It has now been three weeks since I landed in Mauritius, together with my husband and our two children. Many of you may know Mauritius as a tourist destination; Mark Twain is often quoted to have said: “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” Surrounded by stunning coral reefs, Mauritius spans less than 800 square miles and is home to over 1.3 million people. Beyond its flourishing tourism industry, Mauritius is often cited as a model of democracy amongst African nations and an example of social cohesion where people from African, Indian, Chinese and French heritage have created a peaceful co-existence.
Although I have been back several times to visit my family and on holidays, it has been 15 years since I first left to go study abroad. I have lived in different countries during that time, and when the possibility of completing my practicum in Mauritius arose, I knew that this was something that I should do. I was curious about how I could apply what I have learnt during my time at UNC to the reality here, and learn about the ways that I could give back to my home country.
Being a dual degree student with the School of Social Work and Public Health, I am working with two different organizations in order to complete all my required field hours: Gender Links (GL) and the Global Rainbow Foundation (GRF). Gender Links is a South African Women’s Right Organization with offices in ten Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries including Mauritius.
On the second day of my internship with GL, I was asked to be on a jury at the Voice and Choice Summit, which regrouped NGOS, local government councils, media organizations and individuals who are creating change in their communities across the island. The goal of the summit was to create a learning platform where each one came and presented their best practices for promoting gender equality through their current work. The presentations were made under various categories such as gender and climate change, gender and governance, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and others. A winner would then be chosen within each category to represent Mauritius at the African Regional Voice and Choice Summit in South Africa. For me this was an incredible opportunity for networking and for learning about the work of over 20 organizations in one sitting. I appreciated learning about how gender is intersecting with various issues such as poverty and education in Mauritius.
GRF is dedicated to the service of those who live with a disability in their life, be it mental or physical. Their approach is to provide a one stop shop, where someone interacting with their foundation can receive all the services necessary to be a fully functional member of society. To this end, GRF makes and provides prosthesis to its clients, provides employability training, provides medical services by a team of doctors which includes an occupational therapist, psychologists, and a physical therapist. It also engages in advocacy work in order to promote the rights of individuals living with disabilities.
The bulk of my work with both organizations consists of strengthening their internal capacity for monitoring and evaluation. While there is a strong emphasis on regular monitoring of activities, the evaluation component is often minimal, in part because organizations are strapped for staff and resources.
I am looking forward to the coming months as my family settles into the rhythm of the island (which is sometimes not so slow) and as I gain more field experience through both of my practicums. Beyond that, I am also excited to be meeting various individuals and talking about future ideas for collaboration such as strengthening and standardizing the practice of Social Workers in Mauritius and encouraging more research around gender issues, so that NGOs can more frequently engage in evidence based practices. There is so much happening and I am loving it!