The city of Moshi is situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The prevailing social order there is strongly patriarchal. Domestic violence is common, and it is difficult to intervene in it. Domestic violence is so common that the community sometimes does not even refer to it as violence. Due to social pressures, women find it hard to seek help or compensation.
Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organisation (KWIECO) is an NGO operating in Moshi that actively seeks to strengthen the position of women, by providing free legal assistance and advice to those in need. KWIECO disseminates information about women’s legal rights and seeks to influence public attitudes. In recent decade, an increasing amount of the organisation’s clients have been victims of domestic violence, and therefore the organisation decided to seek partners and funding to build a women’s shelter.
Hollmén Sandman Reuter Architects worked 2007–09 on the TunaHAKI orphanage project and became acquainted with KWIECO’s members. The architectural design process of the shelter house began in October 2012 when the organisation managed to buy, following successful fundraising, a suitable plot for the project. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs granted NGO project funding for the design, construction and initiation of the operations of the shelter. In addition, the project received a number of grants from Finnish foundations.
The Finnish NGO Ukumbi, founded in 2007, offers architectural design services for underprivileged groups of people. Several architect teams operate within Ukumbi on a variety of projects. Activities include, in addition to fundraising and architectural design, also seminars, workshops, lectures and information dissemination. The term ‘ukumbi’ is Swahili and means ‘meeting place’.
The accommodation part of the shelter complex was completed in May 2015. In connection with the living quarters, there are also plans to build office facilities for KWIECO, which would provide additional stability and security for the operations of the organisation. Ukumbi and KWIECO are raising funds for the implementation of the second phase.
What is most essential in supporting the shelter operations is the careful design of its architecture in accordance with the cultural tradition. KWIECO employees have been actively involved in the planning process. In the planning, special attention has been paid to security. Through a peaceful and protective environment, a feeling of security and an atmosphere of comfort and protection are created that allows for the healing of the body and mind of those arriving at the shelter. The rooms of the accommodation open on to the courtyard and communal areas offer opportunities for encounters amidst everyday chores. The client at the shelter is most often a mother with several children. They are offered counselling, accommodation and food for up to three months.
The facilities reserved for the shelter wind around the inner part of the plot, which in the future will be protected by a two-storey building intended for offices. The office wing is designed as a protective wall on the street side, and for safety reasons, its functions are completely separated from the actual shelter premises. The buildings are grouped according to a repeated series of courtyards, from which a diverse but serene weave of spaces emerges.
Source: Finnish Architectural Review 6/2015