Improving the situation of rural women
Letter to Friends around the World # 89

The ‘Victory for rural women’ organisation in Tunisia works with rural women. Hayat, who is a member of this organisation, shared a life-story collected as part of a project which looked at these women’s lives. This is the life-story of a woman who lives in an isolated mountainous region where life is hard.

Hayat told us: During this project, we were welcomed by an old woman, whose wrinkled face illustrated the difficult life she had, but who also showed great courage and had a radiant smile.

This woman recounted: “I lost my husband very young, and I found myself with eight children to look after. I had to meet all their needs by myself: their education, their health... To do this, I left the house at 4am every morning and went into the mountains with other women from my village to gather alfalfa. The journey took an hour and a half and all I had to eat was a small piece of bread and a bit of olive oil. When the sun reached its highest point, we turned back and went to sell our produce at the market for a few dinars. Arriving home again, we had to take responsibility for looking after the house, our children and our animals.”

And so life for these women was a daily battle to earn a living and bring up their children. Today, this lady finds herself old and alone: her sons have gone in search of a job. The only daughter who has stayed with her never went to school and her husband has had to leave the village in order to earn a living.

History is repeating itself with her daughter who has to leave the house at dawn to go and work in the fields for a pittance. This means that the old lady has to look after her grandchildren who aren’t more than five years old.

This project is the first stage in understanding the needs of these women and assessing their capabilities. They have been working for several years in neighbouring regions, often in difficult conditions. They have acquired a know-how and much experience. Many would like to work in their village in activities such as animal breeding, agriculture, crafts, or business.

In this way, history will not repeat itself from generation to generation.

Hayat, Tunisia