It is time I wrote something again.
I just don’t know what to write.
Bails says I must never, ever, work in an open plan office because apparently I talk to my computer as I write.
He is sitting next to me writing something about “The Right to Food”.
I am trying to think of what to write, and I need to talk, to figure out what to write.
He says I need to be in a room by myself. Soundproof if possible.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, I have plenty to write about. I think I am just stuck because… I’m not sure where to start…I guess that’s why bloggers write little and often, so they don’t get stuck…I think I’m stuck…
The “Right to Food” seems fairly obvious. Bails spends a lot of time writing about the Right to Food, the Right to education, the Right to clean water, the Right to pretty much everything we in the West, take for granted.
I went out into the bush last week. I have started driving once or twice a month for an organization called ‘Joyful motherhood’. They look after orphaned babies who have lost their mothers in childbirth, and provide support for mothers with triplets, twins and also premature babies. I go with the nurses out to the villages, driving them to places which, otherwise, are almost inaccessible for them. We take formula milk to those mothers or carers whose babies need it. We weigh and measure the babies and provide advice and information, check the children are getting immunisations etc.
I say ‘we’ but actually I am just a friend with a 4×4. They look after 300 families a month and I give a tiny bit of myself to help them get to those in the most remote destinations.
Last week we visited a mother with triplet boys. The boys were now a year old and strong. I watched them physically punching one another out of the way in order to get to their mothers breast, and I thought ‘Dear God, that’s just not fair. The woman clearly needs three breasts.”
It was great to be able to give her the formula milk which supports their feeding, and gives mum a break. The three little ones were thriving and the nurses discharged them from the program, as they are now developmentally where they need to be, and old enough to eat maize porridge.
We visited two more families. The first was a ‘kangaroo’ baby born very pre-mature. He was 1.6 kg at birth. The program encourages the mother to carry the baby on her chest ‘kangaroo’ style, which vastly improves the child’s chance of survival. He was 4 months old, feeding well and flourishing at a healthy 5.9kg . The mother was happy and there was a joyful atmosphere as we weighed and measured her little boy, who was clearly thriving.
The last family we visited was another pre-mature baby. Only this time the mood was somber. The mother was very sick. Her body ravaged by HIV. She could barely walk and was hacking with a cough that had all the promise of TB. She was too sick to lactate, her body just skin on bone, and the baby was under nourished, under weight, and un-responsive. There were two older daughters both who seemed well. The oldest at 15 years had dropped out of school to care for the baby. There was no man in sight. It felt desperate. The nurses went through their tasks, and we gave enough formula for a month, until their next visit. We checked that the mother had her ARV’s. Then we left.
There was nothing to say.
I’ve thought a lot about that family. And the thousands of others like them here in Malawi.
But there is nothing to say.
I am currently working in pre-production with an Independent film maker here. We are researching, writing and producing a short film, which is a fictional Malawian story around the Education of girls. My film maker friend, May, has made a lot of films around the world, usually documentaries which connect people with different cultures, different issues and different stories.
The education of the girl child is one of Malawi’s major talking points right now. The rate of girls dropping out of school before or during the teenage years is vast, and is undoubtedly a massive hindrance in Malawi’s development. There are many underlying issues; teenage marriage, lack of sanitation, poverty driven transactional sex leading to pregnancy, and the fact that Malawi is predominantly a Patriarchal society meaning that often the girls are over looked in education as their place is in the domestic home, especially if there is only the money to educate their brother…
So I am learning about this stuff at the moment. I have had my head in it for weeks. Cinematographers are flying in shortly and we begin shooting beginning of next month. I have spent months researching, finding our story, trying to understand the complexities surrounding the education of the girl child, casting and work-shopping actors, Because every girl child has the Right to Education, right?
And then I find myself out in the bush with a mother who, with my very limited experience of HIV, I think is going to die.
And it is very clear to me that the older sister is the only person who will be able to fend for her siblings.
But she is supposed to be in school. I know that.
And without an education, what hope does she have of being able to provide for her siblings?
Perhaps there is an extended family… but then why are they not helping out now so this girl can go to school?
Perhaps the baby has HIV and TB and will die too…
But there is still the 4-year-old sister to provide for…
So what choice does she have?
Maybe she will grow and sell tomatoes at the side of the road…
Or maybe she will sell herself. After all, Prostitution pays better than tomatoes. Especially, if you do it without a condom.
Perhaps that’s what her mother did. To put food in the bellies of the children that she is prepared to die for…
I don’t know.
I don’t know anything.
Bails writes his paper’s, I work on a film.
Its all so simple, ‘til you end up in the Bush with real people…
So I think that’s why I’m a bit stuck.
Malawi is in the middle of a huge government corruption scandal. It’s called “The Cash Gate crisis”. Tens of millions of dollars have ‘disappeared’. The donors have frozen funding for months now, Government ministers have been sacked, are being investigated and in some cases already arrested.
People are angry. Rightfully so.
Because there are no medicines in the hospitals, and the kwacha is devaluing by the day due to lack of Forex. The poverty is crippling, young girls are being forced out of school and into prostitution, and People are hungry and sick and they are watching their children die of simple preventable illnesses.
And you wonder what kind of person is okay with stealing the money that is supposed to buy medicine and food and education for the most vulnerable, broken, desperate members of the community. Their own community.
So there I go, saying that there is nothing to say, and then saying, actually, quite a lot.
That’s the problem with being a verbal processor.
I used to think that by verbally processing I could find answers.
I don’t think that any more.
Now I think I just need to talk. To write. Cos talking and writing somehow gives me courage and helps me to feel a little less alone and a little less sad.
But I probably should get that soundproof room.
Thank you for listening.