Sunday , April 11 2021

Inside the "Burkini island" where the Muslim girls learn to swim

(CNN) – On the east coast of Africa lies the Zanzibar archipelago, where the inhabitants of the area greet heat "Hakuna Matata", the Swahili word for "no worries."

It is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania that attracts lovers of species, beachgoers and snorkelers drawn by their white beaches and warm weather.

It also happens to be the birthplace of Queen Freddie Mercury.

Here, life is truly a beach, and everything revolves around the Indian Ocean that surrounds it, from fishing to algae farming, tourism and even all exercise.

And, nevertheless, a large part of the population can not swim. In 2011, Zanzibar was surprised by the tragedy: an island vessel of species sank and most of the local inhabitants were drowned.

According to WHO, 372,000 people around the world die to drown each year and women and children are at greater risk.

But you have set up a community initiative to avoid that this offers all, of all ages, swimming classes and water security.

The Panje project, after a local fish, began in 2013 with only 20 students in the northern tip of the island.

The project was launched by Khadija Sharriff, who was deeply affected by the 2011 boating accident and was forced to do something to prevent a new tragedy from happening.

Five years later, the small civic project carried out programs through Zanzibar and taught 7,000 people to swim.

When the & # 39; Project Panje & # 39; With other members of the community, Sharriff faced obstacles to persuading families to send their children, and in particular their daughters to learn to swim.

Girls listen to swimming techniques on the island of Zanzibar

Girls learn swimming techniques on the island of Zanzibar


Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim society, and the participation of women and girls remains the main obstacle to the organization, says Sharriff.

"When we started, the elderly … in the village … could not put their finger around this concept of bringing their daughters to the beach and teaching them to swim, and they felt as if they were not, Absolutely not, we can not give them this type of freedom, "he remembers.

It was not until a prominent elder in the town inscribed her daughter in the swimming program that others began to do the same.

First, Sharriff and his team designed a burkini for female students.

Long-term bathing suits made the girls do not feel conscious or uncomfortable, she says.

They also approached women in the community with the opportunity to train as swimming teachers.

Kazija Haji, who goes for "K", was one of the first female swimming professors of the project, is not exactly the obvious choice of career for a traditional Muslim woman, she admits.

Zanzibar girls swimming


Previously, a school teacher, Kazija, 28, learned to swim three years ago – through the Panje Project. While she initially admitted she was afraid of water, she was natural and soon she graduated to become a teacher.

Today, she is one of the 24 women swimming instructors, teaching at all ages and genders from three years up to the adult age.

Despite being an unusual career choice for a Zanzibari woman, K has completely embraced her as her call: "I feel a great sense of getting swimming education because I do it for me, my family and my community ".

K is more than a teacher; She is a model for aspiring swimmers and teachers.

Only in 2018, 633 women who learned to swim for the Panje project, are joining the ranks of a new generation of Zanzibari people who no longer need to live for fear of the water that surrounds them .

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