Women’s Work

 Posted by Sarah & Brian at 3:04 am  Rwanda
Sep 272012

The soil is so fertile here and the climate so benign that growing food is easy. Except that is for the necessity to remove all the volcanic rocks first, massive slabs and tons of smaller ones. These have to be hacked with hoes or levered and heaved. There is black magma everywhere: forming the foundations for new houses, piled up outside the doors of existing ones, just left as rubble on the roadside. There is one village where there is so little topsoil that it seems built on a slag heap or industrial site with black pathways and whole front entrances of rock.

Removing them is hard work for us, especially as we have walked a couple of miles before we start. But the women of the co- operatives help each other with this as with everything else. They attack the task with energy and cheerfulness. As well as the walk we have all done, they have their daily work: collecting water in plastic containers, washing everything in cold water and in bowls outside, carrying supplies a considerable distance on their heads, caring for their children. Brian got blisters on his hand on the first day so bought himself some gloves. Everyone else works with their bare hands, hoeing, lifting rocks, raking and weeding with their fingers, sometimes up to their shins in the earth. There is a continual flow of joking, chatting, laughter to and fro. At least one of them will have a baby on her back to be fed as well .

When I expressed my admiration for this one day, I was told, we have no education and there are no jobs. We have to work to live.

One other main activity for the groups is that they each meet to make beaded necklaces, mats, baskets and dolls. We were amazed to see how they make the beads from tapered strips of old calendar paper, tightly rolled before varnishing. Brian’s attempts to make some were successful; mine sadly not-at all.

It is a great shame that they have no outlets for selling all these goods apart from volunteers and a few local purchases. One previous volunteer is trying to sort out a website for them to sell through but the packing and finance would be very difficult for people with no resources. Oxfam shops in England would be another obvious route to try but the same obstacles apply. I am going to ask at the posh hotels on the lake front if they would take a sample for their gift shops. They have been refused before but is worth a try as a local outlet could really help.

Even so they persist with optimism and any money they do make is shared on a greatest need basis with all the members.


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