Pascaline Bampoky: interview transcript

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Pascaline Bampoky: interview transcript

LPascaline Bampoky is a farmer and entrepreneur living in Bignona village, Casamance province, Senegal. She was aged 30 when she was interviewed on 11 January 2010 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Jola and carried out by a community radio resource person who had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.

Good morning, can you tell us who you are?     
I am Pascaline Bampoky. I was born in 1980 in the village of Niaguis, in the district of Ziguinchor. I got married five years ago, when I was 25. I met my husband in Dakar where both of us were living at the time

What were you doing before marriage?
I was a housemaid in Dakar when I met my husband.

You mean you haven't been to school?
I did go to school. I have completed my primary education.

Why did you stop school then?
Honestly, I wasn't good at school. And above all I had nobody to support me. No one was there to pay for my secondary education. You know I am an orphan. I lost my parents at a tender age. In fact I never knew my parents. I was brought up by my aunt, I mean my mother's sister.

How many children did your mother have?
My mother had three children: two boys and I am the only girl. But the other boy died and I have only one brother left. He is currently in the Gambia.

What is he doing in the Gambia?
I don't know. I have been told that he is learning a trade. I haven't seen him for a long time.

About your marriage, what did your family ask from your husband's family as a dowry?
I belong to the Mancagne ethnic group, as you know. In accordance with our customs, my family asked for a goat and a certain amount of money.

How much money?
I really don't know. Young people are not supposed to know. It is a matter for the elders.

In the Mancagne ethnic group, how does a man get a wife?
It depends on circumstances and on families. There is no standard condition as far as marriage is concerned. Some women get married to Muslim husbands, others get married in a church, or simply in a town hall. You see, I cannot give you a standard norm. I know that you must give a lot of money to get a Mancagne wife. It is true that I am Mancagne, but my mother was of the Bayotte ethnic group.

How many were you at your aunt's house where you grew up?
There were quite a lot of us. But my aunt didn't have any children with her husband. So it was the children of the husband's other wife. The group got on well.

You said that you left school because you didn't feel clever enough and you didn't have support for paying your school fees. What do you feel about that now?
I regret it now. But what could I do? Today I wish I had studied beyond primary and up to university level. For instance I would have wanted to be a doctor. I am very much interested in medicine.

Why, may I ask?
Well, besides the income that you can get in practising as a medical doctor, it is also the humanitarian aspect of the job that I am interested in.

Have you had any professional training of some kind?
No… Never. I have never tried. I have never had the opportunity to try a professional training.

Why then, instead of learning, did you embark on being a maid?
Because it was the only thing I was good at. There was no alternative.

How much did you earn?
I was earning from 25000CFA to 30000CFA (544 – 653 US$)1.

And what kind of work were you doing?
I was doing everything a woman does in a house: cleaning, washing, cooking, washing up, taking care of children, etc.

How did you get that job?
It was my aunt who got it for me. She negotiated the salary and other conditions (hours and days of work). I was the only employee in the house where I was working. But in my family I wasn't the only maid. Every morning I would leave for work with another girl who was my namesake. She too was called Pascaline.

How do you feel about being an orphan?
It is true that every child would want to know their parents. Unfortunately for me the destiny is different. Really, I am sad not to have known either of my parents.

Do you think you would have been happier if you had been brought up by your mother?
I don't think so. My aunt brought me up as her own child. Remember, she didn't have any children with her husband. But all the same I would have wanted to be, even if for a short time, either with my mother or my father or both.

Tell me how you got married
We didn't have a big celebration. We just got married at the town hall. And ours is a monogamous marriage as recommended by our religion, Christianity.

What was your husband doing to earn a living?
He was in trade. He was running a small shop, which he stills owns today. He started the shop when we were in Dakar and transferred it later to Bignona.

Why did he transfer it to Bignona?
It was after his father died. The grandfather was alone in the house in Bignona and we had to come back to take care of him. This was why he had to transfer his trading activities to Bignona so that we could have an income here.

Outside trade, does he have another activity?
No… Just trade.

What about you?
I was doing nothing when we got married in Dakar. But here we have our rice fields and I work there.

And to whom does this land belong to?
To his grandfather, who inherited it from his father. Now it is my husband who uses that land. Now that the grandfather is too old, it is my husband who uses the land.

What about you, do you have land of your own?
No. Not here in Bignona. I work with my husband on his grandfather's land. But if I had been married where I was born in Niaguis, I could have inherited land from my grandmother.

Land is given where you grew up?
It's not given. You can inherit it from your parents. In our tradition when a girl gets married she is given land from her parents so that she can work and feed her children. When she dies her children inherit the land.

Do you believe you can still work on your husband's land after his death?
I think so. I believe I will work on that land as long as I have the strength to do so.

Do you think that in this part of Bignona, Manguiline, women have access to land?
I can't say. I haven't been here long enough to know the realities here. I only know that they work hard in rice fields. But I can't tell you how they have access to that land.

So how is land allocated here?
I can't say for sure. But I know that some landowners rent out their land. In that system it is some kind of contract whereby you share the crop with the landowner. Now don't ask me how it is shared. I cannot tell you because I don't know.

Are you prepared to rent land?
Why should I? My husband and I are not in the situation where we need to rent land. For the moment we have enough, but maybe later, we will see.

Do you know if there are any conflicts in the system of renting land?
Maybe there are. But for the moment I haven't heard of any.

So who borrows or rents land?
Those who haven't got enough land or who have no land at all.

Let's talk about health: what do you do when a member of your family falls ill?
We take him to hospital. First you have to buy a ticket to be examined. And after that you get a prescription which you have to pay for. It is the same process when I get pregnant. I first buy a 700 CFA ticket to be examined by a nurse. Then I have a series of prenatal examinations. We are lucky here; the health facility is not far from here.

Do you belong to any association or other types of groupings?
Here we are organized by age groups. I belong to the women's association of my age group. We provide our services for a fee during the rainy season. But this season I didn't take part because I was pregnant. Otherwise I am a very active member of the association.  And next season I will be right back in the middle of activities.

What are the main activities of your association?
We essentially plant rice or harvest it.

And you get money for this? How?
It depends on what we are asked to do. The rates depend on whether our services are required for half a day or a whole day, and also on whether we are working for a member of the association or not. The member of the association will pay 5000CFA for half a day and 10000CFA for a whole day. For somebody who is not a member of the association we charge 7500CFA for half a day and 15000CFA for a whole day.

And how many of you work for these rates?
There is an average of 20 members each time we work for someone. It may sound cheap to you, but remember the basic objective of the association is solidarity. So these are social rates.

What do you do with the money you collect?
We buy the same cloth for all members to wear at special events. Sometimes a member who is in serious difficulties may need help. We use the fund to assist the person, usually in the form of a loan.

Do those who get this type of loan pay back?
It is a question of honour. They always pay back. In fact if they didn't they would never get another loan if ever they got into difficulties. The fund works as a social insurance.

Personally, what benefit do you get from being a member of that association?
I believe that if you come into a community, you have to follow its mode of functioning. When I got here I saw that people were organized in associations. I had to adapt. But above all my personal interest is the solidarity aspect of the association. We help each other as much as we can. You can see that the rates we charge for our services on the rice fields are lower if you are a member.

Besides growing rice, what do you for survival?
Well, after the harvests I am in my kitchen and my house as wife and a mother. But I also have a small trade activity that I carry out from time to time. We have a refrigerator, so I make icecream to sell.

Where do you buy the produce to make your ice cream?
I buy the necessary fruits and plants at the market, and they are expensive.

Who are your customers?
I sell at schools, and sometimes at church. So children as well as adults are my customers. My icecream is consumed by all social categories.

What do you do with the money you earn that way?
A woman's needs are enormous. Not everything in the house comes from the pocket of the man. There is a contribution from the woman.

How did you fund your first operation?
My husband gave me the money.

Was it a loan or did he give it to you?
It was not a loan. He gave it to me.

Did you ever have to get a loan?
I have never borrowed money from anyone and no one owes money. Even in the worst situations, I have never approached someone for a loan. Thank God, I have never found myself in that type of situation.

How many children do you have?
In all, three children.

Do they go to school?
Only the elder one, my daughter, goes to kindergarten.

How many children do you wish to have?
It depends on God. For my part I will continue to have children as long as I can. God is far better than we are at planning. So I am not making any calculations.

What do you think about those who say that having a lot of children is risky?
Everything depends on the will of God. We will all have the number of children decided by God.

If you have a lot of children are you confident you can take care of them all properly?
Only God knows.

Can you bring them up all the way you want?
We are in a semi-rural area, where values such are respect for the elders are important. The community will help bring them up. As a mother I will be looking more after the girls, and the father will look after the boys.

Let's come back to your agricultural activities, how are you and your husband organized?
My husband does the nursery and ploughs the plots. For ploughing he hires men's associations like ours and they do it for him. So that in one single day all his plots are cultivated. As for me, I take care of planting the rice and also of the harvest. I sometimes hire our association.

What type of fertilizers do you use?
Nothing of that sort. When rain comes, we plough and that's all.

Why? Is it because fertilizers are expensive or you can't find them?
Both. But the bottom line is we don't really feel the necessity to use fertilizers.

How long does your own rice production last you?
A maximum of three months. We don't really produce a lot. We don't have enough resources or land to produce more.

You produce only rice, or do you do other crops?
Yes, one year we tried millet in addition to rice, and another year it was cassava. But it [produced] really very little, for our own consumption and not for sale.

You have been living in Bignona for some time now. If you had to choose between going back to Dakar and continuing to live here, what would you do?
I would definitely choose to stay in Bignona, for simple reasons. Everyone will agree that living in Dakar with not enough resources is very stressful. For instance we always had a problem to pay rent. Just to simply exist in Dakar was a problem. Here we only worry about the electricity bills.

Do you have any cattle here?
We are raising chickens. We also raise pigs and sell them often. Not so long ago we sold a pig because we needed money. We also sell pigs during religious events.

More precisely, why would you sell a pig?
Well, needs are a lot and varied. I can quote health problems for instance. When a member of the family gets sick, or to pay for school fees, you always need money.

Do you have a savings account?
I am not aware of it. It may be, up to this day I am not aware of my husband opening a savings account.

Would he necessarily tell you if he did?
I think so. We normally discuss things before any action.

Are there activities that you conduct together or where you complement each other?
I'll give you an example. My husband runs a small shop. He cannot be there all the time. So when he has to go somewhere I replace him.

Do you have a relative on whom you can rely for assistance if ever you were in an impossible situation?
I rely on no one else but my husband and myself. I have a cousin who lives in Spain, but he has never done anything for me. We sometimes talk on the phone, but not once has he sent any financial support for me, and I have never asked him for such support.

Conflicts happen in households; do you sometimes have a row with your husband?
I can't say that it has never happened. All couples have some people who sometimes interfere in their lives.

Can you give me an example of causes of conflict in your couple?
It happens that he tries to forbid me to do things that I like and I sometimes defy him.

Can you be more specific?
Food, for example. He can tell me not to put this or that ingredient in the food because he doesn't like it. Anyway, there are a lot of situations that are sources of misunderstanding.

What does he do when you are defiant?
We yell at each other and end up talking properly until we come to an understanding. He has never resorted to beating me. We always resolve our conflicts through discussion. After all conflicts are part of the life of a couple. And we try to apply the proverb that says that "dirty linen is washed within the family".

Do you have the courage to tell him what you don't like?
Of course! Every time I see that he is doing something I dislike I let him know.

What can you dislike? Can you give an example? His late nights?
Oh not that! I am and will be my husband's only wife. He is a Christian and signed for monogamy. So even if in our traditional culture he can have several wives, he has to respect his word.

What do you think of the conflict in Casamance?
It has made people more vulnerable to poverty. Working has become difficult because of insecurity. And there are no investments in the province. You cannot get a subsidy or a loan for activities.

If you get support, what would be your priorities?
I would simply ask for salaried employment, unless I get sufficient to invest.

What would you invest in?
Animal husbandry: cattle, chickens, pigs.

Are you trained to manage a loan?
No training whatsoever. But I think that women are naturally good managers. I have no fear on that side. But of course if I could get training. it would be better.

1/ Average exchange rate, (458.97 CFA franc = 1 US$), November 2009, Interbank rate,source: