Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wine, Water, Motherhood and Education

On Third Street in Wasau, Wisconsin, there is a delightful family-owned independent bookshop. It’s called Janke Book Store and is jam-packed with newly published material, favorite oldies, and a bargain basement full of various reading genres.

A Janke employee is a fan and supporter of Africa ELI students. She escorted me to this locally treasured shop and gave me time to roam the aisles and browse through the shelves. It was a pleasant surprise to find Doc Hendley’s new book, “Wine to Water,” on display near the front door. Lest you think I’m mixing up words from an old biblical story about water being turned into wine, I can assure you that this is the correct title. Doc is a “preacher’s son turned bartender and accidental humanitarian” who works to bring clean water to people in places like Darfur, South Sudan, Uganda, Haiti and Cambodia. He’s a 2009 CNN-hero who teaches indigenous people how to repair broken wells.

Feeling a slight glow from discovering a book with stories about South Sudan so near to the front door, I began searching for any and all other things that might feature Africa’s 54th and youngest country.

Bingo! While not exclusively about South Sudan, I found “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” by Mumbi Mwangi, Ph.D. She is a woman from the East Africa neighborhood. A Kenyan, she has researched the education of African girls and written about African women pursuing higher education in the USA. She interviewed three women who revealed their challenges in contradicting common values of African tradition. These women struggled to overcome “gender inequalities and stereotypes that inhibit African women’s access to education.” Reaching beyond the idea that African women must be domestic and aspire for motherhood over educational gains, she reveals the “tremendous personal strength, courage, and determination” it takes for girls and women to achieve academic goals in a traditionally patriarchal environment. She asserts that motherhood and domesticity are not incompatible with education and professional development.

“Wine to Water” and “We Will Have Gained Ourselves” are stories of human interest and insights into the potential of people with passion and a cause.

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