Rob Pfeiffer Blog 2/3/2016 Power of Women
I’ve been privileged to be able to watch a group of people perform superhuman feats over the past three months. It is time to try to capture some of these heroics in an article. An example occurred yesterday which should go a long way towards portraying this amazing level of performance. I was sitting reading on my veranda when a woman appeared carrying a full bucket of water on her head. These buckets are difficult for me to lift off the ground and weigh approximately 70 pounds. I had exchanged greetings with her many times as she is part of the construction crew which just finished the new building here at Go! Malawi. She carried sand, bricks, water and anything else someone needed, usually on her head. On this occasion, after we exchanged greetings, she started gesturing towards her abdominal area with both hands and talking fast in her native tongue. The bucket remained on her head, perfectly balanced. I was trying to understand, but getting nowhere as she repeated whatever she was saying to try to help me. All her efforts were for nothing. And, the pail still sat on her head. A staff member noticed this occurring and came over to translate. I had been guessing that she was telling me she was pregnant or having intestinal difficulties of some sort. It turns out she was hoping I had some medicine to help her son who had stayed home from school with a stomach issue. Still, the bucket remained on her head. I retreated into the cabin to retrieve some antacid tablets which she accepted graciously, bowing and folding her hands in front of her while the bucket remained balanced on her head. Off she went down the hill clasping the tablets as though they were gold with the bucket still on her head.
This typifies the work women do here on a daily basis. Except most of what they do is more arduous. They are out early (5:00 or 5:30AM) gathering water and doing laundry. Then, they dash off to the fields with a hoe and a baby. Attachment theory of child-rearing is the norm here as babies ride their mothers’ backs everywhere like papooses in the old Westerns. After tilling the fields, there is food and firewood to gather in the forest. Right now, mushrooms are mushrooming everywhere and women are carrying buckets of them home all day long. The firewood carrying is unreal. They carry ten to fifteen foot logs one to three inches in diameter in bundles of eight to twelve on their heads for long distances. As they come off the mountain towards the end of the day, they tend to stop at the bottom of the hill for a break. They approach a big tree and tip the load to vertical and lean it against the tree before getting a gulp of the water. Then, off they go again, fully loaded to cook supper. And, did I mention the baby on their backs? Though all of this very difficult work, they remain gracious, friendly, deferential to a fault, and even happy.
There are exceptions to this description, but they are so few that they barely deserve mention. Women also always dress most modestly, covering themselves from neck to feet, even in extreme heat. The happiness of the children, which I have reported on extensively, has to be largely attributed to the loving attention they receive from their mothers. I stand in awe of the women of Malawi. That is some of the news from here.