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Opportunity

Opportunity

A long time ago, I visited a project in a remote area in Mozambique. It was the peak of summer, and the small village resembled the setting of a western movie; there was no one outside, everything was dry and covered in orange dust, and you could see steam flowing from the rough ground.

I stayed next to the house of the administrator; these were the only two concrete buildings in the village. In the early evenings I was given a bucket with warm water to mug-shower in the outdoor toilet behind the house. Every time I reappeared from my grooming routine, Francisca, the wife of the administrator, would give me a cup of black tea with lots of sugar. I would take the cup and sit on the doorstep of my room to watch the village come to life as the sun began to set.

While I drank my tea, I watched a woman who lived across the road. She sat under a big mango tree, on a straw mat. Next to her was her home, a frail structure made of stone and mud and a thatch roof that needed replacement. She looked very young and there was an obvious contrast between her childish ways and a body that seemed too beaten to bear another child. I watched her for the next 7 days.

The woman, let’s call her Carolina, was up every morning at 6am. Being an early riser myself, I witnessed her day unfold every morning. In a speedy pace, Carolina left the house with an empty 25 litre drum on her head and a sleeping baby on her back secured with a worn-out ‘capulana’. There, she waited patiently for her turn to fill her drum, sometimes taking turns and helping other women handling the rusty lever and other times playing innocently with other women what we call in the south ‘matacuzana’.

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Back at home, she put on the fire, and I watched a young boy leaving to school in an ill-fitting uniform. He had no breakfast. On the fire she placed a dented aluminium pot and boiled water to make ‘xima’ (pap). Before it hardened, she removed a bit and poured it into 3 plastic bowls; she added sugar and sesame oil and called her kids who ate the porridge enthusiastically. In a smaller pot she cooked potato leaves; there was no tomato, coconut or beans to provide consistency to the dish. This simple meal fed Carolina, the boy who had just returned from school and a girl who was not older than 10 and cared for her toddler siblings. Throughout the rest of the day, Carolina sat on the straw mat, braiding her girls’ hair, looking entertained. As the evening approached the children took turns to bathe, and the day culminated for the family with a cup of tea and fresh cassava.  

For 7 days I tried to make logical sense of Albert Einstein’s quote ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’. But opportunity doesn’t occur magically and it’s a public responsibility to work towards practical solutions to trigger positive change in the life of women like Carolina by pushing for; a) The eradication of child marriage and adolescent pregnancies, b) The empowerment of African women through entrepreneurship, c) The expansion of modern technology and energy and most importantly d) The advocacy for women’s rights in society.

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