Kpandai’s Strong Women Leaders Part 1: Madam Marta Sets An Example

25 Nov

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A couple of months ago when I was preparing for the first screening of the Projecting Change Kpandai film festival, Father Timothy from the Catholic Church introduced me to Madam Marta.  I had already heard her name a few times before in general conversation and when I’d asked people about strong women in the community.

Madam Marta was born in a nearby small town and she attended both primary and middle school in Kpandai.  After going to Bolga for teacher’s college, she taught in several towns around the district.  During that period, she married and had two children.  Her husband was a medical assistant.  He passed away almost twenty years ago, leaving Madam Marta as the main ‘pillar’ of her household for the past two decades, a household that includes a large extended family.

Madam Marta just retired from being a primary school teacher last year because she hit the mandatory retirement age of 60.  Recognizing a major need in the community and wanting to continue working, she immediately started Kpandai’s first pre-school, which already has over 70 students and has created jobs for two other teachers. 

She is motivated by seeing women reach their potential and ensuring that they have the rights and opportunities that they deserve.  She has led women’s groups in the community for over twenty years, tackling issues such as women’s health, micro finance, spousal abuse, child labour, etc…   She wants other women to learn from her example by observing how she became strong and independent, allowing her to care of her family and contribute to her community.

When I first met her, I asked her what support she was most in need of and she answered that she needed tactile learning toys for her children.  After a bit of investigation, we decided to start with simple painted wooden letter blocks.

Other initiatives I am working with Madam Marta on include:

  • A second set of wooden blocks with different sizes and shapes to help children start intuitively learning basic math concepts.
  • Better linking her Livestock Rearing group, which she has been a member of for the last 7 years, to the Veterinarians at my office and starting them through EWB’s Agriculture As A Business (AAB) curriculum (they’ve already had two meetings)
  • We are investigating other sub-groups from her main women’s group who may be interested in pursuing other business ideas like flower arranging and drying mangos.   Hopefully we will be able to get them started with EWB’s AAB curriculum too.
  • Held a separate smaller screening of Pray The Devil Back To Hell for her women’s group and we showed Disney’s the Lion King to her pre-school children.
  • Researched child labour guidelines for rural subsistence farmer families and provided her with some guidelines on appropriate intensities and durations of work for children of different ages.
  • Basic project planning for an Orphanage, which is her next big dream

I recently had the opportunity to sit with Madam Marta after one of our meetings.  Here she is answering my questions about her leadership experiences and future goals:

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