Chadian Flag

Ruth Kangarde


To give you a perspective of what life is like for the women of Chad, we present several personal testimonies of Chadian women from the Guéra, taken from the book "Là où habitent les femmes" (Where the Women Live), edited by Renée Johns and Rachel Bokoro of the Mennonite Central Committee, published in 1993.

Ruth, or Am-Ratou, is a young woman who works as a guide in rural development.  She is not afraid to talk.  Her appearance is striking.  She is tall and her stately cheeks and her beautiful skin tone make her stand above any fashion model.  She came to find me at the house to speak since where she lives she is always busy taking care of the children and of her many friends and neighbours who come to visit her.  She spoke to us in French.  Her first language is Kenga but she also speaks Chadian Arabic.

     I was born in 1959 in Korbol.  I am the oldest child in my family.  We lived in Korbol until I was school age.  The rebels came from time to time to mistreat people and burn houses down.  One day we hear gunshots and the villagers and ourselves ran away to hide in the mountains.  Each time it was like this.  My father saw that this was troubling for the children, and so we moved to Bitkine.  My father continued to travel each day to Borko where he was a health worker.
     When my father was young, he met a Swiss missionary named Barh.  It was at this time that he came to know the Saviour and began to live a Christian life.  Then he married my mother and they settled in Korbol.  Little by little my mother also came to know the Saviour.  They were both baptised.  They remained Christians and remained faithful to God.
     I met my husband when we were both young people at the church in Bitkine.  One day, each of us knew that we had been chosen to marry one another.  Moussa, my husband, grew up in a Muslim home.  He came to Mongo to go to school and lived at the Protestant Mission's boarding house.  It is there that he turned to Christ, and remained a Christian.  He is now one of the pastors/ elders of the church.  Our wedding was the first church wedding of all the churches which are in the villages around Bitkine.  We invited people from all the churches who were in the villages around Bitkine.  It was a very special day.  The church was full; and those who did not have somewhere to sit stood outside.  Many others also came to observe, out of curiosity.
After our wedding, my husband was given his assignment and we left Bitkine for N'Djaména, the capital.  It was in 1979, and the civil war had begun.  Everything was paralysed.  There was not even any running water in town.  The uncle of my husband was in Nigeria and we decided to go there.  We crossed the Chari River.  I had my baby Ratou on my back and we carried our goods on our heads.  The water went up to my waist.  Many people were coming and going across the river.
     We lived with the Kanouri in Nigeria, in an isolated village.  The people there cut wood, and large trucks came to take it to sell in the big city of Maiduguri.  Everyone was allowed to have a piece of land to cultivate there.  This is why we chose this spot.  The first year was difficult but the following year went well.  The soil produced well.  My daughter Nakoro was born there.  There was another Chadian family living there.  The people were very happy to have us living there.
     We would receive news from time to time about the war.  We were concerned for our families but it was worse in N'Djaména than in the centre of the country where our families were.
     None of the people of the area were Christian, but they gave us the freedom to hold worship services.  There were also young people who came from the south of Nigeria to work.  They were also Christians and we had church services together.  We would worship God and sing each Sunday.  The villagers came to see and hear what was going on.  We were warmly received, and when the time came for us to leave, the villagers were very sad.  The women would cry tears when I told them we were returning to Chad. 
     We returned to N'Djaména for a time, then my husband was assigned to work in Bitkine.  He worked several years there and in 1989 we were assigned to work in Mongo.
     During our second year, I was elected president of a group of women, named Femmes de Charité des Assemblées Chrétiennes du Tchad (Women of Charity of the Christian Assemblies of Chad).  My time as president passed without any problems to speak of.  It is a good thing to have a women's group because women play an important role in all of life.  They can help the church in any situation that may arise.  Every Friday, we visit the women who have recently joined our group, those who have just given birth, or those who have had a death in their family.  Sunday nights we have evangelism meetings.  The leaders of these meetings get together each Wednesday.
     We have about forty women each Sunday even if they change.  I see new faces at every meeting.  We are obligated to have interpreters translate into several languages because the women speak different languages.  If the Bible verse is found in the Old Testament we translate it into Arabic.  If the verse is found in the New Testament, we are not required to translate it because the women from the south have their New Testament in Sara and the women from this area have their New Testament in Arabic.  
     We also perform skits for the Christmas program.  We will begin preparations for Christmas very early this year!  We also have regional gatherings of the Femmes de Charité on the twelfth day of every third month.
     I also work for Food for the Hungry in rural development.  I am very busy, but I also enjoy helping my sisters who have not had the privilege of going to school.  If anyone has something they know, I believe it is important that they share this so that others may learn it also.
     I have seven children.  The first one died at one month old.  The first child is always the most difficult here.  I have five brothers and six sisters.  One brother and one sister are now studying to be nurses.

Village Development

     I am also a guide for village development for Food for the Hungry in Mongo.  I began working in the realm of health work, but this project was discontinued, and now we work in the realm of agriculture.  We travel on motorbikes or in a car because the five villages where I go are quite far and I do not want to walk to get there.
     In each of these villages, the women are organised and have established the rules that govern our agreement.  They get together every Monday or Friday.  They often meet at the president's house to discuss things and ask questions.  Every woman is also free to pull back from the group as she wishes.  If she does not wish to follow the established rules, she can be asked to leave.
     We now teach the women to cultivate their groundnut fields with donkeys.  Many people here work with cattle.  My family has a cow.  However it is more difficult to work with cattle - and more dangerous since they have horns.  This can be difficult, especially for a village women who is not used to working with them.
     We also tell them to keep the third of their harvest for sowing next year.  A woman will often say, "But my harvest was so weak this past year and I have no grains to spare."  I tell them that it's all the same thing if a third of the harvest is nothing more than a small tea glass full of seeds.  She needs to take these seeds and attach them in an old piece of clothing or something else and set them aside for next year.  She must not make a meal with these grains.  Long ago people knew to do this but now, because of money and imported goods, many sell their seeds and have nothing to plant the following year.
     The women listen to us and do what we advise them to do.  We are often able to encourage them.

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