Stories from the Field: Santidougou Widows Center
A Missed Opportunity
by Esther Shaeffer,
International worker in Burkina Faso
We first met this deaf young woman while she was still attending school. She connected with us right away and would often come by the house to visit, bring friends, But our conversations never went real far.
After she finished sixth grade, there was no further possibility for her to attend school. She didn’t seem to have any direction for her life. She helped out some at the deaf school with the younger children, would meet with other deaf young people, but couldn’t quite find her place. Her visits to us became less frequent. Sometimes I would stop by a shop in town where deaf young people would hang out and drink tea, but she was rarely there. When I would ask about her, others would give me the “she’s ok” sign.
After a few years had gone by, I was visiting at the deaf school one day and the director said to me that she was there. I found her talking with others in the school cookhouse and saw that she was obviously pregnant. A few months later, she brought her baby for me to see. I asked her what her plans were for herself and her baby and she just shrugged her shoulders. I then went back to the director and we talked at length about the risk that these young women have for being used and often abused by others because of their lack of practical skills that would enable them to have direction and a way to earn money. We began to look into some possibilities and thought that sewing would be a good option for older girls that had finished their sixth grade education.
It seems too late for the young girl that we befriended years ago, who now has two children and no prospects of work or marriage. But for other deaf young women, we are determined to give them an opportunity to be learning a practical skill that will give their life some direction.
As believers we have an obligation to the society where we are living. To give young women skills so that they can find jobs, benefits the young women and also the society. We have found this to be crucial in the deaf community.