Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the entire world. Today, 37% of girls are forced into marriage before they have reached their 18th Birthday. In fact, 2 out of 5 girls are married before they are 18 years old. Traditional customs condone harassment and violence towards women. Cases of violence usually go unreported. The cases that are reported are usually settled outside of court. Discrimination also happens inside the classroom. The girls who actually get the chance to go to school can be automatically expelled if they are married or pregnant. In rural villages women who are older in years get accused of being witches and then are violently attacked. Studies have shown that in 2013, 505 women in Tanzania had witchcraft-related murders.
This is why the Rafiki Exchange strives to help widows in Africa, including Tanzania. We teach these women the Bible. They now have an opportunity to learn about a loving God who sent His Son to die for sinners, the One who created the world, a God who knows their every need. The Rafiki Exchange gives an opportunity for women to work and support themselves and their children. Giving them an option which was nearly impossible before. We believe in helping women in need across Africa. Women who often times have no voice, women who are forgotten. We are passionate about this important work.
Written by McKenna Gasper
Forced marriages, sexual abuse, and wife inheritance is all prevalent in the 8 million widows living in Kenya. When you consider that Kenya has some of the most oppressed widows in the world living in it, those 8 million lives suddenly seem to be more important. In a study done in 2016 the widows in Kenya were ranked 33rd in the world for most devastated lifestyle.
When her husband dies, the in-laws usually try and take the land from the widow he leaves behind. If the widow's land is taken from her by the in-laws, what choice does she have but to comply? If she protests them taking the land and takes the matter to court, what will happen if she wins? She will have a home but will then be completely ostracized by her clan. She may have four walls and a roof over her head, but living in a village where no one will speak to you would be a tragic life. It seems far safer to let them take the home and property.
In most cases, widows end up blamed for their husband's death and cast out of society with no belongings. With no property, no home, and no one to turn to for help, the widow is left alone.
This is why Rafiki's work with widows is so important. We come along side these women and help them support themselves in a way that was not possible before. It is our hope that you will come along side of us and help give lasting hope to future generations of widows in Kenya.
Written by McKenna Gasper
In 1994 the finish of the Rwandan Genocide, which came from a 100 day mass murder from the Hutu and Tutsi Tribes, left over 800,000 people dead. Studies show that 1 in 10 Rwandans died during these 100 days. The effects of having almost 1 million people die in less than four months is staggering. Rwanda quickly became a country with more women than men. The scars and trauma these women carry with them is both tragic and inspiring. They survived things most of us couldn’t even dream of. They watched their children and husbands get hacked into bits by men with machetes, or were trapped while their neighbors were violently clubbed to death. Their homes were destroyed and burned to the ground while they were forced to watch. For a lot of these women, what they went through after watching this unfold, would be what some would call a fate worse than death. Violent rapings were condoned and these women suffered in the most extreme ways because of it. Some were left after all this took place to, “die of sadness.”
After the genocide finished, these widows were left to pick up the pieces, and somehow make a new life. With their husbands dead, the widows from the Hutu and Tutsi Tribes came together and made peace. By weaving baskets together these women found a way of healing in something that has been a part of Rwandan culture for centuries. The weaving and selling of these baskets to Western markets has gained the Rwandan widows economic independence and improved their local communities.
Now, 24 years later, 50% of homes in Rwanda are run by women. The women in this country still live in extreme poverty. Often $1.25 a day or less is what they have to feed and shelter themselves and their children. They are slowly rebuilding. The Rafiki Exchange has partnered with these very women, and are selling their baskets in our Local Exchanges, on our Online Exchange, and our new Etsy Shop. We are passionate about helping these widows support themselves and their children.
Written by Mckenna Gasper