“The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”
~ Proverbs 10: 28
Too often in community development work, specifically within the work of justice and advocacy, Proverbs 10: 28 does not seem to ring true. Too often it seems like the hopes of the wick is the only thing coming true as person after person is hurt by a dark, hopeless system that reinforces and rewards the worst part of us. However, recently I had a deep joy bubble up as I finally saw some of that prospect of the righteous, some of that joy, and oh my gosh if it did not come from down in my heart.
Last week I was able to catch the last day of a week long camp for girls put on by the Emmanuel Center for Women and Children in Gamasara. The Emmanuel Center was started in 2013 for the purpose of empowering the community for peace and justice, two elusive, high ideals that are not as easy to find as one might think. There have been many times during the last five years when it felt like the road to peace and justice may be the most crocked, unstraight road you can find. However, last week the girls camp started to straighten out that road just a little bit. The girls camp was put on by the Emmaneul Center and at the Gamasara United Methodist Church (UMC) for girls to have an alternative to female circumcision (FGM). FGM is a right of passage and therefore it is not enough or even helpful to tell people to stop. The girls camp went above and beyond that as it brought girls together to avoid the ceremonies of circumcision which was going on, but also to give them an alternative view of maturing within their culture. Women from their community, trained as facilitators, came together for a week to help the girls have an understanding of their place in the community and world.
Bibis (grandmas) came to tell traditional stories and the girls were given a chance to reinterpret the stories and talk about how some of those same values apply today, and how some of them don't.
They talked about circumcision and its dangers. They were told by women in their own community that it doesn’t have to be the way it has been for so many years.
Girls discussed what was needed to create a good home and what they were looking forward to in life. They also were visited by various women from the community: a nurse, a business woman, a student pastor, an elected government leader. All showing them what women from their own community were capable of, stressing the importance of education and having a vision for their lives.
Girls were given a chance to dress up, be pampered, but also to talk about what truly makes them beautiful. They were celebrated.
And I simply caught a glimpse. I took a bus from Mwanza, 3 hours to Tarime and 5 hours back on the same day. 8 hours on the bus for only a few hours at the camp, but it was all worth it. It was worth it to see a community coming together and working for its own justice, working to create its own peace, and striving to raise a new kind of generation.
“The prospect of the righteous is joy” and last week that joy was my gift. I hope that the girls and women involved in the camp felt that gift as well.