Thursday, July 21, 2011


We spent a lot of time throughout my degree program talking about “cultural competency.” The bottom line was always as simple and as difficult as this, “You can’t just read about culture, you must experience and digest culture to really understand it. You must also be aware that you can live for years among a culture that is different from your own and never fully understand it.”
After six weeks of living here, I can vouge for the truth of this explanation.

The other day I was lingering at the primary school after I had finished work, and I went into a classroom to sit and talk with some kids. That day’s lesson was still scribbled in big chalk letters on the blackboard:

“Today we learn about family”

Responsibilities of Children:
1.      Fetch water
2.      Listen to Mom and Dad
3.      Sweep and clean the house
4.      Take care of younger siblings
5.      Carry baby’s on back
6.      Go to school
Responsibilities of Mom:
1.      Take care of children
2.      Prepare meals
3.      Clean the house
4.      Take care of husband

Responsibilities of Dad:
1.      Bring livelihood to the home
2.      Financially support family

At first glance, the small glimmer of light inside of me that subscribes to feminism exploded…then the logical and much more reasonable side of me took a step back to comprehend what was in front of me.

Yes, the children are overworked, but let us think about this:
  1. The family needs water: The father is off at work from before sun up to after sun down. The mother is at home, so why doesn’t she do it? Oh, right, she has at least four children and chances are they are too young to be left alone, and taking a herd of children on a two-mile roundtrip jaunt to fetch water is out of the question. That leaves the oldest or strongest child(ren) to take on the responsibility of fetching water. There are no faucets with an unlimited supply of clean water to cook with, bathe with, drink, and wash clothes. They need water just as much as we do in America; the only difference is it takes more effort on a personal level to attain it.  
  2. Yes, they have to sweep and clean the house, but so did I when I was little. I became a more responsible and independent person for it—no complaints from me on that one. 
  3. Taking care of younger siblings and carrying them on their backs is not uncommon throughout the world. The sad difference is that it becomes a full-time job for some kids because they are not in school, and the mother and father are trying to bring in an income leaving the kids to take up the jobs of the home.
Therefore, my own conclusion is that the children lose a part of their childhood not because of cruel parenting, but because of the society in which they live. Chances are their parents were raised similarly; sadly enough, their children will probably live like this one day too.     

With love,

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