Sunday, October 31, 2010

Natagora Gets Out the Vote for Ado

On Friday afternoon, I went to see an old friend in the village, a widow named Natagora Sylla. Natagora is never afraid to speak her mind and she is a fervent supporter of Ado.

I asked whether anyone had come by to show the women in her part of the village how to vote. “No, the men are too busy with the campaign,” she said. “So I decided to call a meeting myself.” Natagora isn’t literate, but the RDR men had given her a photocopy of the ballot and showed her how to mark it correctly. She also had a brochure that explained all the rules for voting. A non-governmental organization had dropped them off in the village to help women vote, although they confused most people because the sample ballot pictured in the brochure was an invented one, and when people looked for the symbol of their candidate, it wasn’t there.

By the time I reached her house later that night, about forty women, all dressed in their best clothes, were sitting on mats under the light outside. Natagora was holding up the photocopy of the ballot and shining a flashlight on it. The women passed the ballot and flashlight around and repeated her explanation. Find the little house and then go straight down and in the box under it, you either make an X with a pen or you dip your finger in the ink and put it carefully there.

Two of the women said they couldn’t vote because their photo was too dark. They could have their identity card remade, but not until after the election.

While the ballot went from group to group, the conversation moved from voting to marriage. Natagora said she thought it was time to end forced marriages in the village. “We want to marry this young girl to that young man. We, the parents, we start playing the drums and singing even if the couple is unhappy. All that is going to change. It’s going to be over.”

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