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Ally fills us in on the 15-hour journey between Dar and Mbeya, driving through a wildlife reserve and an unfortunate, but inevitable, bus break down. Listen to this podcast here.
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Burudians: seven days on the road and still smiling!
I've heard the phrase 'Mother Earth' before of course, but never so often as over the past few days. Then there's 'Mama Africa', another metaphor that portrays the land as a nurturing female force. Women are identified with the land in Africa because they both work it and share its life-giving qualities.
‘All the population must understand that we have to protect the environment to protect human life forever,’ says Nizigama Sylvane - a farmer and mother-of-six - who has been on the Caravan of Home since her home country of Burundi.
But the metaphor also reflects the way in which the fate of the land and the fate of women - particularly in Rwanda and Burundi where more than 90% of the population are farmers - are inseparable.
Nizigama comes from a community in central Burundi, whose maize harvests have recently repeatedly failed due to the variability of rains (not yet conclusively linked to human-induced climate change but certainly consistent with what climate change experts have predicted for the region). And there, as elsewhere, the burden falls heaviest on women.
‘Women are the first victims when there are food shortages,’ she explains. ‘When there is famine in the family the husband can leave - saying he will go to find work - but the woman must stay behind and cope with this misery.’
Rwandan Urayeneza Verene, a maize and haricot bean farmer, agrees.
‘And let's not forget that in Rwanda lots of women became widows in 1994 [during the genocide] and lots of orphans were created,’ she says. ‘And it fell to these women to look after them.’
Urayeneza and Nizigama have become friends during the Caravan, singing from a shared hymn book during long journeys (see video).
Their friendship is an example in miniature of the type of solidarity the Caravan aims to foster. But it is also a friendship based on a shared experience of hardship, an experience that women all over Africa can relate to.