We've been on the road a fair bit since Tsumeb - and here I was, thinking that I'd never get to travel with my placement. I'd popped into the VSO office a while ago and the HIV Programme Manager, Inge, mentioned that they had N$20,000 to spend on a gender research project - this is just under £2,000 - and would I consider taking it on. I said I'd think about it and email her some ideas. Considering that VSO-RAISA's priority at the moment is male involvement in Community and Home Based Care (CHBC) in order to reduce the burden of care on women and children, it was decided to spend the money on a small survey of the men who are involved in CHBC in Namibia, seeing what their motivation is, why they get involved, how they are perceived by their local community and what stops other men getting involved. I said that Alex should also come on board to oversee the research methodology since he has a PhD, and also Loreen from Friendly Haven as she enjoys research, and that we should undertake the study as a group and co-author the final report. VSO were pleased with the suggestion, and agreed. So it's a joint Friendly Haven - LAC project.
In Rundu, the river that forms the border between Namibia and Angola. Namibia is on the left, Angola on the right.
VSO further suggested that since Alex is tavelling all over the country with LAC doing advocacy training for small NGO's in different regions as a VSO-RAISA project, that we travel together and I do the research while Alex is training, and when he has time away from the training, he comes too. This saves considerably on the budget as the Advocacy Training budget pays for the car petrol and for Alex's meals, which means I can do a lot more with the gender research project budget. Sorting out the budgets was a nightmare, and the writing of the concept paper took a long time! But since then, we've been in the north of Namibia to Rundu (700km from Windhoek) and Katima (1200km from Windhoek), as well as doing research in and around Windhoek itself.
Last week, first stop: Rundu. A seven-hour car journey from Windhoek, Rundu is right at the top of Namibia, overlooking the river the borders Angola. It's beyond what in Namibia is known as the 'red line', a demarcation line that separates the more populous North of the country from the more prosperous South. Once you pass the checkpoint of the red line, about an hour from Rundu, the houses turn from tin to earth, and wildlife roams more freely over the roads.
Catching up with other VSO's in Rundu
Drinks overlooking the river
A beautiful sunset over the river
I'd contacted the local branch of Catholic AIDS Action in Rundu, who told me they were visiting lots of their CHBC support groups the days I was there, some of which had men in them, and I was welcome to join them on their rounds. Fantastic - I spent all day village-hopping with CAA, talking to people, doing games around motivation, and sinc I 'd brought juice and biscuits for everyone it went down very well - lots of singing as a result. We even made a home-visit to one very ill patient, and being able to see the carers in action was inspiring.
For Alex, the training went very well in Rundu - he and his colleague Kat (working at NANASO, the umbrella organisation for HIV NGO's in Namibia) made indivdaul visits to NGO's and then held a group workshop. They focused on training the NGO's in how to draw a stakeholder map to work out who their priority stakeholders were, how to interview focus groups as part of advocacy research, and also used the workshop as an opportunity for them to network and discuss their challenges. He linked me to one organisation looking to do similar research on CHBC, as a potential contact for the next time we're in Rundu, in February.
Dinner on our second night in Rundu, again overlooking the river
Spring in Rundu
Chilling out with Anneke, a lovely VSO based in Rundu, and her neighbours
On the rounds with CAA in Rundu, visiting support groups for CHBC
After freeing our car from the sand at the B&B in Rundu, we headed over to Katima, which is near the end of the long 'arm' of land that's attached to the top of Namibia and borders Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The scenery along the way changed rapidly. Elphants roam freely across the roads, as do ostrich. You have to drive quite carefully.
In Katima, Alex and Kat did a similar programme for the NGO's based there, and I called a contact I had through a colleague in Windhoek, called Oscar. Oscar knew everyone in Katima and the surrounding villages, and he and I drove through the bush, from tiny villages to rice-fields, for the whole day, interviewing men, village headmen, and even a traditional healer. This was one of the most enjoyable days I'd spent so far.and was very valuable for the data and the interviews I collected.
Oscar in the car
One of the support groups we visited in Katima
Doing some games around motivation
In Katima, we saw hippos in the river, and witnessed one of the most amazing storms - right overhead - with full-on thunder, lightening and rain.
Beautiful scenery in Katima
Elephants roaming freely along the Caprivi strip
On our way back to Windhoek, we stopped for one night in Rundu to break up the journey, and went out with some of the VSO's and Peace Corps. It was a lot of fun, although tiring the next day when we drove back to Windhoek.
Our travel schedule is just as hectic in the next few weeks: Keetmansoorp, Walvis Bay, and Ongwediva. And, of course, my mother and sister are also visiting so we'll also be seeing Etosha and the cave paintings at Brandberg. We're really enjoying getting to know the country more - Namibia is definitely not just Windhoek.