Gender Equality

Well, a much more positive report today – probably as I’ve been more productive.

Classes went well and I had an interesting discussion with Year 1. It started with getting them to tell me something about themselves or their families and moved onto Muslim men having more than one wife. Out of a class of about 10, seven have fathers with more than one wife. I asked, innocently, why Muslim women could only have one husband. This brought the house down, with gales of mirth in all directions. “It just couldn’t happen!” was the uproarious response. The nearest I got to reasons were based on “Where would the wife live?” and “One man can look after up to four women, but how could a woman look after two men?” Then I asked how they thought they would feel if, as first wife, their husband told them he was going to marry again. One girl replied she would be “happy outside” but “sad inside”. I was also asked lots of questions about how I lived in Scotland: they found it hard to accept that we didn’t live in extended families.

Abass finally got refunded by Mr Federa so I got my GMD6000 back. In the afternoon, Abass and I went to buy paint, scrapers and other decorating gear and when I got a back the whole staff of the RPI – with the exception of Mousa, who obviously feel sustained physical work is beneath him, got stuck into stripping off the old flaking gloss paint from the restaurant walls. At long last, I feel as though some progress towards preparing for the IRA’s arrival is being made. The plan is not to strip off all the gloss, but to get back to a solid base for the repainting to take place (see photo). It will be a big job to prepare the surface but Peter the painter turned up as I was writing this, so his input has been very useful. He has made some very sensible, though possibly over-expensive, suggestions. Not only is he a painter, but he’s going to represent The Gambia in the Olympics: a surprisingly gentle and artistic chap, all things considered.

So it’s good to see work happening. Most of the folk here are happy, indeed enthusiastic, to work, but lack the impetus to get going without someone showing the way.

Mousa has bought a new fridge-freezer: I’ve not seen it yet, so I can’t define “new”, but it’s another step in the right direction. The older water pump has been reapaired, so both are currently operational. For some reason, Mr Federa supplied a mattress for one of the double beds, but it’s the wrong size.

Mr Federa is a sharp dresser: last time I saw him, I spotted one of those silly little “Armani” labels that are worn near the cuff of the sleeve, on the outside. When I was a lad, my father had a friend who always prised the little signs that said “Morris Oxford” or “Triumph Herald” off his car. It usually left a couple of wee holes in his new car, but he refused to drive around carrying “free advertising” for the manufacturers. Goodness knows what he would have made of the current “designer clothing” trend, where people seem happy to advertise “Anercrombie & Fitch”, “Nike”, “Adidas” and so on in giant writing on their clothes. Admittedly, before someone points it out, some of my clothes have the manufacturer’s name on them, but it’s more like the “Triumph Herlad” example than the “Abercrombie & Fitch”.

I’m still continually impressed by the way the women out here carry bundles on their heads. On the way to get decorating supplies, we passed lots of them carrying buckets, pots, bundles tied up in a cloth and large irregular bundles of firewood, cardboard, boxes etc. on their heads without any apparent difficulty. Walking along rough roads and dusty tracks, they could turn round and look at things, navigate obstacles etc. with absolutely no bother at all and certainly no sign of their load toppling. Younger, less experienced girls wind lengths of cloth into a ring which sits on their head and helps to balance the load as they walk.

Anyway, that’s enough for now as I’ve other things to do. Speak again soon, as they say.

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