Emma Blackman

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Emma Blackman

Interview by:Owen Mittenthal

Q: Can you tell me a bit about what you do as a part of SHOFCO?

A: SHOFCO is a community organization based in Kibera, Kenya, with the goal of combating gender inequality and poverty in urban slums by promoting both girls education and social services for the community. Kibera is an area that is not recognized by the government, so they dont have any of the services that we take for granted, like sanitation, trash removal, and clean water. What SHOFCO has done is started a school for girls, along with a number of other services, like a microfinance program, a clean water program, public bathrooms, a health clinic, and a library. Were trying to make girls empowerment and education a more valuable and important part of the community.

"Were trying to make girls empowerment and education a more valuable and important part of the community."

Q: What is SHOFCOs role in the Oberlin community?

A: In the past, weve sold a lot of goods here on campus. But we want to engage more with the Oberlin community, so weve had a bunch of initiatives to start conversations this year. Were talking about things like organizing solidarity frameworks and volunteering abroad. A lot of volunteering abroad is not great, so we want to find ways to do it that are non-imperialist and ethical. Were also part of an Oberlin in Solidarity coalition that just started a few weeks ago, and were working on it with other solidarity groups on campus and abroad. Something we also do is the alternative gift fair, which happens every winter. That involves not only working within Oberlin College, but also the general Oberlin community.

Q: Is there anything that your group really wants to achieve within the Oberlin community?

A: Basically we want to keep doing what weve been doing now, collaborating with other organizations, and having open discussions about how were doing solidarity work. Another thing were trying to do is to bring the founders of SHOFCO here next semester to speak. We definitely want to advertise that in lots of different mediums within Oberlin.

Q: Do you feel that this community has a strong identity, and how would you describe it?

A: As a college, I think definitely yes. There are a lot of like-minded people who are doing similar work, which is why our solidarity coalition is going so well. Were all thinking about things in a good and similar way.

Q: Outside of your work with SHOFCO, do you have a perspective on environmental issues and sustainability, within the community or in general, that you want to share?

A: The clean water project is the closest thing that SHOFCO does directly to work with the environment. Kibera is a city built on trash. They have no way to remove the trash, so it burns, and the air is really not good. But theyre working to clean up areas, and do things for themselves. Its all about community empowerment and finding a way to do things on your own.

Q: You mentioned the clean water project, how exactly does that work?

A: Basically SHOFCO built a water tower for Kibera. The water system in Nairobi couldnt get water to Kibera, so people would try to filter water themselves. It was really dangerous, often expensive, and the water wasnt clean, so SHOFCO built their own water tower. They are now able to supply the community with clean water that is a lot cheaper than before.

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