Chadian Flag

Fatima Baba Manout


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.

     Fatima is used to life in Mongo.  At first glance one sees a fragile and beggarly old woman with white hair and arched shoulders.  She bears a wooden yoke with a variety of containers and boxes suspended on each side.  She goes from place to place, asking for old jam jars, bottles, tissue ends or other things she may be able to sell.  She also asks for food to eat from time to time and we always offer her water.
     After a second look, we see a charming woman with pride, dignity and a honest knowledge of the people around her.  She came one morning to our home and shared the story of her life.  Then she stayed with us for lunch and a siesta under the shade.

     I was born in Gadjira and I lived there until I was married.  I came to Mongo once my husband brought me here after we were married.  My father came from far away.  He was Walasso of Mali.  I do not know what his tribal language is.  He was a translator.  He translated from French to Arabic and Arabic to French.
     I brought three daughters into the world.  Then my husband travelled to Moïsala where he finished his days.  I remarried and I gave birth to a boy.  Then my second husband died.
     I married again.  This time, my husband did not die, but we got divorced.  I had a child from this marriage.  But with time, two of my daughters and one of my sons died.
     My oldest daughter grew up and got married.  She went to be with her husband in N'Djaména.  Her brother came to visit her and she became deathly sick.  She was hospitalised, then she also died.  Her brother buried her, and came to tell me the news.  He asked me questions like these: "Should I stay with you, or should I return to find the children of my sister since they are still small?"  I replied, "Go, be with the children."  After falling ill, he died after spending a long period of time with the children of my oldest daughter.
     I had five children but now I do not have any, unless you speak of the four children of my daughter, who had three sons and one daughter.  The boys are in school.  The daughter wanted to come here but she gave birth to twins, and it would be hard to travel with such very small children.
     My first husband was a Marabout (Muslim Religious teacher).  I still have his Koranic books, even today.  I am also a Muslim.  My mother tongue is Dadjo.  I also speak Arabic.
     I am no longer able to see clearly.  I have aches all over my body and I suffer with toothaches.  I am totally exhausted.  I am eighty years old, and live in the compound of my former husband.
     During the famine I was already a woman with the responsibility for children.  The famine lasted seven years and was due to an invasion of locusts.
     Mongo belonged to the Dadjo alone in those days.  The border with the Bidiyo and the Djonkor was way out in the wilderness.  At one time there were idols among the Dadjo but with the arrival of Islam, the idols were abandoned.
     At that time, Sector 3 was in the wilderness.  The Arabs lived in Gadjira.  The leader of the Arabs gave up his post and they elected a new chief.  After the elections they set up homes in what is known today as the Arab Quarter.
     The whites first settled in Barwala.  Then they spent two years in Bolong.  Then they spent six months in Balgaga on the other side of Mongo mountain.  There was not enough water in Balgaga.  My father encouraged them to come to Mongo.  They set up large homes to live in here which are still standing today.
     In those days, the market was where the restaurants are now.  They built a large shady area using straw mats, to block out the sun.  Each ethnic group had their place for selling things.  It was not like today where everyone is mixed together.
     The famine brought the Ouaddaï people (from the east of Chad).  They lived in the places nearest to the mountain.  In those days, when people would prepare bili-bili (traditional millet beer), they would throw the waste on the edge of the mountain.  The Ouaddaï would gather this waste and eat it.  Today they are the great leaders, but they suffered a lot in those days.
     Many of the Ouaddaï who lived in Sono are dead, because they had a large, deep well into which they were thrown by the Kenga, to the point where the well was filled with bodies.  My father saw their suffering, and encouraged them to come to Mongo.
     The Dadjo had nothing, no cattle, no goats, not even enough grain (millet).  There were a lot of soap makers.  Now, there are not many of them.  The people were in the habit of gathering arabica gum and selling it to buy themselves millet.  And the women carried firewood.  In our days firewood is transported by trucks, cattle and donkeys.  A woman who transports firewood is obliged to sell it at a low price.  It is very difficult for the poor to live because of the desert's advancement.
     There was a man whose name was Baradine.  He was a powerful merchant.  He bought lots of millet.  Then he went to see the Marabout to ask him to prevent the rain from falling.  He brought the Marabout one of each of the grains: millet, groundnuts, sesame seeds, etc.  He also killed a black dog.  And the Marabout prayed for it to not rain the following year.  Thus, there was famine.  Baradine used a small tea glass to sell the millet he had stocked up, and earned a huge profit.  He had buried the dog a long time ago and no one discovered the secret.  But the Canton Administrator said, "A curse on whoever wishes to harm others."

Return to the web page created to honour the Women of Chad



  Consultez ce page en français  
  Chadian women from all around the world (especially from the north, south and east of the country, including those living overseas) are invited to send us their personal testimony of what it really is to be a Chadian woman...  

Write us!