BurundiA hard day's life
Africa’s unsung heroines who work themselves to the bone
Jul 22nd 2010 | Dihetu
ON A chill windy morning in the mountains of Burundi, six women in an “empowerment group” run by an Atlanta-based charity, CARE, sit down under a tree to talk about their day. They have 49 living children between them. Their village, Dihetu, is nondescript, the soil average. The women grow cassava, beans and bananas.
Marie-José, aged 42, has ten children. She wakes up at six o’clock and cleans the hut. At half past six she makes tea for the children who go to school in the morning. She is in the fields from seven. At 11 she tends the goats. At noon she prepares lunch for the children who go to school in the afternoon. She is back in the fields from one o’clock. At four she fetches water. At five she gathers firewood. She is back home to cook dinner at six. At seven she washes the children from a bucket. The family eats at eight. Usually it is porridge or beans; they have meat once a year. Often Marie-José will forgo dinner to give her children more. At half past eight she prays. “I pray to God that at least we are alive. After prayer I feel joy.” At nine she goes to sleep.
As for the husbands, the few who find work as labourers leave home and rarely come back. Many of those who stay are drunks with syphilis. Women are forbidden to inherit land. They are often beaten and raped. “My husband gets up at eight,” says Albertina. “He takes a bath and goes to the bar. He stays there drinking banana beer until midday, then comes home to eat. In the afternoon he goes back to the bar. He returns home for dinner. Then he takes a nap.”
Middle East & Africa