Gelte Mine, pictured with her daughter Kognang, is a 35-year-old Dasenech widow and mother of 7 children. When Gelte was asked how her family’s quality of life was affected by GTLI, she replied, “We eat much, much better and we no longer have diarrhea. I am now self-confident. I do not let the brothers of my dead husband control me. My eyes have been opened. I say, GTLI is mizap” (the highest compliment in Dasenech language).
Prior to GTLI’s work with Gelte’s community, the lives of the women and girls were determined by traditional standards, values, and rules of conduct. Women were valued only for bride-price, labor, and number of offspring; females had no representation in the household or community; women were denied freedoms of speech, influence, and education; women owned no assets and had no authority over household assets or finances; and women and girls accepted violent and abusive disciplinary behavior. Other cultural practices that adversely affect Dasenech females include female genital cutting and early forced marriages.
Gelte reports that her life and the lives of other village women started to improve when they learned that women should be equal to men through their participation with men in GTLI’s Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy classes. She said, “I gained the confidence to refuse my husband’s brothers. They used to force me and my children to wait until after they ate all our food. We were always hungry. Now, I no longer wait for the men to eat—we eat together. Also, my children and I only drink filtered river water. We are so happy that the diarrhea has gone away.”
Gelte defied very stringent cultural mores when she decided to start using modern contraceptives after participating in GTLI’s Community-Based Learning in Action Healthy Children. She does not want to have a baby by the brothers of her (dead) husband! Gelte managed to save $100 when she was employed as a Community Health Promoter for a GTLI Emergency WASH project. This exceptional role model is now the cashier of the women’s cooperative and a member of the Community Empowerment Committee.