Elizabeth, captured, widowed, released, subsistence farmer, hounded by her husbands family – was an inspiring person to meet, acting as a mentor to many young women in the village. We arrived at her home (2 huts and a granary), where Katie had a series of questions for her. With her son-in-law as the interpreter, a cultural habit meant that she was not to look at the son-in-law as he spoke (something to do with she shouldn’t interfere), which made for interesting dialogue.
Elizabeth was one of many in the village who were captured, her husband was killed in the refugee camps (which actually weren’t far from the village), and they returned to the village around 5 years ago. In dispute with her husbands family as to whether she is ‘entitled’ to the land, she continues to farm it – mostly cassava, soya, sweetcorn and millet – with bananas and something looking like a large papaya hanging in the trees nearby. The in-laws tend to come past and take a share of the crops, leaving her with little to eat/sell. She used to just grow enough to try and live on for the lean times, but with the PEP process, she has been encouraged to take responsibility for her own future/part in the community. More food is grown than is needed in order to sell to others, that that she keeps is put into a grain store – lifted from the ground and the rats. Along with other villagers a draining board has been set up – this enables more hygienic use of dishes, etc. and has had a drastic effect on illnesses – I think particularly on diarrhoea which can be a major problem.
We were invited to visit her house – strong structure, with a roof that doesn’t leak in the rain (paid for with some of her extra food stores). Half the house is a bed and clothes drying – the other appears to hold some of her extra food stores. Really encouraging to meet her, especially as she does all this with leprosy, and acts as a mentor to many of the village girls.
From Tuesday 26th February 2013. See more on Elizabeth on Tearfund.