(by Karen P.)
As I drove through Bhekulwandle township the other day, I saw a gogo (grandmother) sitting at the roadside. As I passed, I recognized her as one of the widows we have been working with at Seed Of Hope during the last year. I immediately turned around and stopped the car beside her. A passerby was helping the gogo get up, gather her bags and slowly make her way home. I asked if I could give her a ride to her house. She told me her name and I said that I knew who she is and where she stays. She apologized that she didn’t recognize me, because she is almost blind. She told me that she’s been very hungry and had no food in the house for two days, so that morning someone gave her a lift to the shop to buy food, but she had to walk the four kilometres back.
The store where she shops is in central Amanzimtoti, and there are other stores much closer, but this one is the cheapest. So this aged woman walked almost 4 km with a box on her head, a packet of food in her one hand and a walking stick in the other hand. On the way home I asked how her grandchildren were doing. A few months ago one of her daughters died, leaving 3 granddaughters behind for the gogo to care for. The gogo stayed with the girls for a while, but she has other grandchildren at her own house that she also has to care for. Because she is very old and almost totally blind and the three girls live several kilometres from the Gogo’s house, in a remote area, it’s not easy for her to move between the two households. She explained that she is now staying in her own house, but she is very concerned about the other girls, especially the 8 year old. She said: “You know, I’m very old and I’m tired and I could just die. But I’m so worried about my baby. What is going to happen to her? The other two girls are teenagers and will leave the house soon. And now my other daughter is also sick. You know I only have two children left – only two pikanin [colloquial word for children] from my womb. I had 11 children and now only 2 are left. Two of my children died in this past year and now my daughter is very sick. I don’t know why?”
I am constantly amazed at the strength of these Zulu women. This gogo is just one of many women who are living in similar situations and working hard to keep their households intact. Most of these gogo’s live in a house (shack) with a sea view. But instead of having a house at the seaside in which they can retire after a lifetime of hard work, they just continue to move heaven and earth in order to keep their families together. From dusk until dawn they are chopping wood to make fire for bathing and cooking… or gathering paper or cardboard to recycle (earning less than 10 Rands [$1.30] for a hard days work)… or working in their gardens… or taking care of a dying child or several of their orphaned grandchildren…or walking 4km on an empty stomach to buy food. They just never stop.
A friend once said: “If the women of Bhekulwandle all decided to take a day off the whole community would come to a standstill.”
But they don’t take time off – don’t take a break – they dare not. So they just carry on