Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mangoes & Millet Flour

By: Ben & Holly
Notice anything about this photo? It might be hard to tell. We ride our bikes past this watering hole every day. There is always a line of women and children with large plastic jugs lined up to collect water. Yesterday there was a lively and colorful soccer game going on in the same field. Not one girl was playing soccer. Not one boy was collecting water.

Last week we were talking to some MCCers who are working in the field of education. They told us that female attendance in school is quite high. Unfortunately, the quality of education they receive is not on par with their male classmates. Girls are required to bring cooking knives to school to help in the kitchen while boys are given free time for studying. Principals have been heard making statements to the effect of, “Girl-child education is a waste of money. All they do is distract the boys from their studies.”

On the weekend I, (Holly) went to Gulu with a friend to see a traditional concert and dance. Apparently, it was meant to be celebrating and appreciating women. But the way women are celebrated and appreciated is as producers of children, cooks, and providers of sexual satisfaction. I wanted to appreciate the culture—and I do—I love so much of it, but there is a part of the culture that is unjust and needs to change. My inner cultural relativist cringes to write that, but really, cultural relativism has its limits and for me at least issues of gender fall outside the boundaries of prudent application. It felt awkward clapping and enjoying amazing dancers and musicians when what they were dancing to and singing about was perpetuating discrimination against women. The mentality that is nurtured is a breeding ground for the high prevalence of sexual and gender based violence.

There was one song about how "all women cook the same" which is code for all women are the same in bed. Apparently, that is supposed to be a song that encourages men to be faithful to their wives because if all women are the same than why bother having more than one. Then there was another one that was supposed to appreciate the work that women do but instead it sounded like a song that encourages women to stay in the kitchen. One line said something to the effect of: "be careful men when you try to do a woman's work, when you grind the millet flour you might get your testicles caught in the grinder."

During the concert something smacked me on the top of the head. I looked around to see who'd thrown something at me, and then I saw a mango had fallen out of the tree and my head happened to be in its path. One of my CPA friends said that is a blessing. Everyone around me insisted I should eat it to get the full benefit of the blessing. Since I’m a woman, I’m sure the blessing has something to do with producing children.


Omar Basawad said...

Lango and Acholi haven't changed much! For boys and girls; men and women - it is still the same.

Travis said...

Holly - I hope that mango means I'm gonna be an uncle soon... Ben - be careful in the kitchen, keep it up with the dishes, but avoid that grinder.

Was that the point of your post?

I am sorry to hear about the injustices and backward thinking. Holly, it must be really difficult to be seen as a baby machine (but nieces and nephews are welcome). You’re blessings to share with the world go so much further than your womb.

I miss you both very much – and am so jealous of all the visitors coming your way this summer. Wish I was one of them. You’re in my prayers.

Nickie said...

Oh dear, sweet Holly! I can't help but laugh. It's kind of like Eore (spelling?). Here's these really unfair songs going on, and to top it all off, a mango falls on you! I'm so sorry, my friend. Well, there are worst things to fall on you. I hope that like the mango, something sweet will come out of even this.

Jim Peterson said...

Such injustice right in your face (and on your head; though there is humor in the mango, I'm sure it felt more like spit in your face then any kind of blessing). It would be difficult not to be so angry as to become bitter, so bitter as to become useless... I'm praying for you Holly, that you will be able to walk through the deepest foulest dung without letting the dung soil your heart (can't do much about your feet but wash them, but cleansing the feet is relatively easy compared to cleansing the heart) Even if you fall and are covered head to toe, nauseating as it would be, it is still easier to clean the whole body and rinse out the mouth then it is to purify the I'm praying first and foremost for your heart, that it not be hardened, that it grow in wisdom, courage, love and longsuffering, that justifiable and necessary anger find productive God-guided release, and that you will be able to carry on with joy along side your outrage, saddness and frustration. I also pray that you can bring refreshing fragrance and the soap of changes to those whose lives are totally emersed the dung through with you walk to meet them. May Grace and Wisdom guide you and strengthen you. With much love and constant prayer for you and for Ben - Jim