A Triumph at Chazanga!


Coach Abigail presenting to the girls

It was a tiring week but I am so excited about how well it went! The 32 coaches that we’ve been training for the past two weeks spent six days taking turns presenting the negotiations curriculum to about twenty 9th grade girls at Chazanga School on the outskirts of Lusaka.

By yesterday, it was clear that, due to the fabulous job our coaches had done and the excellent curriculum, the girls had really gotten it. They showed us that they understand how positions differ from interests, the importance of taking the right approach when entering a negotiation, stepping to the other person’s side in order determine what their underlying needs are, seeking common ground, and brainstorming in order to build win-win solutions. I was so impressed that I got choked up hearing them describe how they plan to use these new skills in their lives.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will be fascinated to see how the research turns out once the full program happens next month with 2,000 girls in 41 Lusaka schools and data is collected once in May, again in September, and then finally again next year.

The curriculum, in addition to being important material, was fun for the girls to experience as they got to hear and participate in role plays that were about things that are relevant to their lives like a man offering to give a girl a cell phone if she will go with him to have a “drink” or a girl having to negotiate for her exam fees to be paid by a mother who is a widow with nine children.

Lina, with big smile, playing Lion-Zebra game, a prisoner's dilemma simulation

Lina, with big smile, playing Lion-Zebra game, a prisoner’s dilemma simulation

Or a girl whose boyfriend wants to have sex even though they had previously agreed they weren’t ready, and so forth. Despite their shyness at first, they were quite willing to participate in these scenarios and discuss the nitty-gritty of the situations and by the last day, almost everyone was speaking out.

In order that we separate out the impact of getting so many hours of time with such terrific role models from the actual impact of the negotiation curriculum, an equal number of girls will get a program for the same number of days and hours where they spend time in the presence of the coaches but without getting the curriculum. Instead, they will play with their friends with the coaches acting a bit like lifeguards. This acts as an additional control group for the experiment, along with a complete control group that doesn’t get any time with the coaches at all.

Likando leading coaches in an energizer

Likando leading coaches in an energizer

The energizers we did to keep us and the girls going were also quite fun. Dancing, including much swiveling of hips, is very popular here and I think the girls loved hanging out with the attractive, confident, young women who are our coaches.

We finished the Chazanga training yesterday with lunch and photos and the girls and the coaches seemed sad that it was over.

Our graduates!

Our graduates!

We were all on a high, hoping that learning these skills will help these girls to navigate themselves toward a better future. I, for one, will be rooting for them!


Happy Birthday Nalishebo and Theresa!

Two of the young women training to be coaches in the girls negotiation project had birthdays in the last few days so I thought I would profile them in my blog this week.

Nalishebo Mwale

Nalishebo Mwale

On Friday, Nalishebo Mwale turned 23. This makes her about 11 months older than my daughter, Kelsey. Nalishebo grew up in Lusaka South Farms, a suburb on the outskirts of the city.

She told me that she didn’t have many friends in her home area and has always been quiet and shy. One of her goals for herself is to reach out and make an effort to be more outgoing. Now in university, she has more of a social life as well as a boyfriend.  During the week, she stays with her cousin who lives closer to campus.

The youngest child in a family of six children, Nalishebo has three brothers and two sisters, the oldest of whom is 37. Her mother is a nurse at a clinic near their home where she lives with Nalishebo’s immediately older sister who, speech impaired, is in college studying catering. Her mother worked full-time while raising her six children while Nalishebo’s father, who was 30 years older than her mother, died when she was 9. Before his death, he was retired and before that was an accountant for the ministry of finance. Nalishebo’s mother was his second wife.

Nalishebo has one semester left before earning her bachelors degree in Development Studies at University of Zambia. She would like to get a Masters in public health, a 2 ½ year degree, and then become a lecturer in public health at the university. She anticipates she will need to work for a few years to earn the money to pay for graduate school and may also need to take out a loan. Recently, there has been an increase in university fees.

Nalishebo has traveled around Zambia and Malawi. She also visited France for three weeks in August 2011 with a trip organized by the United Church of Zambia. She likes to read Danielle Steele novels and loved the Twilight books and movies. She also enjoys watching TV.

Theresa Chileya

Theresa Chileya

Theresa Chileya turned 27 yesterday. She was born in the Copperbelt but her family relocated to Northern province and then finally settled in Lusaka when she was in grade 7. Her father, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, works as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for World Vision, an Evangelical Christian relief organization based in Washington state. Her mother is a businesswoman who deals in second hand clothing.

Theresa is the middle of seven children and has three brothers and three sisters. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Zambia with a double major in Library and Information Studies and Development Studies. While at university, she met her fiancé, Harrison, and Theresa became pregnant. She now has a 6-month-old daughter named Chilombo. Harrison is a teacher in a secondary school and lives in the Northwest province.

Theresa loves to travel in order to see new places and meet new people but especially new places.  She enjoys spending time with friends but when she is not socializing, she is an avid homemaker and loves cooking and keeping her home neat and clean.

She hopes to pursue a Masters degree in Gender Studies and would like to start her own non-governmental organization working with vulnerable girls and women as that is her main interest. She told me that GBV (Gender Based Violence) is rampant in Zambia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a billboard across the street from my apartment that indicates Theresa is not the only one concerned about the treatment of women here. Let’s hope that some of the negotiating skills these coaches will introduce to a thousand young teen girls next month will be a step in the right direction.


Lovely, Livable Lusaka!

I’ve been in Zambia just over a week and am feeling right at home. And I’m finally getting a moment to write! The weather is just like Northern California, sunny and dry and not too hot. The dirt is no longer the reddish orange of East Africa but the more common brown I’m used to and it doesn’t seem to get into everything the way the dirt in Tanzania did. I’ve been able to start exercising like I do at home, which feels great.

My home for a month is the two-story apartment on the left

I’m living in a two story, two-bedroom apartment in a nice and fairly central area of Lusaka. I even got a haircut yesterday! I do miss my friends at Sega and wonder what is going on there but I’ve been so busy getting settled and working long hours here that I haven’t had time to check in.

Across the street is the elegant Taj Pamodzi hotel, part of the Indian owned Taj hotel group.

It has a health club and a pretty pool that I was able to join for a month so I can hang out there whenever I have the time.

The pool at the Taj Pamodzi

The pool at the Taj Pamodzi

In fact, I’m just back from spending the afternoon at the pool preparing for tomorrow.  It even has two squash courts so I played squash this afternoon for the first time in over ten years.  I’m living the life, at least on weekends!

The contrast with Tanzania is stark with the infrastructure here in much better shape including roads, electricity, water, and three (!) nice shopping malls, two of them with escalators. I could tell the difference the minute I got off the plane. I’ve been told this all changes when one leaves Lusaka and goes out into the compounds or townships (very South African terms for the poorer areas the Africans reside) but I haven’t been there yet.

Flowers on African Tulip Tree

Flowers on African Tulip Tree

Apparently Zambia is fast becoming one of the most unequal countries in Africa with a boom in the last few years, due to robust prices for Zambia’s main export, copper. The gains from the natural resource have created a growing group of middle class or wealthy Zambians but not as much for the poor. According to the World Bank’s classifications, Zambia recently became a “lower middle income” country, instead of “low income,” achieved by passing $1,025/person in GNI (Gross National Income). Zambia’s GNI per person in 2011 was $1,160 to Tanzania’s $540. On the other hand, the life expectancy here in Zambia was only 49 in 2011 compared to 58 in Tanzania, probably partly due to the high HIV rate here in Zambia.

What’s happily similar is the that the people are very friendly and welcoming.  Also, there is the same plethora of NGO’s, a sign for one on every corner. And while there are lots of good restaurants here, unlike in Tanzania, the staple for the Zambians is still corn mush, but here it’s called nshima instead of ugali.

African Tulip Tree as seen from my apartment

African Tulip Tree as seen from my apartment

Also familiar are the beautiful trees, although there is a new one I hadn’t seen in TZ called the African Tulip Tree, lining the streets. They are absolutely smashing with amazing orange flowers sticking straight up on top of them. Apparently, July here is gorgeous because the Jacarandas are in bloom but, unfortunately, I will miss them.

It’s been an exhausting week work wise, as I had to hit the ground running in order to give 38 young Zambian women a crash course in win-win negotiations. I’ve done three of four days and will finish the general overview tomorrow. Then, they will be introduced to the actual negotiations curriculum that they will teach to the 8th grade girls starting in late May. Luckily we are getting reinforcements as one of the project organizers is flying in from New York to introduce the curriculum to the coaches this week. The Zambian coaches have a total of six weeks of training and I will be here for four of them, coaching them as they learn to teach the curriculum.

Me with my Zambian coach pupils

Me with my Zambian coach pupils

It’s very fun to meet these young women and see how they react to the material and hear about their aspirations. Most are recent college graduates, although some are still at university. I enjoy them immensely and hope to get to know a few better in the next three weeks before I leave for my three weeks of travel around southern Africa and then return to North America.

The office I’m working from is run by IPA, Innovations in Poverty Action. Started 10 years ago by American academics dedicated to bridging the gap between academia and development policy in practice, its focus is on running randomized control trials, the gold standard of research studies, in order to evaluate a variety of efforts designed to alleviate poverty.

Some of the staff in the IPA office in Lusaka

Some of the staff in the IPA office in Lusaka

They, and their partner J-Pal, have about 350 projects running in approximately 50 countries around the world. Here in Zambia they have three offices including this office in Lusaka, which runs 3 to 6 projects at any given time. The girls negotiation project I’m working on is just one of them.