Thursday, July 22, 2010

Women of the Gambia

        Here in Gambia women work harder than any other women I know. Every day is spent either in their gardens in the hot sun, cooking for their family along with others that happen to be there, pounding different items such as rice, cous, millet, fish, etc, washing laundry and taking care of their children among other things.
        One example in particular that comes to mind is one of our youth. Her name is Miriama and she lives in Pirang at the house where we do our weekly Bible study. Each week we arrive and Miriama is busy at work until the rest of the youth come and then she sits down for our study and as soon as it is over she is back to work. Some days we arrive and she is busy hauling water from the school that is some distance away from the house. Other days she is pounding, washing clothing or doing some other work in the house or outside with others that live in the compound. While Miriama is a prime example of a hard worker, she is by far not alone in the heavy workload that women face.

Miriama pounding rice

carrying water, even the smallest children start carrying things on their heads

        Another example is the compound that we hold studies at in Kiti. Any day of the week that we come to Kiti the women are going about their various work. The only time that I have seen them rest is Sunday afternoon where they take time to braid each other's hair.
         This isn't to say that men don't work here, and there are some very hard male workers here in Gambia, but while it is a fairly common sight to see men sitting under a tree in the afternoon drinking tea, the women are usually busy at work. This is an example of the oppression that women still face here in Gambia. While it may not be as extreme as in other cultures, men are still viewed more highly than women as a general rule. Women however, are beginning to stand up for their rights a bit as they become more exposed to western culture and see how other women live. This can be seen in areas such as clothing and marriage. While skirts are still the most common form of clothing for women, more and more women are choosing to wear pants or jeans, especially for special occasions. Women are also stepping out and saying that they want to be their husband's only wife rather than being one of 3 or 4 which is also still quite normal.
        Unfortunately this heavy workload has not come without consequence. Many of the women here suffer from back pain  and hip or leg pain from carrying water, bending over their gardens for hours at a time, washing clothes by hand, hours of pounding and pregnancies/childbirth. Each day I am thankful that I don't have to garden in the sun on days that are 110 degrees or more for a living. As I watch the women, I know that I could not physically do the work that they do and I continue to develop a whole new respect for them. I am also reminded how tremendously blessed I am to have been granted the life that I have. We wouldn't consider ourselves patriotic people, but I will admit that I am continually made more aware of how different my life would be if I had been born and raised somewhere else.

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