The job candidate
Fundación Simiente needed to hire a health and nutrition coordinator for the project we are implementing in Langue. I was there to assist with the interview process. We had three candidates: two men and one woman. All three had interesting training and work experience.
The interviews with the male candidates went well. Both had interesting strengths, and of course, some weaknesses, but we were satisfied with how the interviews were going so far.
Then we interviewed our female candidate. She was a nurse. We asked her: “In your work experience so far, what do you like best in your job?” … “No entiendo la pregunta,” she says. She doesn’t understand.
We rephrased. We gave her examples: vaccination, working with babies, working with women, etc. Silence…
We rephrased one more time. After giving it some thought, she answered: “I like everything.”
She couldn’t look at us. She slouched on the chair. Her voice was a whisper. Even though we were rooting for her, we couldn’t hire her.
I wonder. Was she brought up that way? Was she taught not to talk too loud? Not to voice her opinion?
The beauty queens
They start young. Very. Perhaps six years old? They train. They learn dance moves. They wear heals, bikinis and makeup. They compete. They lose. They win. When they win, they thank God, their families, their friends, their village.
Beauty pageants are huge here. I feel uncomfortable every time I see a Queen or a Princess.
I wonder. Do these girls have another venue where they can express themselves? A venue that is acceptable to society here? Another place to show leadership?
The beauty queens part 2
They all have cell phones. They like to take pictures of themselves. They pucker their lips, they take a sexy pose. Snap! Snap! They post the pics on Facebook. They upload many pictures. Almost every day there’s a new photo.
I wonder. Is that what is expected of young women here? You need to be sexy. You need to be pretty. That’s your value.
Fundación Simiente conducted field interviews not too long ago. They talked to many women who shared their stories.
One woman mentions that she was “taken” when she was about 12 by a much older man. He saw her. He liked her. He wanted her. So he “took” her. She couldn’t do anything. She cried. She missed her family. She became his. He became the father of her children. There’s nothing you can do. That’s the way things are, she says.
Another woman describes the physical and emotional abuse she goes through every day. There’s nothing you can do. That’s the way things are, she says.
There is also the story of the woman “sharing” her husband. He has another family somewhere. He spends half his time there and the other half with her. That’s the way things are, she says.
Then, I meet these women. They are incredible. They are strong. They fight.
There are the many women who work for our local partners. They are educated, smart. Engineers, lawyers, psychologists, etc. They have vision. They have dreams.
The most impressive are the women I meet in the community. I see them working in their family gardens, taking care of their children. They barely know how to read and write. Yet, they come to our meetings. They stand up. They talk.
My colleagues tell me some of them weren’t like this before. Many of them didn’t have permission from their husbands to come to meetings. But then, with a lot of work from our local partners, we noticed change. Not only are women empowered but the men also change their mentality.
Little by little. Soon…