I had planned for my next post to be about being a tourist for two weeks during the December holiday. But, you can Google and read any travel post about Zanzibar and Mafia island to know that they are great places to visit and explore with the best of friends. Especially, if you want to get up close and personal with some whale sharks and eat some amazing shwarma!
This last week has been heavy on my heart. I love my school, my community, and this country of Tanzania, but at times feelings of frustration and sadness catch me by surprise. On days when it has become too much, writing has been a way for me to analyze the root of these feelings and bring them to God.
On this occasion I have written a poem of sorts. It is named ‘Green Skirts,’ as all of the female students at my school wear these ankle length green skirts for their uniforms. I had some building frustrations about the challenges for Tanzanian students, especially those which are young women. I share it with caution and the caveat that young women are not treated this way by everyone.
I support Ana and her green skirt fashion decisions, amependeza sana
There are certainly teachers and adults that hear young women out and are looking for opportunities to increase gender equality in their schools and communities. But, as you will read in the poem, I have watched female students be questioned in ways that were harsh and accusatory, it was as if they were on trial. All without being given the grace of someone actually listening to what they are saying. And it breaks my heart to watch especially when her future education is at stake.
Pregnant girls are expelled from schools with no gray area, it is a national law. At my school female teachers are the ones involved in taking female students out of class to be tested by health clinic nurses as many as four times a year. I feel vulnerable putting this poem out there, I love being positive sunshine Han, but invite you to feel the rain a bit with me today.
Green skirts is what I see
All the green skirts in a line
Is this where they are supposed to be?
They await the nurse
The nurse which can make the green skirts suspect,
Suspect of being what the judges have voiced them guilty of before
Guilty of stupidity,
The green pants sit idly
Still in the classroom
Staring at the chalkboard
Their character not in question
Their future studies not under siege.
One green skirt is late
The desk of this green skirt has been empty
For some time
This green skirt had been missing,
Parents worried sick
Now the green skirt has returned
Unable to fasten shut.
The judges call in the green skirt
This green skirt is stubborn
Stupid they say.
They know the green skirt was found with a man.
They take the green skirt and present her to the nurse
This one needs a real test
This one may be with child
This one may not be returning to her studies
Maybe the man found with the green skirt
Loves the green skirt
Keeps the green skirt fed
Is the green skirt’s ticket out of the prison which others call school
Maybe he took the green skirt even though it did not belong to him
Locked the skirt away in his room.
Maybe a payment was arranged
for the green skirt
Will they question the man?
A payment to the parents
The parents which had tricked the judges
Acting as though they did not hand the green skirt to the man
Will they question the parents?
Or should we ask the green skirt
Why would we ask a green skirt questions
What can a green skirt say
What can a green skirt clarify
More than that which the judges have already assumed
Would we listen to a green skirt’s answers over that of a man
over that of a parent
And if we asked the green skirt
Would we accept her answers as truth.