Building a bridge of friendship

Without the Kelowna-Zambia partnership, 60 children in Africa would not be in school and several families would be fighting to earn a living rather than working cooperatively.

  • Fri Feb 11th, 2011 7:00am
  • News

Lynn Thornton

Without the Kelowna-Zambia partnership, 60 children in Africa would not be in school and several families would be fighting to earn a living rather than working cooperatively.

It may not seem like a lot, but as Emily Sikazwe, executive director of Women for Change, will tell people in her speech Tuesday, it’s meant the world to Kelowna’s newest sister city.

“I think one of the biggest achievements of this partnership, in Senega, where the partnership is very active, we have built bridges of friendship and solidarity,” said Sikazwe.

Rather than compete for the few resources available, families now work for a cooperative weaving baskets to be sold in Kelowna and the wood working class at Mt. Boucherie Secondary School has sent tool boxes to help young men in the area work as carpenters building furniture for the community’s new school.

In working together in cooperatives to earn the money needed to send the children to school, train teachers, provide uniforms, clean water and so-forth, the communities have also been able to work together to support some of the children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.

“Before, individual families would be fighting to make a living as individuals,” said Sikazwe. “This time, they bring their skills together and that makes a bigger impact for them together.”

The connection has also given people with disabilities a chance to compete in the labour market; one of the lead instructors on the basket weaving project is disabled.

As the executive director for Women for Change, Sikazwe said the partnership has been particularly critical for women as it’s provided an opportunity to level the playing field when it comes to accessing basic education.

Young girls had to wait until they were 10 to be old enough to make the often two-hour trek through heavy sand to the nearest school, she explained.

While boys could start school at six years old, the mandated age, girls were often held back for fear they would be molested travelling so far from home.

“By 15 they would be married off,” said Sikazwe, pointing out the extra education is critical for both gender and human rights work in the area.

Emily Sikazwe is an employee of Women for Change, but has been with the non-profit for 15 years.

She is co-chairperson of Social Watch International and a delegate at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

She will give a public talk Tuesday, Feb. 15 in the UBCO Ballroom, UNC 200, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Baskets from the partnership are available at Picture Perfect, on Bernard Avenue, and in the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative.