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Women's centre plans first African exchange program

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In a bid to make the University of Calgary a more diverse community, the Women's Resource Centre is working to create an exchange program to Kenya.

Currently, the university does not have any exchange programs with African universities. Executive director of the WRC Stephanie Garrett thinks Kenya would be the perfect location to hold the first program, which she hopes will be available to students by winter semester 2008.

"When you think of international exchanges it's either Europe or developing countries, but a lot of times you have to speak a certain language," said Garrett. "What's great about Kenya is, although we'd encourage students to learn Swahili, most people in Kenya speak English in the main centres like Nairobi."

The proposed program will combine university classes and work with an African non- governmental organization.

So far, four programs caught the attention of the WRC. The first program, Action Now Kenya, works with issues of micro-credit with women and children in slums.

Sisters Beyond Boundaries is another NGO the WRC is working with, which focuses on sexual health education in poor communities.

"We've also got a partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalists," said Garrett of the third partnership. "They've designed a gender-sensitive pedagogy and schools that are specific for young girls at risk of early child marriage and pregnancy."

"Finally, there was one called Carolina for Kibera," she continued, noting this group has projects focused on health, education and gender-specific empowerment. About 800,000 people live in the slum Kibera with many suffering from extreme poverty, AIDS and tuberculosis.

Exchange students would stay in Kenya for either a semester or a full school year and the cost would be comparable to the regular exchange. An exchange program would also entail a Kenyan student coming to Calgary. While Garrett strongly supports this, it also poses cost issues.

"If the U of C wants to promote internationalization, they need to take a really strong look at how exactly they're going to attract international students from more impoverished countries when the prices are so incredible for them," said Garrett.

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