I awaken early in our outdoor mosquito-netted bed. Dave is still asleep. Stars still shine above. A rooster crows—another answers, and the early morning conversation begins. Overhead , one bird is singing in the Neem tree near our hut. It seems to be the same bird every morning but I’ve never been able to see it. A cow moos, a sheep baas, and a donkey brays. The donkey does not say “hee-haw” as the books say, but he gives a series of high- pitched choking sounds followed by a loud outcry. There are a total of 5 donkeys in our small rural village and they, too, seem to talk to each other—especially at night and early in the morning.
A baby cries in the distance. The cry continues and mimics other cries heard during the previous night. What are these children crying about? Are they hungry, hurting, frightened, lonely? Sometimes the children in the village, scantily dressed and wandering around, also just cry. Why? Who will answer their cries? Their Mothers must be exhausted from the repeated , never ending days of hard physical labor which is expected of them. The fathers are often away from home, working in the fields or in the city. Who answers these cries?
I lie awake quietly listening to the sounds of our village in Niger as it awakens to another day. I hear the thump ,thump, thump rhythmic sounds of the women pounding millet for the morning’s breakfast. Soon the Islam Call to Prayer by the local Imam is heard. This means there will soon be more activity near us as the village women come to the well located behind our hut. They come with babies resting on their backs and leave with buckets of water added atop their heads. They are laughing, talking, smiling. Why is their countenance and behavior so positive when their lives are so harsh? Where do they get the strength to carry on? Do they answer the children’s cries, or do they even hear them?
When one Peace Corps activity involved listing the work of women in Niger, child care was not even on the list. Why??? The average number of children per Nigerien women is 8. And child care is not on the list of responsibilities they assume?? As we see toddlers wandering near our hut, now more comfortable with us ANASARAS , we are beginning to understand that the children take care of each other and that the work the mothers do actually does go towards their care, though indirectly. The children grow up to work and support their family. When they are young, they cry and are heard in the night. But no one answers. Maybe the baby is Niger. Judy