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Birdjoki Rachiste


To give you a perspective of what life is like for the women of Chad, we present several personal testimonies of Chadian women from the Guéra, taken from the book "Là où habitent les femmes" (Where the Women Live), edited by Renée Johns and Rachel Bokoro of the Mennonite Central Committee, published in 1993.

Birdjoki or Am-Djimé spoke in Arabic while we were sitting on straw mats and listened to her story.  We all worked together, removing the twigs from the leaves that she had just gathered.  She would use the leaves in a sauce for the evening meal.  Am-Djimé is not very tall and is a little shy.  She came from a distance to come to the Mission Station, but she is often found in the Mission courtyard helping prepare the boarding house for the students arriving or helping to prepare food for a special event.

     I married Djibrine and had three children, all of whom died.  Then my husband sent me away with my fourth child who was a boy.  He sent me away the seventh day after I delivered the child (a woman is not permitted to leave her house for seven days after having given birth.)  Then my son got the measles, and became blind.  Several years later, I found it hard to live in our village.  Because of the blindness of my son the people said that we were cursed.  That is why one day, I packed two bowls of millet and a bowl of flour in my basket, and we left for Mongo.  We lived with my brother and agreed to pay a very small amount to him as monthly rent.  However, he sent me away nine days later.  I found another house that the owner gave me for free since my son was blind.
     The people told us that since my son Djimé was blind, he could beg to live.  But I did not want that for him.  So I learned how to carry water and did this to earn money so that we could eat.  My neighbour spoke to me each Sunday about the people who distributed money at the Protestant Mission.  I went there the following Sunday with Djimé.  After having given us some money, Pastor Ratou, who was also blind, pulled Djimé aside for several minutes.  He asked him where he came from and so on.  Then he told my son, "We have a Braille school here.  Would you like to sign up?"  The Pastor told Djimé to return in September to be registered.  This is how I brought my son to school at the time when the students are chosen.  But three days later I had lots of worries and I went to find them.  The director told me, "Don't worry about a thing.  There is enough food here."
     One day I decided to visit to Djimé's father.  He gave me 4,000 CFA (US$16 or 17 €), and I bought Djimé a radio for 3,500 CFA (US$14 or 15 €).  Then we left.  Besides this, not one person in our family helped Djimé or even acknowledged him.
     On 20 March 1980, there was fighting.  The FANT fought against the former government's forces.  I went to the well to fetch water and was shot in the hip.  I still have the bullet in my body.  Pastor Ratou was killed that day.  Thanks be to God, He kept me alive.  He helped me in my struggles.  I had four children, all sons.  Three are dead.  Only Djimé is alive.  He is now one of the Pastors at the church.  Not long ago, I put my trust in the Saviour.  Before that, I did not believe in any god.  I come from Dabar.  Koffa is my mother tongue.

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