My name is Daniel Simonson, and I am the new Gender/Business analyst intern for the MASAVA (Mafuta ya Asili ya Alizeti yenye Vitamini A, which translates to “Natural Sunflower Oil Fortified with Vitamin A”) project based in Babati, Tanzania. I just completed my first week, and I finally have a little time to catch you, the supporters of MEDA, up on the ins and outs of life as an intern.
I am the third generation of Simonson’s that have lived in Tanzania, which is very much where I consider my ‘home’ to be. Therefore, it is a privilege to start my professional career with MEDA in Tanzania. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a reputable organization. This internship has given me the chance to explore new regions, to meet more of the 120 plus ethnic groups in the area and to partake in Tanzania’s vibrant culture.
After I landed in Tanzania a week ago, I was immediately on the road flying to Nairobi for a conference called “Gender Integration in Agriculture and Food Security Programs” hosted by the IDRC (International Development Research Center). I find it is amazing to see how easily one can travel in the region. Something that I have noticed from travelling to and from Africa over the past five years is the diversity of people represented on the airways. In addition, when I travel, I notice how the forces of globalization are finding their way into remote areas. For example, Justin Bieber played on the radio on my trip from Arusha to Babati.
My first three official days on the job were a bit of a ‘jumping in the deep end’ experience. However, with the chance to meet a diverse and dedicated group of people with decades of experience and insight, it was hard to go wrong. It was also a great opportunity to begin reflecting upon and better defining what it actually means to be a ‘gender intern’.
In recent years, gender as a component in development projects has been criticized as simply being an add-on to projects - a box to check to get donor funding. However, it was refreshing to witness MEDA implementing a very intentional thought process. I am looking forward to learning more about how gender is a central aspect of development projects. It is humbling to learn and to witness my worldview changing as I continue this internship.
Now I find myself in Babati getting established in a new town with new colleagues. Babati has definitely grown since that last time that I passed through. So far, I can report that it has the usual ingredients of boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis), dala dala’s (minivan transport), and bajaj’s (three wheeler taxis similar to transportation in India). Traffic can be unpredictable in Tanzania, but it adds to the rich cultural experience. In addition, the surrounding scenery is beautiful, and I am looking forward to doing a little exploring in my free time.
Kwaherini na tutaonana baadae (Goodbye and see you soon)!