Trying to Write About the Women

Today I was finally productive. It’s been feeling as if the days have been going by so quickly and are so filled with meetings, or lunches that I haven’t had time to actually produce anything. Today though I wrote a first draft of a success story for the Benishangul Gumuz Food Security and Economic Growth Project and a first draft for a humanitarian case study. I profiled one woman named Galme. Even though I only had to write about two pages, I wan’t sure how to approach her story. I’m nervous about touching the words and situations of all of the women we met with both in Holetta and in Yabello.
On Friday September 21st or 22nd, I travelled to Holetta to speak with two other groups of women. They were beneficiaries of HUNDEEs programs and participated in literacy groups, community conversations and savings and credit groups. They were all pretty eager to share with changes being involved in these activities brought to their lives.
Their lives are turning around. They have started businesses and are starting to be able to discuss financial and other family matters with their husbands. They are allowed ot leave the house to go to community meetings now. They are starting to see the value of their daughters the same way they value their sons. It’s a bit unreal being in the presence of people for whom these are their realities and their achievements. From a distance, I’m sure it all sounds pretty typical and expected and simple. But to see these women’s faces and hear them talk about their situations, to hear their voices and have them to look at me and probably wonder who I am and how I got there, it’s just.. it’s unreal and it’s a priveledge and I feel like, it’s much more than I’ll be able to capture for a simple “success story”.
The women of Yabello were different than the women in Holetta. There was a lot more energy moving through them and between those of us interviewing them. Again, it’s hard to describe it in words. Its like they had so much to say but weren’t just going to pour it out to us just because we had asked. It took a few minutes fro them to open up. The leader of the pack was against us taking photos at first. She was like, “fine they can take our photo as long as wet get copies” but even as MM, who came along for the trip, took them, “Alpha” was hiding her face and saying the flash was bothering her. Finally, our translator explained again that the photos were important so that people- donors and the public would be able to put faces to the experiences they were sharing and Alpha stopped hiding her face.
Just a few questions in a couple of the women said “we want someone who speaks our language”.
Later, Alpha ignored one of the questions I had put out to the group and asked “when are we getting paid for our work?” They’re involved in a cash-for-work program implemented by SOS sahel where they clear huge tough weeds that leave no space for grass to grow which means no food for the cattle to eat. No food for cattle means no food or milk to drink and a weak and skinny piece of livestock to trade if need be. So she was asking for her money. Apparently our translator didn’t answer her and bout ten minutes later she ignored the questions we asked again to say “ you didn’t answer my question: when are we getting paid and when do we get our hand tools?”
I guess someone’s gotta be OG in those situations where everyday, you have to walk 3 hours to get water and have to purify it with tablets because it’s not clean and when as a woman you do immeasurable amounts of work and yet are treated with little respect.
So today I was a bit productive. I got to work about an hour earlier than normal, took a deep breath and started trying to maintain the dimension of Galme’s story in a two dimensional format. I inserted her photo into the document before I began writing so that I could remember her presence. She was gentle-looking but vocal, and insightful as she talked about how they cope with drought and how she wanted her daughters to have the education she never had.

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