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today I ranted

Today I ranted. A big rant. A rant that went in whatever direction it could. The kind where you wish it had been recorded, because you are pretty sure, between the chaos, it was pure genius. Passion does that to a gal.

I have lived in countries where the divide between men and women is huge. In Bulgaria, in Guatemala, in Mexico, in Canada.

But today, in Zambia, I just didn’t want to hear it.

Everywhere I look, I see women, women working–children on their backs, maize on their heads, jugs of water in their hands, all of this simultaneously.

I see women husking maize, I see women cooking, and cleaning, I see them farming. I see them working at the hospitals and in the shops. I see them at the market. I see them walking to school. They are in the backs of trucks covered in dirt. I see them climbing, running, walking.

So when a man asks me “as a woman, you think you can do that?”

I tell him to look around. Look at his world. Open his eyes and see. “Look around” I say. As a woman, I see woman doing it all. I see a young mother with her baby on her back climbing into the back of a big truck. I see her throwing her leg over the side, and hoisting herself up, muscles strong and confident. I see the men sitting in cab, waiting.

The women I see, are doing, they are doing it all. They are the ones that make this country move. They are the backbone, the muscle, the skin, the nerves and the brain of this operation.

Women are the ones who actually talk to me, they are the ones who smile at me in the market. The women remember my name and say hello. It is the Zambia women who have opened their arms to me.

I live with Sister Jean and her niece Eliza. At nights when the dishes are washed and put away, our conversation often turns to many things, but the other night is was women. Sister Jean is the breadwinner in her family. And her family is big. She argues with men. She is feisty. We are both brought to tears when we speak of HIV/AIDS in this country and the women who have very little control over their own bodies.

I see her as a leader in her community. And as a woman she can do anything. Because she will never let a man tell her she cannot.

That was my rant, let me know your thoughts!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Stacey
    July 4, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Ann!

    Thanks for that. It definitely is pretty interesting comparing the situation of women in different contexts. When I read your post I think beauty and strength (which in my books are synonymous). That’s one thing that is cross-cutting I think – women are freaking powerhouses no matter what the context. What immediately comes to mind for me is the women I met overseas, my own relatives in Guatemala and the women I know in Canada doing amazing things.

    I’m curious about two things 1) how you are personally experiencing life as a (Western) woman in Zambia 2) how the women you have met feel about the situation/role of women in Ghana – you mention it a little bit.

    Lots of love,

    Stacey

    • July 9, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      Super questions!
      1) Life as a western woman generally rocks. I get the best of both worlds. I normally get the respect of men, because I am white. And I am able to mingle and work with the women as well. I get to sit in on the beautiful conversations of all of Sister Jean’s friends when they stop by our little woman dominated paradise. I get to sit with them for hours as they do each other’s hair and I get to carry their children when we walk them home.
      However, I get the marriage proposals from men, I laugh it off. I tell them they would starve if they were to marry me, because I cannot cook nshima properly. I get ignored sometimes, or completely disregarded because I am a woman. You know me Stacey, I look at the positives. There are less then ideal situations where sometimes I am like “if I were a man this wouldn’t be happening”, and I get frustrated. But then look at answer number 2 and I am grateful for who I am, and fiercely discouraged for the women of this country who are not treated with the respect that they deserve.
      2)I am going to assume you mean Zambia, not Ghana. Women know they work harder then men. I see it when they come into our house. They know that their husbands are lazy and they laugh, the laugh at the foibles of their men. These ladies are strong, and they know it. There is something calming about the knowledge of power. It will take more places like Jean’s living room for the women to outright proclaim their power, but it will happen. I see the women behind the change, and they are a forced to be reckoned with.

  2. July 5, 2010 at 2:38 am

    You’re rant was pretty spot on. It’s no secret that women are the driving force of much of Africa. I’ve met a few men who challenged the established gender roles. Many men realize it, but do very little to change anything.

    Keep up the great blog!

    Adam 🙂

  3. Trevor Freeman
    July 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Love it Ann! Can’t wait to meet Sister Jean and Eliza, can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts on this. The women of Zambia inspire and astound me. Keep learning and loving.
    Tpot

  4. July 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    keep ranting. us men have no idea what its like. just to be heard and respected is rare. for a girl to have control over her who she sleeps with, and for a girl to pick a man because he is good to her, or because they really get along…that seems so so far off. Reminds me of stories I heard of 80 years ago in Canada, slightly different, but with the same emphasis of Women “using” men to try and get ahead economically. True that they mostly fail and actually would’ve been better off without the man at all, but thats a damn tough path to follow. Sister Jean is amazing.

  5. Chris
    July 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    This post made me smile :). You are such a passionate person when it comes to issues close to heart and I’m very excited to see those issues coming forth for you. It takes a lot of courage to rant in a land not your own and for that I admire you.

    I’m curious as to how this gender gap you’ve identified relates to your placement specifically. Are there many female farmers using rent-to-own? If so, what kind of success stories have you heard of from female farmers as compared to male farmers? Is farming done mainly by either gender in Zambia?

    Keep rockin’ out!

    • July 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      Hey Chris!
      Rent-to-Own hires and works with people based on their ability to a client. We don’t seek out either sex. We have one female agent, and along with her husband they are one of the best agents we have. In Kabompo, out of the three clients, one is a woman. She has a ground-nut sheller. She is a pretty rockin’ lady, hard to get a hold of in this season because she is always at her farm working. I wouldn’t say one sex has more success over the other, because again we look at their viability to be a client and not their gender. Farming is officially done more by men, but I would say women do most of the work.

  6. Karen L Brown
    July 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Wonderful post and one that I’m certain you will be frustrated enough to repeat as the weeks go on. As much as it’s always said that education is the key – and I believe that’s true – it doesn’t happen quickly enough to alter the lives of these incredible women as fast as we’d all like to see. I did run across one news article recently about a product that you might like to be aware of. Here’s the link to the product website: http://www.antirape.co.za/ and it is headed by one very brave and feisty woman! Continued success on your travels and I look forward to reading more blog posts as you have time.
    Cheers! Karen

  7. Sara
    July 6, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Your post is simply amazing Ann.
    Women are the source of it all no matter what they say.

  8. mina
    July 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Hey Ann,
    That was a great rant! When I was in Zambia I had the opportunity to live with an entire family of women. All widows, all doing 100 things everyday, and all strong willed, smart, funny, hopeful of a better future for their family. I’m reminded of Ms. Yvonne who never rested, and who treated me like a son. Her laugh was contagious and she was the leader of her family. I’m reminded of Ms. Lilian (Ms. Yvonne’s sister). She was so strong, she often laughed at me as I struggled with the waterjugs. She kept order, and was straight up business. I’m reminded of Ms. Josephine (also Ms. Yvonne’s sister). The oldest of the 5 sisters (and subsequently the 5 widows) I was living with. She’s seen things in her life, I will never see. I remember especially that she would bury a friend every week. She would tell me that she’s lost count of the number of women she knows who have died of AIDS. Life in Zambia is pretty damn hard, but even worst for a woman so please continue ranting. It’s the least we can do.

    • July 9, 2010 at 6:38 pm

      Hey Mina!
      Thanks for reading, and sharing. I love to hear the stories of other people’s women friends. I share them with Jean; all of the comments have been wonderful. There is such a strong network of awesome female strength, it excites my soul!

  9. Melanie Agee
    July 7, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Hello There, just wanted to say I’d had a similar experience years ago in Kabompo watching the women work & asked where are the men? I’ve been to Kobompo twice & loved the experience/worked & stayed with the Chitofu Family/next to the Kabompo river/I just love hearing about current travel & work there. Looking forward to your post. Best, Melanie

  10. Olivia
    July 11, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Great rant, Ann! This really reminded me of the three women I lived with in Zambia. Their emotional and physical strength set a high bar for everyone else!

    Take care, Liv

  11. Judy Mallette
    July 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Dear Ann,
    Hello dear one. I spent more than an hour on Monday in the Powassan Library. I read your blog, read and wrote other emails, researched a few topics I wanted to learn more about. Then I came back to your blog—to this one about the work of women in Zambia. After reading it (and the comments) again–word for word, I felt compelled to respond; I am, after all, your mother and many others before me provided you with thoughtful and relevant replies, but Ann, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to ask. You can quite likely imagine my teary face as I write now and as I read your words—the words that describe the life and work of a woman in Zambia.
    I am unable to contextualize: I can try to see the physicality of her endeavours; I can try to feel the aching in her back, and I want to believe I can feel the desire, the courage, and the tenacity in her heart and soul but I can’t… When I do, I think about her as a mother. I think about her toil. I think about her as she watches her children watch her die from the disease and hardship that you and others describe that, despite all of her efforts, take their toll. And most of all I think about you as you watch and teach and learn and cope in this new environment. Instead of an immediate reply, I had to process your words, your thoughts and observations, your joy and frustration, and the images you described …and now, here is a rather feeble response to your words.
    When you were young I was able to witness the excitement and enthusiasm, and sometimes the pain and sadness, which comes with growing in the world. I witnessed the glee when you took the training wheels off your bike and when you got up on water skies after only two tries. I saw the change; I celebrated with you. At the same time I shared some of the pain and sadness that comes with loss—a beloved grandmother. I had at least some words—some context—to share in those experiences. As you grew–when you went off to Wanakita, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Mexico, and when you went off to university, I was less able to “see” that place in your heart and in your head that is changing. I was often at a loss for words. There is so much I wanted to ask but how?? I don’t have the context. And so the questions are almost inane—the conversations become trite—perfunctory I guess…Tell me about your housing arrangements. How is the food? The weather? Are you well? Are you remembering your sunscreen?
    I can’t always get to the places that really matter—the places where you process and ascribe meaning to all that is good and not so good for women in Zambia and that is why it is difficult for me to write a meaningful response.
    Annie, I can feel you in the words that you write and it is my only hope that when my words are lacking, I can send you the energy and respect and humility I feel when I read of your experiences and relationships and your passion in Zambia. Stay well. Love, Mom

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