These days, the journey of a group of real women has been more compelling source of material than any fiction I could write.
In many ways, I barely know these ladies. I know their names and faces but I might not recognize them if they change their hair or take off their headgear (hats or wraps)
I have seen where they live – urban slums and displaced persons camps – and decided that no human being ought to suffer such deprivation, especially when those lucky enough to have been born in the “right” place are awash in luxury. Resources can be shared in so many ways.
I’ve devoted years to understanding the lives of women in Africa, yet I have no illusion that I truly know their experience. Except when I visit them, I have always had enough to eat, clean water from a tap, light at the flip of a switch and a working toilet. For the most part, I have been spared the random violence they live with day after day.
Although I have never been money-rich by Western standards, my life is one of bounty and opportunity. I live with hope that derives from never having survived at the bottom of the resource chain.
But, I connect with them as women. We share the same joys and fears of motherhood. We’ve adapted, usually and tragically without loud protest, to the dearth of viable options for birth control, for redress to the violations of rape and abuse, for the loving care of our children when we must work, for the inequity of our income relative to men.
I connect with their woman-ness. I admire their resilience, buried but ready to pounce on any good opportunity for change. I grieve the ones whose vacant eyes tell me they are lost, irretrievably, because no resources can be marshaled to bring them back into the warm sun of hope.
This I know: working with these women is my life’s purpose. The avalanche of information, questions, needs, and unanswered requests distracts me. I get frustrated with always having to bootstrap forward. I struggle to find my way into the network of powerful women with resources to share. It’s out there for the finding.
And then I remember: I have never been so fully and joyfully engaged. This I can share.