by Karen Bladwin
Karen Baldwin’s masterful memoir reads like a suspense thriller as this resolute American woman of “a certain age” journeys alone to South Africa to teach Zulu children. There she encounters a stunning resistance to change from those who invited her. Baldwin’s writing is candid, taut and relentless, as waves of cultural tension build to an unforeseen crisis that tests her courage and strength. -Phaedra Greenwood, Award Winning Journalist Karen Baldwin, through raw, honest, and vibrant writing, shares her journey to teach children in South Africa. Her good intentions are met by strong traditions and a real Africa-not an illusion or romanticized world-where nothing is wasted and there is little personal space. Baldwin’s journey reveals the similarities in Zulu and American families’ joys, pain, deception and love. -Dr. Andrea M. Heckman, PhD, Cultural Anthropologist, University of New Mexico An extraordinary story, beautifully told. Baldwin’s account of her adventure in Africa is honest, moving, frequently funny, sometimes startling, and always compelling. This is a journey of faith, and it carries the reader along every twist and turn in that journey with remarkable clarity and grace. -Sean Murphy, Author, The Time of New Weather
Ruby’s World: My Journey with the Zulu
Breast cancer and heart attack survivor Karen Baldwin searched for a way to give back targeting women and children. What began as a humanitarian quest ended suddenly with a hair-raising escape for her life. What started as a dream and a spiritual calling for Baldwin, quickly turned into a nightmare in the Zulu region of South Africa as the obscure traditions of the Zulu tribal chiefs and witch doctors threatened her survival and prompted her expulsion from the dark continent of Africa.
Now Baldwin’s good intentions continue to move her forward. She has written a book about her journey with the Zulu and altered the course of her life to continue to find ways to help the Zulu women and children working with the non-profit Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa.
I have to admit this book was a hard read. It’s very long and deals with a lot of issues that are hard to wrap your brain around and stomach. It’s a story about a woman (Karen) who misinterprets the simplistic lifestyle of the Zulu tribe and underestimates the complex nature of their society. She goes to Africa hired as an English teacher. She encounters children’s who’s only meal was at the school, a society who’s sexes are not equal and atrocities that we wouldn’t see in the US seen as commonplace or ignored. Her intentions to help are complicated by the community and politics she encounters. The story is engaging, powerful and very descriptive in it’s telling. If you are interested in volunteering overseas or about true life stories of volunteers and the people they help this would be a great story to read.
New Mexico Author Karen Baldwin Named Ambassador
For Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa
Karen Baldwin, author of Ruby’s World – My Journey with the Zulu, believes in global volunteerism.
Now she helps bring awareness of non-profit efforts toward equality for African women.
A prominent New Mexico author becomes the first Ambassador for the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa. Founder and Executive Director for the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa, Sizani Ngubane, chose author Karen Baldwin as the first Ambassador to the U.S. representing the non-profit because of Baldwin’s passion to help the women and children. Ngubane is known as an indefatigable campaigner for women’s and children’s human rights in South Africa. She sits on the UN Commission on the Status of Women and has addressed the UN regarding the UN Millennium Development Goals. Joining Ngubane in that fight, Baldwin, whose book is a memoir of her journey to rural South Africa teaching children English, wants to make a difference. Baldwin also will attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women hearing in the Spring 2013 and together with Ngubane will present a workshop on RMW’s work.
Baldwin knows firsthand the struggles women face in South Africa. She witnessed many of the issues Ngubane battles on a daily basis. There is the imbalance of power for women. If a woman is not married, she holds no rights to property, a job, or freedom.
“I was searching for purpose after surviving a heart attack and breast cancer,” says 57-year-old Karen Baldwin. “I was invited to be the first white teacher in a rural Zulu elementary school. Naïve, I set off from San Francisco alone for South Africa,” Baldwin explains. “At first I was welcomed in my efforts, but then threatened with my life because, in part, I stood against the cruelty that Ngubane is working to end. Since returning home from South Africa, I have been searching for a non-profit to give my support.”
The Rural Women’s Movement of KwaZulu-Natal was chosen as a finalist in the 2010 Drivers of Change awards by the Southern Africa Trust. The criteria in the annual competition is that entrants must demonstrate their commitment to sustained development within communities to ensure a better future for all South Africans.
Nearly 70 years ago, an elderly South African man dictated his will to his youngest child, informing her that she would equally share in the division of his property. That little girl grew up to become the mother of Sizani Ngubane of the Rural Women’s Movement in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Today, Ms. Ngubane works to educate women with HIV/AIDS of their inheritance rights in a country where women are being disenfranchised because of the illness.
RWM serves over 50,000 women and 2,000 orphans in rural South Africa. They are part of a 21 organization alliance that works toward preserving constitutional rights for rural citizens.
Their primary focus is to advocate for women’s independent land housing, inheritance, and property rights. They also provide training and strategic assistance for the HIV/AIDS crisis.