At Asilia we are blessed to have truly inspirational women as part of our team. One such a woman is Evalyn, our 25 year old guide at Naboisho Camp. Evalyn’s journey has not been an easy one, and her life story tells of the difficulties faced by many women in the pursuit of their dreams.
Tell us about yourself, your family and childhood?
I grew up in a small village, my father had three wives and eleven children. I had a hard time convincing my family to let me go to school, as my parents did not go to school and I was the only kid who went to school. Now I appreciate how I struggled. I only started going to school when I ran away from my parent’s village to go live with my grandmother.
My grandmother tried to push me back to my parents, and so I went to live with my aunt. My aunt got married, but never had children, so she was happy to have me there. I stayed with her until I finished my primary level. Once I finished the primary level, I was the only girl, and one of the best in a class of 21. Because of this, I received a sponsorship from a tourism company to complete my schooling.
After high school, going to the college I stood for myself. It was a problem getting into the college without a fee. I came back to look for my parents at their village. My mom was crying, but my dad was harsh with me because he thought I had run away from the village to look for men. He had thought that I had run away to get married, and now I was returning to ask for money to go to school. Fortunately my uncle helped me with a donation of 10 000 Kenyan Shillings, which I used to go to Mount Kenya University in Thika. It was not enough, and I took the money to a lecturer and explained my problem. He asked me “Evalyn, what exactly do you want from me?”
I told him, I want to do a short course of six months to complete with my certificate. But don’t release the certificate, I want to go out and get a job and come back to pay for my studies. They helped me and I got a good house there, where they shared a bed with me and gave me some old clothes and shoes. I stayed for a year and a half until I finished my studies.
After this time, I went home to my village and I told my father, I am looking for a job, but I can’t find a job because I don’t know anyone. Luckily there was a brother in law who wanted to marry my sister who was working at a camp. My sister gave me the contact number of the camp manager, Claire Johnson, and I contacted her to ask for an internship. Claire told me to report at the camp with the internship paper from the school. She offered me an internship for three months and after that a job for six months. From that time I started paying back my college.
What was life in the village like?
It was a hard life, like in the bush. It was a hard life in terms of getting an education. The area was in the bush, the only thing we knew was wildlife and cattle. The people know there are schools, but nobody knows the importance of these schools.
How are the roles of women traditionally seen in your culture?
Back in the village where I grew up I can say that the roles of women is to take care of the kids, the homes and their husbands. Because of the traditional way they don’t have a right to say or propose anything. They can only wait for their man to decide what to do or to say what they can have. They don’t really have a voice, because nobody listens to a woman. You are alive, but you are just there.
Over time, how do you think people’s attitudes have changed toward women in the workplace?
The other tribes… I can say they are being good when it comes to women. But if I talk about Maasai, they are still holding their culture in some ways. They don’t really allow their girls and daughters to go to school or work a far distance away. The women can be a bit understanding, but some members of the tribe are not. In the back of their mind they are thinking that these women who go far away from the village are going there for a prostitute purpose. As a person, you have to know what you are doing and what you stand for. Others will say that she is a young woman of 25 years without children and a husband that goes so far, but I don’t listen to them, because I know what I want to accomplish.
Why did you want to become a guide? What attracted you to the job?
I grew up in a family where no women worked in this career. A few girls went to school, but no-one wanted to be a guide or work in the bush, because we were staying in the bush. Why go to university and come back to the bush? Why not go to an office?
When I decided to go to college I thought of doing a short course that would cost me a minimum of money and time. I saw all these guides going into and out of camps, but I never saw a girl on that side of the area. I wanted to get a job next to my village so that the men of the village can see me doing my job so that I can change their minds or the minds of the girls living in the village. I want these people to see me moving around, taking guests around. I wanted them to see a woman doing the things that a man usually does.
I decided on guiding as I thought it would not be that hard for me to understand. I knew the animals. All I needed was the knowledge about the behavior, the life span and the social life. I also thought that maybe I could be the first girl in that field in my area.
What attracted me? It’s because of where I came from, it’s a bush area and guiding is in the bush, so it what I grew up with. I also like meeting and socializing with people and making friends.
What has been the highlight or favourite moment of your career?
I have a dream in my career – in my heart – that when I’m done in university I want to help the girls. That’s the biggest thing. I can’t be there and I can’t do everything, but I want to make just a small change in my community where I came from. I really want to do a girls school. That’s my dream.
I really hope I can get there one day. I know it’s hard, but first I must finish with my university degree, because I’m struggling to pay for myself. But maybe when I’m done with that I can start to do something.
What was the main attraction for you to work at Asilia?
Naboisho Camp is nice and quite busy. The people that work here have a spirit of work. They are motivating each other to work hard. They have good teamwork. I really like Naboisho.
Do you have a daughter or a niece? What advice would you give her for her career?
No, I don’t have a daughter. But I always sit down and I ask god. She knows how I struggle. I wish that my daughter or my son don’t have to go through what I go. Sometimes I really start crying when I start remembering how life was hard.
You can make a difference
To help young women like Evalyn reach their dreams you can contribute to the Asilia scholarship programme. The programme sends bright youngsters from poor rural areas to attend the Sila Vocational College in Arusha. Students and their progress are monitored by our Positive Impact Co-ordinator in Tanzania. We can make arrangements for you to meet your sponsoree on Skype and provide you with regular updates on their progress.
To make a donation towards this worthy cause please go to: http://asiliaatwork.net/campaigns/2016-scholarship-fund-drive.aspx#sa
Or for more information on this project please contact us at: email@example.com
See what a difference this makes to young women: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boWaGGEiiPM