These Women

by Carol Hess on October 5, 2011

I still see them in my mind’s eye.  A parade of Barundi women walking along the side of the dirt road, dressed in colorful fabrics artfully wrapped around them in a way no white woman seemed able to master. 

Their posture was remarkable – so erect from years of carrying wood, water, and food on their heads with babies wrapped on their backs.  The crushing poverty, chauvinistic oppression, political instability, and even genocide that were the truth of these women’s lives had been unable to round those squared shoulders or break those sturdy backs.

These women were walking with a very single-minded purpose that, if they were caught, could mean a severe beating or even worse.  But they walked anyway.  They were walking one, two, three days and sometimes longer to get to a man in Bujumbura.  They were trudging for days from up-country into the capital of Burundi so they could get to a doctor.  My doctor.

Why?  Because he would give them birth control.  The kind of birth control that could be hidden from their husbands.  A tiny little pill they could swallow so their husbands, who wanted to produce as many male children as possible, would never know why their wives weren’t continuing to get pregnant year after year, child after child.

These women knew something their men didn’t.  They knew they had to stop having so many children.  It didn’t matter how many children died – and many did.  There were still too many children being born.  Too much food to grow and too many mouths to feed were dooming the children to the same embattled lives their mothers led. 

These women wanted more for their children, especially for their girl children.  So they walked.


That was thirty-five years ago, and things haven’t gotten better for African women and children.  In fact, they’ve gotten worse for a whole host of reasons.  But now the world knows, and we’re doing something about it.  Not enough you could argue (and I do), but there are signs of hope.

Girls living in poverty anywhere on the planet are uniquely capable of creating a better future.  But when a girl reaches adolescence, she comes to a crossroads.  If she gets a chance, she can go on to raise the standard of living for herself and her family.  If she doesn’t get that chance, she and her family get stuck in a cycle of poverty.  The Girl Effect is giving 6 million girls all over the world  an opportunity to create a new future for themselves and their families.

Find out more.  Check out their websiteWatch their video.

And then do something.  The girls need us.

 This post is one of hundreds being submitted to the blogosphere this week to help spread the word about Girl Effect, an organization which is working to change the lives of 12 year-old girls in developing nations around the world.

by Carol Hess


Categories Community, The Art of Star Polishing, Weighing In (Rants & Raves)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Anne October 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Wow Carol! Thank you for sharing such a vivid and powerful story.

I have such respect for the courage of those women. Your story brings home the desperate need for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our courageous sisters in the developing world so that their children can have the same possibilities, freedom and hope for the future that ours have.

Thanks for speaking out so powerfully in support of the girl effect.


avatar Carol Hess October 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Thanks, Anne. Beautifully said.


avatar paula October 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm

as always, carol, you urge us to walk the walk. let’s donate, women!! the picture carol has painted is the tip of the iceberg.

keep it up.



avatar Carol Hess October 8, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Paula, you are absolutely right. It is indeed just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks for reminding us and urging us to take action.


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