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Airing the Clean Laundry

Novatus and Selina with their cow. Photo: Richard Librock

July 11, 2016

By Simon Chambers

Novatus Hamim has developed a new skill in the last few years.  It’s one he probably never thought he’d have, but thanks to PWRDF’s program—funded in conjunction with Global Affairs Canada–  with the Diocese of Masasi in Tanzania, Novatus has had the opportunity to expand his horizons.

Novatus and his wife, Selina Hassan, were among the poorest residents of their village in the Nachingwea District of Tanzania.  Their community recognized their need, and put their names forward to receive a cow to help them support their family.

Novatus was skeptical.  “Have you ever seen someone give a cow for free?  Are you dreaming?” he asked Selina when she wanted to go to the meeting to learn more about the offer.  But Selina insisted, and off she went.  Novatus never joined her at the meetings.

Selina enlisted the support of her neighbours to help her build a cow shed, she planted grass so that she would have fodder for the cow.  Novatus was angry that she spent so much time on this mythical cow.

But then one day a big truck came into the village.  Staff from the Diocese of Masasi began to herd cattle down the ramp.  One by one, they called the names of villagers—chosen by their community based on their need—to receive the cows.  Selina was called forward, and took possession of her own cow.

Novatus was thrilled with this new addition to their farm.  He began to encourage Selina to attend the meetings more often.  One day, Selina said she couldn’t go to the meeting.  When Novatus asked why, she said that she had too much laundry to do.

Selina shows off Novatus' clean laundry. Photo: Zaida Bastos
Selina shows off Novatus’ clean laundry. Photo: Zaida Bastos

“You go to the meeting,” he said.  “I will do the laundry.”

So Selina went to the meeting.  While she was there, she met Zaida Bastos, PWRDF’s Program Director.  Selina said at the meeting that her husband was doing the laundry at home so she could be there.  Zaida took note of this, and asked if she could visit.

This was noteworthy to Zaida because in the culture of Nachingwea, it was unheard of for a man to do the laundry.  That was woman’s work.  But here was Novatus, developing this skill so his wife could continue to participate in the meetings.

“Sometimes,” Zaida said afterwards, “ interventions that are designed to address one issue—poverty—have more impact.  In this case, helping to break down gender inequities.”

Earlier this year, PWRDF’s (recently retired) Executive Director Adele Finney, visited Novatus and Selina.  She saw the motorcycle that Selina had bought for Novatus with her earnings from selling the milk from her cow.  Now Novatus can drive their goods farther to sell them, increasing the income for the family.  Adele heard about how the children are in school, getting an education and dreaming dreams for their future.

And Novatus’ laundry skills?  How did he do?  “Not bad,” said Zaida with a laugh.

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