Voyage to the Tchad


Madeleine Cirerol Golliard


- Part third   Third letter -



Hello my friends !


I take the most of the little spare time we have to write this kind of journal. Now that my colleagues nominate me as their official chronicler, I feel the responsibility to report at least a little each day about all what occurs during our adventure. We have so much to do in a present so intense, that it results truly difficult to find these moments.


The course continue. Eighty-four women are a lot of women and a lot of stories. And, sadly, also a lot of diseases: back, knees, chest and infections.


Yesterday was the worst of the days, the most dramatic. A woman was pregnant. Her name is Kussa. She is perhaps the most sympathetic and funny woman of the group: she danced in spite of her big belly. But time was at end and she had to go to the hospital. The hospital here is very disgusting, it resembles  a concentration camp. She stood there all the day long and  gave birth, at dusk, to a she dead baby. You cannot imagine in what state of dereliction this hospital is left. There are a midwife (the only person having a more or lest clean aspect) and a male nurse. Patients are giving no water, no meals, no bed sheets, nothing at all. She lays on row plastic without nobody coming to auscultate the baby. Really dreadful !!! If in a hospital like this you have no family, no friendly person to take care of you, you can die !!! ...


One of the group women remained with her and, between course and course, we were going to see and bring her food and drinks. The scene when I first saw her was so painful ! It was at the very time the baby sprinted out, a so lovely little girl! The tragedy is she was dead. We went to burry her in Manolo’s garden, because newborns are not allowed in the cemetery around the church. Never would I forget this interment ! : It is etched on my memory for ever.


The Tchad is where the most of women and babies die in childbirth, from the whole Africa. Surely, in our land, with an ultra sound scan and a ceasarean operation, the baby would have been safe and alive. But here, the scanner purchased for the hospital by Manolo’s friends from Saragossa, is closed under key when the doctor is not there; and, he is almost always absent.


Now, let us comment something more pleasant. Yesterday, we gave the practical lesson of artemisia’s tee elaboration. At first, dividing the women in three groups. Each group preparing a fire. Then, the women having attended the course in February, made a demonstration. They have it very clear : the doses, the process, etcetera... And all the women tried the infusion between songs and laughs; each group competing to make the best tee. I have a video of the scene.


The tee is bitter


I told  you not having been able to take photos; but that was during the way (and I took some). Once here, all is different and I have a lot of them, also videos.


I have to say that the ones who came with “palu” and became ill: five women and two children (one was very sick). They took artemisia tee and now they feel much better. That does not mean others may fall ill, too. The illness is latent into them and at the first defence drop, becomes apparent.


In the afternoon lesson, the theme was epilepsy. Luz had a very well illustrated video about the care to give to the persons when they have a crisis. Here, but only little by little, most of all in Catholic communities, the mentality is changing; but taboo stands still in a great part of the society where ill children are put away, are not allowed to live together with others, because they consider them possessed by bad spirits that may transmigrate into who approach them. Nobody takes care if they fall in the fire and most of the time their people abandon them. We heard about dreadful stories.



Friday 9


Each day we fare four times the seven kilometres that separates Kyabé from Tatemoe. We become used to the landscape : the airport, an outrageously red space for small flies; the big trees seen lofty in the ever blue sky ... birds and oxes drinking in the pool, in a pool that is drying up day by day; the children waiting for us at the entrance of the village, shouting : “Lalé,Lalé !!!” ... In spite of the dry herb, there are a lot of green bushes and trees. Among them, many Karités resembling our almond trees.


It looks like it is a lot of time we are here, all is so intense and we are so deeply immersed in this reality that we find difficult to assimilate that we must leave this coming Sunday.


This morning, Jean Gabo, the person in charge of the artemisia theme, has been explaining to us which are the cares to take when sawing and planting artemisia, expounding the difficulties he found. He is very careful with all he does. He tries a manner, then another manner; an epoch then another epoch  for the sowing,; taking notes of all. By little groups, the women were allowed to visit the greenhouse. There were little plants emerging and other who are already blooming. I saw a woman furtively taking seeds and saving them like a treasure.


The second part of the lesson was about ablation. “Excision” is calling here; and in Sacaraba language :Kaja”. This is a delicate theme but not new for them. There is one woman, Gney, forming part of a group of fifteen persons who go among the villages to speak with women about ablation. She says that among Christian communities it is prohibited to mutilate girls, under penalty of expulsion. But it is still in practice under cover. The very sad result of this is that the girls who have not been mutilated became a pain in the neck until their mothers allow them to endure ablation. What surprised me is that they don’t do want it to please men ; this is not a problem for them as they can marry being mutilated or not. What is a great preoccupation for them is that, being not mutilated, the others girls marginalize them saying : “you stink, go away”.


They told us a lot about this. They have it clear that because of the ablation they have to suffer a lot more when giving birth. When Luz asked about how they endure sexual relations without pleasure, how do they support them? All wanted to answer her. One of them told that when her husband left, a weak before his return she was already ill. Then, Luz asked the others, the one that had not been excised.


You may think, answered a woman, that we are enjoying our man all days like queens ... (laughs) ... It is not so simple, even for us. But we talk about it with the other women and things are going better after meeting and listening to each other.


Ah! ... I have a surprise to tell you:


In our last encounter, on February, we searched despairingly in our minds, what we could tell them when asking us what to do to avoid having more children. Then, remembering the women of the Andes using sponges imbibed with vinegar, is what finally I proposed.


Luz gave them all explanations needed using drawings. And back home, we send for them to the visitor’s centre in Djamena, some sponges a upholsterer from Palma made for us. But we never got some notice about it. It is difficult to obtain some clues when priests and nuns are involved.


In the group of today there are some women that attended the last meeting. We asked one who speak some French if she made the experience and what occurred with it. The answer was very positive : “Five years without giving birth !!! “ ... From the twelve women we taught, only three made use of it, and all three with success !!! ... Only that they used lemon instead of vinegar... You cannot imagine how happy I was hearing this news !!!


What remains now is to find a material here that can be used as a sponge, something cheap and not toxic, in order women can self controlled it and don’t need to depend on us.


Obviously, we had to inform them about anti-conception. This has been the theme in the afternoon. Luz exposed and explained all the different methods. It is possible now to obtain the pill here, but we don’t now which one. The better and cheaper we told them, is to use the sponge. Monique volunteered to tell her experience.


Tonight, we go to rest very satisfied. It is like closing a circle. They tell us we have to return... Now that our struggle is giving fruits : to return have a sense. This meeting has been very important to the women.


Tomorrow morning we make a summary; and, in the afternoon, a farewell party. Maria had some money given to her to organize the party and Manolo worked “the miracle” to obtain 120 coca-colas and 40 “Fantas” in bottles of one litter for the children.


Next time I shall write a little more.

For now, my love to all of you.


and company


(What an aberration !!!  : giving to these poor people in need of all in question of alimentation, these beverages that have only a commercial value, makes me feel sad. I have to tell it. Mineral water or any juice from a natural fruit would had been a more salutary option. – Note from the editor of AIR)


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This was an English version by Mariette



Wonderful this picture of the pond taken by Madeleine.