“Are you planning on having more children?“ I asked George who used to be one of Diethelm’s colleagues while he was working at the hospital in Singa Bay. “Our first child was only a girl and anyone in Malawi wants to have a boy. To have a girl is better than to have no child at all, but still I wish for a boy.”
I had a hard time hiding my disappointment about what he was saying as I had been assuming that George was among the few people in Malawi who were educated and thinking ahead. Thus, a vivid argument on the equality of sexes and on the women’s role in African society and the disadvantages attached to it was triggered off. Certainly I was willing to learn that women’s liberation is not the only problem attached to a woman’s life in Africa.
George opened my eyes as to the problems and concerns parents were facing when they give birth to a daughter, starting in the girl’s childhood with the constant threat and fear of their daughter being raped. It is a common belief in Africa that having sexual intercourse with a virgin or a very old woman can cure you of HIV. More problems come their way as their daughter’s pregnancy is announced.
A lot of women still die when giving birth to a child or of AIDS and it goes without saying that children are brought up by their grandmothers. Their fathers run off and very rarely accept any responsibility for their children. So far we have accepted 5 of those children to Kunyumba whose grandmothers have not been able to cope with rearing them, both in terms of physical strain – they work on the fields during the day – and in terms of financial support.
Last week an Agogo (Grandmother) and her twins were standing at our gate – the village’s chieftain had told her to do so – and asked for her two little grandchildren to be accepted to Kunyumba. As two of our children, Fatima and Liness, can no longer join us because they have moved, we happened to have those two day care facilities to spare. Prisca and Priscilla (almost 3 years old) were allowed to join us for a trial period of three days and assimilated themselves quite well, and we were able to give a little happiness to their grandmother’s life by deciding that her two grandchildren were welcome.
Now we will soon be accepting another family member: Lucy is staying with us for three days on a trial basis as well. She is very badly handicapped and we are not certain whether our staff will be able to cope with taking care of her or not. After coming down with meningitis she is hemiplegic and spastic and suffering from a seizure disorder. Her really bad mental condition requires a twenty-four-seven care.
In last year’s newsletter I reported on Zainab’s beautiful young mother and her inhuman living conditions. Last summer one of Maike’s Belgian friends got here and took care of the problem. She bought a simple house for her – in a village close to our place – with Peter’s support. Yesterday we paid her a visit to get the picture of her new home – in the true sense of the meaning (see picture). Meanwhile one of her twins has died, nevertheless to us she seemed to be very happy. There is no one around here, though, to tell me what she is living on at the moment.
In the first part of our “holiday”, there was a lot to get done and arranged for, but now we are looking forward to a more relaxed second half with the mandatory member meeting with coffee and cake and another highlight: an excursion with pick-nick to a playground in the capital Lilongwe.
Tionana chaka cha Mawa! (See you next year)
Vera Kleinstoll (Translated by Oliver Wolf)