Sunday, March 25, 2012

Putting a Face on the Coup d'Etat

Her name is Jellican.

She is 27 and lives in a rural village in Mali. She is the second wife of three and her husband has a new 15 year old girlfriend, that he will soon marry to complete his family with four wives. Jellican has three of her own children, but lives with and looks after all 12 of her husband's children. She has her own room, but sleeps occasionally with her children when the mosquitoes get bad. She doesn't really love her husband and really dislikes his new girlfriend but there is nothing she can do. The times he does favor her she must willingly share her bed. She is not allowed to use birth control, but goes and gets a shot from the local clinic every three months anyways.  Last week when she walked the 8k to get it they had run out; the people who regularly bring in the medicine for her village never came. She now fears her husband because she knows her body cannot handle another pregnancy- she barely survived the last one.

She works hard everyday in her small garden, growing tomatoes and onions to sell at the market. Her husband doesn't work. His days are filled with drinking rounds of tea, playing cards, and visiting his new girlfriend. Jellican needs her garden's income to buy ingredients to make sauce for toh, the only type of meal her family can afford. This is especially difficult this year due to the lack of rain last season. Her brother's field yielded a third of what it did the year before. Millet went from $10 a bag to $50. She knows soon her family will go down to eating once a day. Her children are already underweight and have big swollen bellies. The community health worker taught her how to make a healthy porridge, but she cannot afford buy all the ingredients, nor are they always available at market.

She had hope in her heart that things were changing for the better. Her and her friends were planning on starting a large women's garden. An outside organization was going to pay for a fence to keep the goats out and they were also going to build a well in the garden so they wouldn't have to walk 2k to retrieve water everyday. The people who were helping were very nice and she looked forward to their weekly visits. They shared lots of useful gardening advice, it was in French, but luckily one of the women in her group could understand and relay the information. This group of kind, knowledgeable strangers were also working with the community clinic; they were the ones who taught the community health workers how to make that porridge.

One day on the radio Jellican heard that a coup d'etat had happened in the capital city. She would not have known otherwise because life in village had remained the same. She did notice though when the people who were suppose to bring money to start work on the fence never came. She was devastated. Her husband was supposed to be one of the people working on the well. He probably would have used most of that money on his new girlfriend, but she was hoping for at least one bag of millet. Now the big garden is postponed, they only have a half a bag of millet left, and hot season is fast approaching, and with no new well, her small garden will wither down to little or nothing.

Who is going to be affected the most by this current rebellion???  Women like Jellican and her children who will no longer receive foreign aid.

The reason the people from the outside organization never came to Jellican's village with the project money is due to the current situation in Bamako. The World Bank and The African Development Bank suspended all aid in response to the coup d'etat. The U.S., Canada, and China are following suit.  All foreign aid workers have been moved out of the country or instructed to stay in their homes until peace has been restored.

Thousands of Malian villagers will never see combat, but they WILL feel it. They will feel it in their stomachs as they go hungry. They will feel it in their hearts as their loved ones die from preventable diseases. I feel infuriated. The villages of Mali do not deserve this. This is not their battle

Please keep Jellican and the millions like her in your thoughts and prayers. Pray that democracy will be restored and that aid workers will soon be able to continue to their work.  People like Jellican deserve the chance at a better life.