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Community Centric Sustainable Development
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Friday, January 21, 2005

A woman's story

A Community Centric Event

Finally, a story which a Wan Smolbag actress told me the other day on her return from a remote outer island community. It's sort of about conflict.

She had been running a workshop with women and the topic turned to impactsof population growth (Vanuatu is doubling every 25 years) and one woman asked the reasons why some women couldn't have children. A local healthworker gave a fairly dismissive answer saying that basically it was becausea woman had led a wild life, had many partners and had untreated STIs.

Morinda suggested there were other reasons too; that some people's bodies were strong and others weak and needed more care during pregnancy.

At which point a woman put up her hand. A woman aged around 50 with still quite young kids, she had had several miscarriages whilst she was young and a doctor had told her that unless she rested completely during pregnancy, she would never go the full term. Her husband was a 'good man' and tried to shield her from work but the women in his family made her work, said she was lazy etc. So with her husband she moved to the provincial capital and he did everything; the washing, the cooking, the cleaning, and when they had had 3 kids they returned to the village! She said she had never stood up and told this story before and it was, Morinda said, a way too of protecting the woman who had been made to feel ashamed by the nurse.

Now clearly there was a conflict in the village that had remained unsaid until that workshop. Young women cannot speak out against the elder women in their community. Sometimes people are the victims of the mores of the society in which they live, and it was Morinda's intervention, a national, but not from that community, that had enabled that debate to happen. This is not earth shattering stuff; we will continue visiting that village because they want us to and because they enjoy the discussions that the actors create and we will see what develops. But if Dr. Rodriguez advice was followed to the letter, Morinda should neverhave been there in the first place. Or maybe I am misrepresenting her?!

Merry Christmas to you, Doctor, and all other drumbeat subscribers,

Peter Walker,
Wan Smolbag Theatre theatre,
Vanuatu.

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