School of Social Work Study Abroad in Kenya, Part One

This is a guest post from Renada, one of the Women’s Center Master of Social Work interns who just graduated last week! The day after graduation, Renada left for the School of Social Work Study Abroad in Kenya program; she will be sending us blog updates as she is able. Follow along! 

Scenic view of Kenya with green grass and trees, with blue sky and white cloudsAfter several months of planning, talking about it, and finishing up my lastsemester in the MSW program at the University of Minnesota, I’m in Kenya, traveling through Nairobi, Nakuru, and Mbita, exploring how gender and culture influences social development. This past year, I’ve delved into my identity as a black woman and how this intersectionality has influenced how I walk in this world and my interpretation of social justice. Yet being in Kenya; talking to mothers who want to provide for their children after HIV devastated their family; and children who are learning three languages (their tribal language, Swahili, and English)  without the technology or infrastructure we have in the U.S., and I am forced to accept my privilege of nationality, socio-economic status, and freedom. And once I’ve acknowledged it, I’ve been called to act not just in social justice, but social development. We can’t have justice for women and children without the infrastructure and the community buy-in to support it.

Outside Nairobi, the Kazuri bead factory provides a living wage, safe working conditions, and professional development for women who to provide for their children. In Nakuru County, the Black Sheep women and Heart to Heart women, have formed a cooperative combining their craft skills into a marketable enterprise. In both of these examples, women are recognized as the providers of their families and to whom development is necessary to sustain and grow their communities. I’m excited to see how this trip will continue to unfold, and to bear witness to the power held in these communities.
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