Claudine is a young single mother to Charlotte. Marcelline is Claudine’s mother.
When I met Claudine a year after our first meeting, I was startled to find Claudine and her mother living and working happily together. It was very different in 2016 when Claudine was joining a self-help group.
She was living with her parents, but they and her brothers wanted her out of the house on account of her baby Charlotte. Claudine was desperate. She couldn’t provide properly for herself and Charlotte, let alone find a house for them both. She did casual labouring when she could find the work: a couple of days a week earning less than US$1 a day digging terraces under the hot sub with Charlotte sleeping on her back.
Back then Claudine’s big hope was that somebody would give her what she needed: a house, livestock, money. She hoped that the self-help groups would provide these things
In 2017 I found a very different Claudine. When asked about the problems with her family, she said simply “there is no problem today.” Claudine credits the self-help groups with the change in her relationship with her mother. Now, Claudine says she and Marcelline “find work together, to eat. We are able to find something we can sell to make a profit and lead a good life. I can help fetch water and take care of the animals, and she respects me.”
Marcelline’s youngest child is Jean-Claude, only a little older than Charlotte. If Marcelline is not working, she will look after Charlotte while Claudine goes to the fields; and Charlotte’s little uncle is always ready to play with her. There is a genuine warmth and partnership now between mother and daughter.
Claudine is saving with her group and has taken loans. She says that she is “getting new ideas and I can see hope for the future.” Her group is looking at collective farming projects, as many members don’t have land and those who do are struggling to get good harvests out of poor soil. Claudine hopes to buy and sell vegetables at the market as a small business. Marcelline’s dream is to own a small field to cultivate.
Reflecting on the changes that Claudine sees in herself, she says, “I used to take life as it is and I used to complain about my situation, and think that was [the only] life I could get; but later I changed my mind and realised that I had to think about the future and save for it. Even if there are so many challenges, I try to fight through.”