The Immeasurable Is What Is Important
By David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator
article concerns the importance of what is immeasurable. AGLI, like
all NGOs, has to report on how its funds have been spent. For
grants, we have to have an evaluation process and assessment reports.
Our proposals are full of goals, objectives, evaluations, and documentation.
This is all well and good, but as I will explain below this misses
the real essence of the work we do because it is not measurable.
NGOs focus on giving out material things that can be easily counted — food,
seed for planting, corrugated iron sheets, and so on. Even the UN Peacekeeping
Department has realized that within five years after the end of conflicts
in which they have been involved, more than half of the conflicts
and material support they had given is rendered useless. Therefore, peacebuilding
and reconciliation work is important. We have approached the big NGOs about
this, but they do not want to take this on because it is so difficult to “count” the
outcome. AGLI, of course, has the same problem, but we do the best we can
with the various assessments that you receive.
I am not
talking about the many testimonies that we get; a husband saying
that he has stopped beating
his wife and children, nor the wife saying her
has stopped beating her and the children. These are important outcomes
to the Healing and Rebuilding Our Community workshops. Even here
we cannot have
objective such as “50% of the men will stop beating their wives.” An
old friend, Judy Brutz, did a study in the 1970’s on whether Quaker
families were less violent than average families. Her conclusion was that
particularly less violent (except for acts of extreme violence), but then
she could not tell if this was due to the fact that the Quakers may have
been more honest about their actual behavior than
I am talking about the real essence of change — the change in attitude.
This can never be measured since it has to do with the inner conscience,
the inner light, as Quakers like to say. Yet, this includes not only personal
changes, but societal attitude changes where society has unquestionably
moved. I have two clear examples.
relates to the Twa with whom we are working in Rwanda [click
here for article]. They are now being called “those who
history left behind.” The
Twa are less than 1% of the population in Rwanda. They are the outcasts
in society because they hunted and ate wild animals, made clay pots,
dead, and are the buffoons and jesters at weddings and similar events.
In order to promote wildlife conservation and tourism, the government
has removed the
Twa from the forests where they formerly lived. They have been settled
on small plots next to the forest, do not send their children to school,
and will not
come to meetings called by the government. In other words, this presents
a nice challenge for AGLI and HROC-Rwanda.
from Quaker Peace and Social Witness in England, HROC-Rwanda conducted
two communities of Twa; one in Ruhengeri and the
other in Kayonza.
Elizabeth Cave, an English Friend, went to Rwanda and taught sack-gardening
to the graduates of the HROC workshops. Because they have such small
plots of land this was useful for them. Moreover, the vegetables would
their nutritional intake. It is my opinion that one of the reasons
for their short
stature is malnutrition during childhood.
received reports on the follow-up workshops. As I would expect, there
are men who say
that, by dealing with their trauma and anger,
they have stopped
beating their wives. Others report willingness to send their children
to school and to attend government meetings. But the really basic underlying
change is conveyed in the following testimonies:
One women told us that, as she is married to a Hutu man, her family
used to hate her saying that she went away from the marginalized
family, but now they have changed, and decided to help her. She said
that she is
for the workshop she attended and how she feels to be welcomed in
the family again.
Olivier: Before coming in the workshop, we were in isolation, but
now we are free, we can easily approach the local authorities, and
express ourselves in good ways.
A different Olivier: We are helping our colleagues who didn’t attend
the Growing Together workshops so that they know how to grow these vegetables
in sacks. This is a part of building trust among us. People from this area
[that is, Hutu and Tutsi] were surprised when they saw the vegetables grown
by our houses.
Mukandori: I had the tree of mistrust inside me, but have started
building the tree of trust in my family and among my neighbors, I
can tell you
that this tree has started to grow here in Kabazungu [place of the
workshop]. People who are not Twa are coming to see the sacks we’ve grown, and we are ready
to go and teach them how to grow these vegetables in sacks.
The really significant change is that those who were seen as outcasts
have become models in their community; those who had formerly despised
are now looking to them as innovators. They are no longer "left
behind by history.”
example occurred last week here in Kenya when we conducted seven
AVP basic workshops with mostly
Nandi youth in Turbo Division
had been much violence after the 2007 election. The previous week
we had a refresher
course for the AVP facilitators and there we heard many negative
comments about the Nandi. We do not have any Nandi facilitators.
We were told
that Nandi youth
are suspicious, will not open up in the workshops, the women will
not speak, and they will demand sitting allowances [payment for
attending the workshop].
workshop was held last Monday. In one of the workshops, nineteen
participants showed up and demanded
as we have instructed them over the years, gave the reasons why
there was no sitting
allowance. The lead facilitator called to say that he did not
know if many or any participants would show up the following day.
the next day? Nineteen!
end of the week, I was speaking with one of the facilitators who
said that his second workshop had
been excellent as the participants
receptive and responsive. At the end of the three days, the
from the facilitators, decided to form an association of the
attitude has changed. The Nandi – who
had been seen as difficult, hard to reach, and responsible for
much of the post-election violence in the
area – responded positively to our peacebuilding efforts.
changes are immeasurable, yet of the utmost importance. This change
is in the attitudes people had of each other
and the relationships
when those attitudes change.