I’ve heard that Pidgin phase a lot this past week. We started interviewing different people in the community to find out what their current beliefs and practices are surrounding breastfeeding. Nancy came up from Bamenda and she interviewed four people in Pidgin English on Friday. I’m finding that the process of recruiting the interviewees has been just as interesting as their answers to our questions. One of the beautiful things about interviewing people in Cameroon is almost everyone is willing and has the time to talk to you. They find it quite strange that we ask them to sign a consent form prior to the interview. One man insisted that he write his telephone number on the form as an additional way to identify him, even though the whole point of the consent form is to explain that we will do our best to protect their anonymity. Later, Nancy and I were walking towards the Junction, as it called, looking for a man to interview. We saw a Muslim man and thought he would be a good candidate. Nancy approached him and asked if he had some time to answer some questions. He looked at me and said, “Sure, if she’ll be my wife!” I looked at Nancy and said, “Oh no, I’m willing to make sacrifices for this project, but I won’t go that far!” Then with a big grin that revealed his missing two front teeth, he said, “But I have most of my teeth!”
Regardless of the forays of recruiting interviewees, we are starting to collect some interesting information surrounding breastfeeding, such as the belief that a breastfeeding mother cannot have sex because it will spoil the milk for the child and that if a pregnant woman breastfeeds her child the child will get “runny stomach” (diarrhea). Adhering to the first belief is problematic because the men will not abstain from sex for that long and they usually will have sex with other women during this time. We have four more key informant interviews scheduled for this week and two focus group discussions, including one with Muslim men which I think will be particularly interesting. Too my surprise all of this is happening much faster than I expected and anticipate that we will begin our second phase by the beginning/middle of April.
With all of these discussions about breastfeeding and childcare this past week I am reminded again of the silent strength and resilience of Cameroonian women. I watch Franklin’s mother hoe her farm by hand and admire her fortitude and grace of this fifty-something woman. She left her abusive husband years ago and has raised her six children by herself in addition to her granddaughter and 2 nieces and nephew. I also am in awe of Doris, my housecleaner, who cheerfully comes to my house every Monday and sings while she washes my concrete floor by hand. She works full time at the LAP center, cooking and cleaning all day, before returning to her mud brick house where she is also raising her six children by herself. My hope and prayer is that I can continue to understand what life is like for these women so that we develop an audio program that truly is beneficial and relevant.
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
Oriah, The Invitation