Women in Mozambique
In February 2006, an earthquake measuring an intensity of 7.5 on the Richter scale hit rural communities in central Mozambique near the Zimbabwe border. Such a powerful earthquake went unnoticed even though the effects were felt in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In February 2006, an earthquake measuring an intensity of 7.5 on the Richter scale hit rural communities in central Mozambique near the Zimbabwe border. Such a powerful earthquake went unnoticed even though the effects were felt in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Through WOC (Disciples) and OGHS (UCC), we responded to the needs in Zimbabwe. It was very difficult to get a needs assessment from our partners in Mozambique as they were located 800 miles away from the earthquake zone. Consequently, we were not able to send immediate emergency assistance. Week of Compassion and One Great Hour of Sharing are now supporting rebuilding efforts, including the provision of a community well.
During my January and February 2007 visit to the continent, I had the privilege of traveling to Mozambique with the President of the United Church of Zimbabwe and his wife. Arrangements had been made with the leadership of United Church of Mozambique for Linda Lawrence of Global Ministries Child Sponsorship and me to visit the epicenter in a place called MACHAZE.
We traveled as a team to the site – the delegation from Zimbabwe, leaders and members of the United Church of Christ in Mozambique, Linda and myself. It was not easy journey to the site. Because it was the rainy season and the road was washed out, we were not able to travel from Mt Selinda, Zimbabwe, a distance of 3-4 hours over rough roads. We left Mt Selinda and traveled back to Mutare (3 hours) then to Chimoio, Mozambique (approx 2 hours) on to Machaze (5 hours of which 3 hours were on rough roads). We made stops in the Machaze district for courtesy visits to the church members and government leaders. When we finally arrived at the epicenter, it was hard to contain our emotions. It was not the splitting of the earth that was shocking, but rather the realization of the true meaning of the word “earth shattering” in the lives of all the people, but particularly women and young girls.
The quake occurred in a rural and rather remote area. I could not imagine that reporters from CNN, BBC or others had been there. The surrounding villages that we saw, which were already poor, suffered a lot from the quake. Lives were lost and many more lives were altered.
For a while it was impossible to get water in any of the villages. Even if it were possible to get to a natural water spring, it was impossible to get the water from one side of the earth to the other side of the earth. People were reduced to getting water from holes that cropped up from place to place until they became too dangerous to use.
After people worked to build a “bridge” over the cracked earth, life became easier. Vehicles could pass when using caution. And women, who were and continue to be the “burden bearers”, were able to collect firewood and water. Given the water situation in Machaze, women decided to work together for the good of community. They took turns getting water from a spring – a distance of approx 10 miles away. They used bikes to carry large jugs of water. This was really a blessing because the nearest well was over 30 miles away. It took us more than an hour to drive the distance in a pick-up truck.
Although the women on their bikes agreed to have their pictures taken, they wanted to make it clear that their smile was not a true reflection of their emotions. They wanted their picture taken so that others could see their burden. They also wanted the outside world to know that “smiling would not change their lot or make their work any easier.
The emotions and feelings felt that day will remain forever. When we returned to town, we stopped to take a break. We had a very practical lesson on the good and bad effects of globalization. As we chatted with a woman vendor who was selling cashew nuts (Mozambique is a major exporter of cashews), we noticed the coca-cola truck behind her with crate after crate of coca-colas stacked outside a grocery store. There was no water in surrounding villages for many miles, yet there was plenty of water to produce coca-cola , a drink that adds no nutritional value to one’s diet..
Is there hope for women in Mozambique? Absolutely. A resounding “yes!” The Prime Minister of the country is a woman and there are four women cabinet ministers – one of whom is the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The church places great emphasis on training of women pastors, and many more educational opportunities are offered to women and the girl child. Is it a long road ahead? Yes. Mozambique emerged from its civil war less than 10 years ago, and rebuilding infrastructure and the economy will take a long time. And yet, very few countries can claim immediate peace following the signing of peace agreements. The request of so many in Mozambique was that we as Christians in America and Canada continue to lift the people of Mozambique in prayer.