Getting to know Gezina

Getting to know Gezina

Gezina is one of those incredible people who make you aware that generosity has nothing to do with material assets and that geographic borders do not apply to human hearts…

Gezina, a 24 year old mother of three children under the age of 8,  gave us an entire day, her time, her attention, and a window on her personal life, simply because we asked if we could get to know her better.

I had traveled to the Malawian “heart of Africa” to document the ongoing implementation and progress of CARE Canada’s Southern African Nutrition Initiative (SANI). And there, deep in the very rural district of Ntchisi, Gezina welcomed us to her homestead, where we sat with her, spoke with her, followed her through her daily chores, and played with her 10-month old son, Matthew. There was ample evidence of SANI’s work in progress— particularly in her backyard garden, Matthew’s nutritious meals, and the community water borehole just a short walk away.

Throughout the day, I had the chance to ask Gezina about her life, her family and her hopes. The following is part of the conversation I had with Gezina, and the very grounded, human, relatable face that she gives to the question: Who is the SANI project actually reaching?

Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: My days are long! First thing, I wake up, sweep the house, prepare breakfast for the family, and then go to the field to work. I come home to prepare lunch for the family, feed the children, bathe them, and prepare my husband’s bath. After lunch, I rest for one hour, from 1-2pm. Then I must start looking for food for dinner. I prepare the family’s dinner, feed them, and go to bed. Around midnight, I must wake again to feed Matthew—my youngest. Every day, I am the first to wake, and the last to sleep.

Q: What daily activities do you share with your husband? Does he help with child care or cooking?
A: My husband works two days each week in the village, cutting trees for timber. When he is home and I am sick, he will share some activities with me, like breaking logs for firewood, feeding the children, and bathing them. But this doesn’t happen on a regular basis, not yet. You know, these jobs are considered “my work”, so it takes time to help him see a different way of doing things. And, I don’t want him to be called names by the other men in the village, who sometimes tease him for doing household work.

Q: What brings you joy?
A: My children are my greatest joy. I want a very good life for them, and I want very much to be able to pass along good habits to them, so that they can live a long and happy life. I also love to receive visitors at my home. It makes me so happy to share what I have with others.

Q: What is your greatest hope for the future?
A: I am a simple woman! I very much hope that, in the future, I will be able to buy small livestock like goats, that I will have a nice house, and that I will also have chickens. In fact, these days I am watching the goats of a friend of mine. When her goat has kids/billies, I hope she will share one or two with me.

Q: What is your greatest wish for your child/children?
A: I wish that my children will all be educated, and that each of them will get a good job. This means they can help me in the future. But, I do focus on the education of my male children… I feel that my girl will get married one day and her husband will take care of her. That is simply how it goes in Malawi, most of the time.  I am slowly learning about the importance of education for my daughter, but I still focus on school for my sons.

Q: What does your community need most to improve the quality of life here?
A: My community needs backyard gardens, so that we have enough vegetables for both consumption and for selling. Also, women here should be allowed by their husbands to do small businesses to improve the nutrition of their homes. I think that if the community learns to change the way they do things, like keeping some of what they produce rather than selling everything, then they will get stronger. Also, culturally, we need to shift. Men and women need to start thinking in new ways to create positive changes for families.

Q: Do you feel positive that there will be change?
A: Oh yes. I know it will take time to change culture and to change minds, but it can happen. We are strong and gentle people, but we are simple… we want healthy and happy families and communities above all. The future of Malawi depends on new methods.

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[I wrote this report during a trip taken to Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in October 2018. I was traveling on behalf of CARE Canada, where I work as Communications and Public Engagement Officer. In this role, I lead the “Feed Her Future” campaign (www.feedherfuture.ca) – a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of women’s access to nutrition by highlighting the work of the Southern African Nutrition Initiative (SANI).]

 

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