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Godio Debora


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.

Debora (or Am-Eli) sits on the straw mat, her legs straight in front of her, and intensely fixes her eyes on my tape recorder when she spoke.  Apparently, she had thought a lot about what she wanted to say about her life.  She spoke in Mokoulou.  Several of the women who spoke Moukoulou were there and listened carefully as she spoke.
Am-Eli is a short woman, about 50 years old.  She is always full of energy and loves to laugh.  She lives with her son and her family near to the Protestant Mission.

     I came from Moukoulou, and the Djonkor Canton in the Guéra.  I was born into a animistic family.  I got married but my father-in-law wanted nothing to do with me; this is why they sent me away.  Then, I was married to another man.
     The family of my second husband worshipped an idol named Menéce.  One of the members of the family was often sick.  Before the sick person would get better, another family member would get sick and so forth.  Their idol told them that this meant that their house was cursed and that they needed to abandon the house and all their possessions.  This sort of thing happened often.  Before leaving the house, the family members need to wash themselves and shave their heads.  They leave the home naked, carrying nothing at all with them.  They sit under a tree not far from the village and the neighbours bring them food, water and clothes.  I did all this with the family of my husband.  After a few days we began to construct a new house.
     The mother of my husband participated in the war but his other wife, the second wife, did not participate.  A little while later, the second wife gave some sesame seeds to my mother-in-law and right after that, my mother-in-law became paralysed.  Then there was a fire in the house of my mother-in-law, and she died.  My husband had left to go fishing.  Upon his return, the people of the village met him to encourage him to stay for a little while outside the village with the nomadic Arabs.  They were afraid that the curse that killed his mother would also do him harm.
     After this, my husband and I went to live with the missionaries.  Then my own family was obliged to abandon their house because it was cursed.  They wanted me to pass by the traditional rituals by having me leave the house with them, as I had done with the family of my husband.  We refused to do so because we had already become Christians.  But as soon as my family left the house, I brought them some food, water and clothes and I did all I could to help them out.
     My mother and my daughter dies soon afterwards.  My family said that I caused them to die.  Everyone agreed that it was my fault.  They brought me before the Leader to tell him that I had not followed the traditions.  Now the consequences of this had to fall on my head.  The Leader sent them back to their idols.
     My family and my husband abandoned me.  I was alone.  The Christians were my family.  My Christian brothers Bokoro, Dounia and Timothy were with me through these injustices.  I was faithful to my commitment to God.  During the famine, I carried water, ten trips each day.  I earned money this way to buy food for my children.
     Then my father died.  And my family forbade me to come into the house.  I was forced to stay behind the houses in the courtyard.  They told me to dig the grave and to wear the mourning clothes (These obligations were traditionally done by the men.)  To shock me, they tried to make me accept the idols again.  They tried to bring me among the idols to offer sacrifices to the dead.  I told them, "No, the dead have finished living in this world."  I heard them say among themselves that they would take the opportunity to beat me if I went with them.  I followed them from a distance when they brought the body to the tomb.
     My husband rejoined me later and we moved on to the Mongo Mission Station.  He worked at the mission and we lived in the house across the street from the Mission's property.  My husband is dead following the events of 12 June 1987.  (The government troops attacked a lot of men in the place, arrested them to take them to prison in the Capital where they were eventually killed.)  A year later, the elders of the church sent us out of our house.  I had already planted my millet, okra and peanuts in my concession.  I left it all behind, and they gave me a bag of millet in exchange.  But I did not think that Christians would send away one of their beloved, as my family did to me when I lived in Moukoulou.
     God is always with me.  He helps me in my difficulties.  He told me to seek first the Kingdom of God and He would give us everything else we need.
     I have eight children, seven of which are still alive.

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