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This is the first in a series of interviews we will be publishing until the end of the year that highlight the journey, struggles and achievements of women doing work in community networks. We will document their experiences with the intention to inspire more women to get involved in this field. This month we are featuring Memory Jere.
Memory is a representative of the Centre for Youth and Development (CYD) Malawi for the community networks learning grant initiative implemented through the "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" project. She is an accountant by profession, holding a diploma in accounting and working with the Mzuzu Youth Hub. She is passionate about girls’ rights and heads up a "Girls in School Project” which is focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Her day-to-day work involves school visits to conduct career guidance and life skills sessions. Memory is involved with CYD Malawi’s project which provides computers in secondary schools, and has been working with girls in the target schools to encourage them to take on computer studies as a subject. Memory is also exploring ways to use technology to deliver sexual and reproductive health services to young people, especially girls.
Here are her responses to the questions we will be asking all these inspiring women who are bringing connectivity to underserved communities:
APCNews: What is the most interesting reaction you received from a community when doing the work?
Memory Jere: The happy expression of girls after being taught to use a computer and also to get connected to rest of the world through the internet. They are excited to use the computer and to have a taste of globalisation. The screams of joy and happy faces, are the reactions I got...
APCNews: Can you share a moment or experience where you overcame structural/cultural gender barriers while working on community networks?
MJ: Working with girls in rural areas is so challenging, as most parents and local chiefs don’t believe that girls should be given an equal shot as boys, so the girls were told to go home and help with household chores. I stood up for the girls and condemned the behaviour. Now they are learning together happily.
APCNews: What is a gender stereotypical comment you received and what did you do about it?
MJ: In one of our rural catchment areas, a local chief told me to be quiet before the village elders and said that I can't fight for girls' rights as I am a woman as well, and that I belong to the kitchen. This broke my heart.
APCNews: What do you enjoy most about your work on community networks?
MJ: When am doing community networks work. Getting the feedback from girls I have mentored and they look up to me as their role model, and seeing them excel in life, this gives me joy and gets me going. A girl child should be given equal rights to everything in life, despite the cultural barriers in our rural settlement, but we ought to stand up for them, so as a member of Umozanet through CYD Malawi, which provides a chance for everyone to have access to computers as it distributes them to secondary schools, I got the opportunity to motivate girls and get them to push further.
APCNews: Thank you, Memory!