeing. “They end up in streets without access to education and healthcare services. At the end of the day, they are left out of the development process,” said Naima.

Outdated beliefs that fuels albino killings forces people with albinism out of development process. “They are excluded by the society as they become the target for the killings. In this case, they cannot participate in decision making process in their communities or take part in development process without fear of being killed,” said Naima.

Taking into consideration that youth make a great number of the population, the unemployment rate among them is very high. “Youth can to a great extent contribute considerably towards development. However, with no employment and little access to entrepreneurial process, they are left out of the development process,” she added.