Sunday, July 1, 2012

More on the NYT Story on Women as Human Pack Animals

The New York Times featured an article a few days ago unfortunately entitled Women as Human Pack Horses in the Congo. Here's an excerpt:
Women like Ms. Maninga are a common sight on the streets of Bukavu, striking not for their looks but for the outsize burdens they carry. In French, they are les femmes transporteuses; in Kiswahili, they are called babeba mizigo. Whatever the language, the job is the same: Female carriers are human pack horses.
Several international surveys have rated Congo as the world’s worst place to be a woman. Often, these studies focus on gender violence. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health last year, 48 Congolese women are raped every hour. For years, various militia and rebel groups have used rape as a weapon to destroy communities.
Across eastern Congo during these years of war, women have acquired an added burden, that of bearing heavy loads. Horses, donkeys and trucks are too expensive, residents say*. The roads, if any, are so bad that the few miles between Ms. Maninga’s mountain shack and Bukavu are nearly impassable, except on foot. 

By coincidence, a friend of mine from Bukavu named Mubalama Massu** happened to send me a few photos on the same topic just a few days ago. I've attached them as a Youtube video:

*By the way, what is the deal with (the lack of) horses and donkeys in the Kivus? The NYT explanation that they are too expensive never made sense to me. After all, you see any number of cows throughout the countryside. I've never gotten a good answer to whether TseTse flies are a problem at that altititude. The absence of pack animals is hard to explain otherwise. Surely there would be an enormous economic use for them in the Kivus if they were weren't subject to sleeping sickness. After all, what do donkeys live on but grass and weeds on the side of the road. How much can the upkeep be?

**If you need a good local photographer in Bukavu, get in touch and I'll send you his contact info.

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