It’s been quite some time since I wrote something here, but Blog Action Day seems a good time to surface again and get back to this site.
In my work, I frequently talk about inequality and unfairness. For as long as I can remember I have had to find ways to manage life in a world that rewards the rich and ignores the poor. I could rant on, but instead I am going to tell the story of one young woman I know personally. I’m going to change her name, so let’s call her Ana.
Be warned though. This story is extremely distressing and has some horrific content. The only reason I’m telling it at all is because I know it to be true.
Ana was born 31 years ago in North East Madagascar. She was the 2nd child, (1st daughter) of a family of 3 children, although her older brother died when he was 3. I don’t know what her father did for living, (indeed if he even worked at all), because Ana doesn’t know. When Ana was 5 years old her mother sold her to a family in the capital, Antananarivo, to be their house servant, effectively their slave.
The work was hard – imagine ordinary house work without the luxury of electricity, (no washing machines, vacuums, dishwashers etc) and then imagine having to do it all when you’re only 5 years old and have to stand on a box to reach the sink. The family weren’t particularly cruel, though there were beatings, but Ana hated it. She missed her family. She put up with it all for two years before she ran away. Somehow or another she made her way back home, but her mother told her she had to go back and work, because that was the deal. So, Ana ran away again, this time taking with her her younger brother so that he wouldn’t meet the same fate. The two of them made it back to the big city where they lived on the streets for about a year. I don’t know how. I can’t even imagine how a seven year old managed to look after herself, nevermind a younger sibling, but she did. After about 6 months or so, their mother found them and took them back home. She assured Ana and her brother that they could stay, and for a while everything seemed to go well. Unfortunately, things got really bad, really fast. It’s not surprising when you stop to think about it, that very poor people, will do anything, and I mean anything to feed their families, and Ana’s Mum would sometimes steal food to feed her children. One day she was caught stealing a chicken and was dragged before the other people in the village to be ‘judged.’ As a repeat offender it was decided that she be sentenced to death by beheading and that her children should be made to witness it in order that they learn what happens to thieves. So, that’s what happened. An 8 year old and her 6 year old brother were made to witness this brutal execution as a warning. I’m afraid it gets worse. Ana’s father, distraught at the death of his wife and in despair at having to look after two children he couldn’t feed, took his own life. Ana and her brother returned to streets of Antananarivo and survived as best they could. Eventually, they found their way into an orphanage run by Catholic nuns and there, I’m happy to say, they found some peace and security for a couple of years. When Ana was 11, something happened – and I don’t know exactly what – Ana doesn’t like to talk about it, and she found herself in the justice system. Long story short, Ana was placed at another orphanage, but this time she was able to begin her education, to learn to read and write and discover her talent for drawing and crafts. Initially she went alone as it was a girls only facility, but two years later, she was reunited with her brother when the orphanage branched out and included boys too.
We’ll leave it there. Ana is doing well now – and so is her brother. They have been able to access education and through donations to their orphanage, (from all over the world), they have been able to build their own house – and I mean they built it themselves. They both have jobs. They are certainly not rich, but they are doing much better than their parents did.
What makes it hard though is that Ana is the exception. Many, many more kids from Madagascar and other developing countries never find their way to safety. Life on the streets is brutish and very often, short. There’s not enough food or water or clothing and no medicine.
If you’re born in a ‘rich’ country, you stand a much better chance of surviving into adulthood, although poverty exists everywhere.
Some of the poorest people live in the richest country on earth – the U.S.
Margaret has a blog about her life ministering amongst some of the poorest people in the US on the Eagle Butte reservation. You can read it here.
If you are a person of faith, please pray today for those disadvantaged and abused by poverty. If you are not, will you take some time to email your MP, (or Congressman/woman), about inequality?