During my time in Cape Town, I was working with the Zimele Project. The Zimele Project has many different facets to it, so specifically I was working with the Women of Worth side of the Zimele Project. Working with the Women of Worth (WOW) project was an experience that I never would have gotten the chance to do if I was not part of this program. To be a part of such a large project, that is impacting change on such a large scale was unbelievable and I am so happy that I was able to be a part of that. There were many different roles that I worked on during the internship. Whether it was logistics, mapping, content building, methods and evaluation, or even setting up sessions and observing, there was always something new I could do and learn from it.
The WOW project works with women 19-24 and the general idea is to empower these women through 12 monthly empowerment sessions each with a different focus and essentially these sessions will lead women to engage in less risky behavior. These sessions provide these women with resources and concepts with regards to mental health, reproductive health, CV building, interview prep, and many other things. The 1st of the 12 sessions is called The Tree Building Ceremony. The beginning of The Tree Ceremony gives an overview of the project and what these women will be learning and the different resources the program will provide. After they are led outside to plant the tree. Essentially the tree represents the start of these women's journey and how they will continue to grow throughout the sessions. This is my favorite part, because this is when the singing and dancing begins. Music is an important part of many different African traditions, and it was beautiful to get to see it in the Xhosa culture. It was really powerful to see one person start a song and have every single person know the song and begin singing and dancing along. After they planted the tree, they make a pledge to stick with the 12 sessions throughout the year and make a commitment “to empower others and be empowered”. Honestly it was so beautiful just to be allowed in that space and witness the collective strength and happiness coming from these women. I find it hard to write what the tree ceremony is about, but I feel that pictures and videos capture the moment better.
- Jasmine Okafor