Marvi Chaudhry is an undergraduate Political Science major, who is also pre-med. You can follow her research on her blog: https://dosesofdemocracy.wordpress.com/
Marvi interviewing Dr. Pius Chaya at AMREF in Dar es Salaam, October 23, 2015
Travelling to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a city 8,157 miles away from midtown Detroit, began a new inquisitiveness in the impact of research and fieldwork that I would have never imagined possible. Admittedly, this is an extremely cheesy thing to say, but the most unexpected outcome of this trip with the African Democracy Project has been my desire to pursue fieldwork as an approach to doing research that I was already interested in. In getting to understand political campaigns of both candidates prior to leaving Detroit, it allowed me to have a more objective understanding in the passion of rally participants or the apathy of government workers. Between observing the presidential elections at polling stations and exploring the bustling markets of Kariakoo, I experienced more than the average undergraduate researcher. I came to appreciate the beauty in taking a backseat and observing the tenacity of daily life in City Centre.
Meeting with the people at the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) in Dar es Salaam enriched my research not just factually but also by giving me an aspect of personal stories to focus on. Much of the conversation that took place with Naemy Sillayo at the LHRC, who was an advocate for women’s health rights through community based organizations, were geared toward empowerment of the people. In contrast to the mechanically precise policies that I spent weeks prior to the trip reading, her input on the lives of people was like a breath of fresh air.
My topic of research as a political science major and biology minor focuses in HIV/AIDS policies and the how the different sectors of Tanzanian government and society are addressing and adapting to the issues that remain unresolved. No doubt the policy aspect of my research, which is mainly done through books, documentation of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and published journals and articles can get overwhelmingly mind-numbing because of the itty bitty details that are involved. Being able to talk to people from NGOs, market workers, and taxi drivers, especially about their attitudes towards changes in government and daily life created such a personal and lasting impression of Tanzanians. After this experience, I don’t believe there could have been a more welcoming and accommodating place to have my first introduction to fieldwork in. Tanzania has provided all the possible opportunities at enhancing my research and developing new research questions that an undergraduate researcher can hope for; the only challenge I had in researching was the limited amount of time. Reading about Tanzania and the vibrancy of the people and culture was an understatement when compared to my experiences in Dar es Salaam and even in Zanzibar. By the end of the trip, without a doubt, experience in doing fieldwork had made my expectations seem dull in comparison.