The Paved Road to Progress

In the late afternoon, the sun is low, and without the earlier glare things are now easier to see without my eyeballs scorching and bunching up. From the car I spot a line of women and girls queuing at a borehole under some trees, each of them with a yellow plastic canister. They are patiently waiting to take their turns in getting water for the evening.

Here in the Ethiopian countryside, as in other African countries, the women seem to be the beasts of burden. Like those I have seen carrying baskets, wicker panniers, bales of fodder, stacks of wood, claypots or babies on their backs. Most of them have no shoes. Over the last hundred kilometres the number I have seen walking solitarily or in twos or threes, single file, along the road, strap over their head or a rope across their upper chests to keep the load in place, has exceeded anything else. One long procession of women at work. Like the equally endless lines of eucalyptus trees, sucking the water from the ground and denying the short conifers and palms the same. Without trees, no life. Without water no life.


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