There is an African proverb that says, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” This year, when I boarded a plane to Zimbabwe on my 31st birthday, I had no idea that I was about to get a front row seat to this proverb in action.
I had been itching to take a trip that would give me the opportunity to document something meaningful. A few weeks prior, I had an exciting phone call with the Field Operation’s director of Global Aid Network® (GAiN®) who asked me to join and document two women from their organization who would be leading a “Women’s Health Training” workshop in Zimbabwe.*
In my travels, I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with incredible women who have endured countless hardships. In Rwanda, I met a woman who showed me the machete scars on her chest — a constant reminder of the physical and emotional pain that still lingers from the genocide. In Kenya, I met a group of women who are part of a community of desert nomads and walk several miles to and from the nearest well in order to bring water for their families. I’ve seen them hold their backs in pain from the years of carrying so much weight on their heads. In Romania, I stayed at a safe-house and spoke with young women and girls who had been rescued from sex trafficking. The women I’ve met are resilient, but they are also hurting.
My phone call with GAiN was refreshing — I loved hearing the heart behind the work they are doing for women through their “Women’s Health Initiative.” GAiN had listened to the physical and emotional needs of women around the world and had decided to do something about it. Before even beginning my travels, I felt honored to be asked to join something that could be so impactful for the women attending the initiative.
After arriving in Harare, Zimbabwe, I met with a local Zimbabwean who is an in-country partner with GAiN. We drove to Wedza, which is a few hours south of Harare. The training started the next morning.
As women poured into the room, they started singing praise songs, their voices in perfect harmony with each other as if they had been practicing for this moment their whole lives. And then, just as the singing started, the dancing began. It was one of the most joyful things I had ever experienced.
There were about 30 women who had traveled from neighboring villages, eager to learn about women’s health. The GAiN staff members jam-packed so much information into the four days we were in Wedza. They taught the women how to better understand their bodies in order to have the knowledge for early detection of cancers and other diseases. They taught a course on proper nutrition. And, after one of the afternoon lessons on female sanitation, each woman walked home with a kit complete with underwear and cloth reusable pads that are handmade by GAiN volunteers back in the U.S.
An entire day was spent educating the women on labor and safe delivery. Many of these women (and others in their home villages) cannot afford hospitals or safe transportation to hospitals during labor. The women seemed eager to soak up as much information as possible so they could share their new knowledge with their villages in hopes to help reduce deaths associated with complications from labor.
Our final day together was filled with completing the curriculum and a “graduation” ceremony, in which each woman danced and sang their way up to the front of the room as they were handed a certificate documenting all they learned. I watched as they all carefully tucked their certificates away for safe keeping and made their way back to their villages, still singing.
I’m grateful that my camera has given me the opportunity to travel with purpose. I loved being able to experience joy with these women as they were empowered by knowledge over the four days we were in Zimbabwe.
I’m excited about GAiN’s Women’s Health Initiative and know they are going to continue doing amazing work in the lives of women throughout the world! So, like the proverb goes, many women are becoming educated … so let’s watch and see what happens to the nations they live in…
*Kate traveled to Zimbabwe with GAiN, the humanitarian partner of Cru®. They are a faith-based organization working to “relieve suffering, restore dignity, and reveal hope in the toughest places around the world.” GAiN accomplishes their mission through three programs: food and agriculture, clean water, and critical aid. The women’s health initiative Kate attended is part of the critical aid program.