Yesterday PeasantSolidarity's treasurer, Marceline Bora, kindly wrote to me about women's everyday life in Kalima. Marceline's mail was in French and the following account, though not a literal translation, contains the information she sent me.
''My name is Marceline Bora and I am a member of Peasant Solidarity. You asked me to tell you about the situation of women and their employment outside their homes.
This is a very interesting topic. In addition to a woman's domestic duties that include collecting water, sending the children off to school, cooking, housework, preparing lunch for her husband she also goes out to work; for example cultivating ground-nuts and manioc, running a small business or mining cassiterite.*
Sometimes the women who work on the land raise $ 100 – 120, with which they buy beans that they then sell in the local market or send to nearby cities, such as Goma or Bukavu in the north or Kivu in the south. In return either they get paid in cash or more often in kind. It is a barter economy where for example, loincloths are exchanged for rice, dried fish, salt, soap or other necessary commodities.
Many women in Kalima work in the mining industry. For example, a woman may buy a plot of land and employ others to mine it for them. After paying their wages the rest of the profit is her's. She may at the same time decide to open a small restaurant for the miners, who either pay her in the local currency, or US dollars or a few grams of cassiterite ore. Other women prepare food for the miners and they get paid in cash or kind at the end of the week.Others sell the dried meat of game hunted in the forests. From the age of ten school girls work part time too. They work so they can earn money to pay school fees, as their parents often cannot afford to pay them.
Strong and resourceful women, who are lucky enough to work the land, find jobs or start small businesses, have to work extremely hard - irrespective of their marital status. Work-places are often a long way from their homes, so they set off at 5 a.m and get home at 6 p.m. They spend their evenings catching up on the housework, cooking etc.
The current serious problems in Kalima started after the mining company Sominki went bankrupt in 1996. It had not only provided jobs, it had also promoted the employees welfare and helped maintain the town's infrastructure. Day by day social conditions are deteriorating. There are no banks and no savers' credit unions. In order to survive and support their families less robust or less fortunate women do what they have to do; this means prostituting themselves. The consequences are HIV -AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, divorces and the resulting social problems.
In short, this is how women in Kalima live their lives.
* Cassiterite is an essential ore needed to produce tin, which is used to make tin cans and solder for circuit boards of electronic equipment e.g mobile phones and computers.
Fighting over cassiterite deposits is one of the causes of war and other conflicts in DR Congo.
Thank you Marceline for your contribution.