August 6: Martina Hando, the nurse in charge of the local public health clinic, loved the idea of having the clinic supplied with a motorcycle to facilitate outreach to patients living in remote areas. It seems, however, that a mere motorcycle will not do: the clinic would need a bajaji, a motorcycle with a sidecar attached, with a covering over both. That way, a man could operate the motorcycle while a female nurse sat in the sidecar.
Martina insists that “in this area it is not possible” for a woman to operate a motorcycle, unless she is very young. Martina appears to be in her forties and, at least for the time being, each of the other nurses working with her is also old enough such that operating a motorcycle would represent an assault on her dignity. This implies that if Karimu (www.karimufoundation.org) buys the clinic a bajaji—which would cost a little over $2,000 brand-new, we are told—the Tanzanian central government and/or the local community will have to absorb the costs not only of fuel and upkeep, but of hiring a driver.
Although the logic of gender among the Tanzanians is interesting in its own right, it is also, in a case like this one, vital to Karimu’s development work in Dareda Kati. What people will or will not accept has everything to do with whether a purported solution to a problem can truly answer their needs. The annals of development are replete with stories of disappointed and disillusioned philanthropists who have built libraries, or schools, or wells for communities that, for one reason or another, didn’t need or couldn’t use the philanthropist’s well-intended gift. For instance, the gift may have been hard for the community to access, it may have duplicated something with which the people were already satisfied, or it may have been difficult or impossible to maintain.
Karimu cannot promise to make no mistakes. But we will minimize our errors if we do our best to find out from the Tanzanians what they want, rather than what we think they ought to want.