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Reisverslag Interview with Margarete - JOHO
19 september 2014
Interview with Margarete - JOHO
On the 29th of June, we (Anne and Freya) went to Malawi. In the first two weeks of our stay we went to travel around the south of Malawi to explore the culture and nature of this beautiful country. We also went to Majete Wildlife Reserve which is a protected area since 1955 but only since 2003, when it entered a partnership with African Parks, it has developed itself into a promising wildlife park.
During our stay in the park, we camped on the campsite where we met Margarete, the ‘housekeeper’. She was responsible for the maintenance of the campsite and she took care of the tents, the showers, toilets and the pick nick area. She lives on her own in a small hut at the campsite and she is twenty years old.
When we arrived at the campsite, we were welcomed by Margarete and she gave us a small tour around the campsite. We were just looking around and installed our luggage and tent when we were called by Margarete to come to her hut. When we came closer, we saw that there were 3 elephants grazing just behind her little hut! We were very surprised that we could see elephants so close, the first 10 minutes in the park and even before joining a game drive! One of the elephants came too close, flapping his ears and honking loudly. Margarete recognized the danger and immediately responded by hiding us and herself behind the hut and clapping in her hands to make the elephant go away.
After seeing the elephants (a little too) well, we played cards together and Margarete learned us one of the Malawian card games. While we were playing, we asked her a couple of questions.
She told us she was born and raised in the area of Chikwawa (the village the closest to the park, a one hour drive away). She also went to school in Chikwawa where she also finished high school, as one of the few Malawians who did so. Because of that, her English was quite good. Despite this fact, there were still some miscommunications because of the language barrier. Still she did not choose to study further because she needed to work.
She got a job in the park and so she went living in the little hut on the campsite, inside the park. Every time she gets her salary, she sends money to her family. She does not see her family often because it is quite far to go to her home as she would need to walk. There is no public transport in the area of Chikwawa and taking a taxi would be too expensive.
She liked living in the park but when there were very few or no tourists, she sometimes felt lonely. We asked her if she then did not want to marry, and she answered that she would very much like to, but she could not find a nice husband. When we asked her if she had the option to choose her own husband, she said that she could, although her family of course influences her choice. Also we asked her the average age of marrying (for a girl) because we assumed most girls would be very young (we watched a documentary about this before our departure which stated that in the Malawian culture it was normal to marry very young). Margarete answered that the girls would not always marry so early but that there were specific regions in Malawi where these traditions would happen. In some of these regions the girls married as young as 15, although there were cases of even younger girls. This tradition does, however, happen less often nowadays because of the many critiques of the Western World. Margarete herself also thought that 15 would be a little too young. She herself is 20 so in Malawian terms, she would be quite ‘old’ to marry.
Most of de Malawian women wear wigs (80% of the population), because they do not like their own hair: they do not like the afro-hairstyle, which they all have. They prefer smooth or waved hair and not the fluffy curls. But they do not want painted hair, they prefer dark colours like black or dark brown. Margarete did not wear a wig, but she combed her hair every day. She told us that the hair is very important to Malawian women: it is a status symbol. The more expensive or complicated the braid is, the richer you are. Sometimes women wear their braids a whole month, after this month they braid it again. Every morning, Margarete took a long time to do her hair, even if she did not see many people in a day.
We really enjoyed our conversation with Margarete, as she was so young and already living on her own, and working in the park. She had to be careful with all the dangerous animals and she had to do everything herself. We thought it to be very brave to organize everything herself and already providing her family with money when she was only 20. She was so welcoming when we came and she shared our food with us even though she did not have much herself. We wanted to do something back for her so we cooked for her as well (with her pots and pans because we did not have them with us!) and told her our view on marriage. It was really interesting to sit together and play cards and talk.
Margarete inspired us by showing us that not all Malawians think that marrying very young is good. By hearing how she thinks about these topics, she gives us hope that in the future, these girls will not marry so young anymore. Hopefully when the norms in the Malawian culture change, these girls can all go to school and marry afterwards, which would be much better according to us. By talking to the new generation of Malawians, like Margarete, we can transfer our views on education, marriage and work and so we can help them in improving their living standard. They can get inspired by us and see us as an example, while we can learn from them and get a more diverse view on how poverty and equality is spread through the world. According to us, Dutch (or other ‘Western’ people) should complain less about going to school because they now do not realize how privileged they are living in the Western world. We want to be an inspiration to friends, relatives and other people who will start thinking more about these issues and contributing to a better world.
Foto's bij verslag (1)
21 september 2014 16:06 | Door: Omi en Opi
Een pracht verhaal van jullie met de ontmoeting en het verblijf bij Margarathe.
Wij hebben respect voor haar wat ze allemaal doet en op die manier geld verdient voor haar familie. Ook zoals jullie je mening hebben weergegeven. Het geeft ons ook een beter inzicht over de cultuur daar. Gefeliciteerd met het mooie verhaal.