The City of Kigali wakes up and invades the dirty and paved streets. It’s a city that is walking towards the Vision 2020 and its full ambitions. The Rwandan woman wakes up with it as early as the first signs of nighttime fade.
The Rwandan society as many other societies has tailored itself to the modern civilized world. The economy is flourishing. Kigali the main city and capital of the country is growing like a mushroom taking its shape in the sophistication of its Master Plan. The modern Rwandan woman was not left out, she joined the crowd as pulled by an invisible string of the development era. She has learned different skills so she can cope up with this competitive world. She is no longer a house mistress, who is proudly caring for her husband and her children; rather she is a professional. What an intimidating word! This also means she has to wake up as early as 5:30am, every morning.
Before she takes a shower, she thinks about the struggle she has to secure. She murmurs words of prayers and ensures that she is really communicating with her God. But her heart is beating fast trying to remember every single task she must take care of. Although she is praying, her inner mind is making a to-do-list.
She has to wake up her tenderly sleeping children and prepare them for a school day. They lazily open their eyes, try to fall asleep again but she is there such a school matron to ensure they get ready on time. By the same time, she has ensured that the maid has put a bucket of hot water in the bathroom.
- “I hope she remembered to iron their clothes” she murmurs to herself and her God.
She goes back to her room and tells her husband:
- I have prepared your clothes for the meeting. Your socks are also in the white box in the closet.
She runs to the bathroom. As she is showering, she thinks about her work. The institution is about to restructure again, which is a polite way of downsizing. She heard some seniors saying that women are more likely to be the ‘beneficiaries of the restructure’. She can’t lose her job! Her job is her pride. Not only she is making money to provide for her children but also her extended family. Her job is a source of pride in her entourage and in her society. It allowed her to gain a respectful place. She is responsible of herself, self-confident and financially independent. Even her church seeks her advice because she appears to be a respectful and smart woman.
As she is reflecting, she closes the tap and the lukewarm water deprives her of its freshness. Her son has called ‘Maman’. He has shouted so hard as if someone slaughtered his stomach. She knows that he has a complaint.
- “Maman, I don’t want to wear this red pullover!”
Honestly, the mother has no time to think about pullover colors but she knows from experience, if she doesn’t handle that right now, it will lead to an ocean of tears till the child reaches the main school gate. And the teacher will call her to ask for an explanation of that sadness.
She sighs and listens. She has not planned to give in to her son’s caprices. She just has to find the magic words to calm and convince him to wear red pullover.
By that time, breakfast is ready. Daddy is savoring his. He has put on a tie that doesn’t match his shirt. The one his wife has not prepared. She knows he means: ‘You pick my clothes but I have the final choice, the final word’. She doesn’t have minutes to discuss about another cloth preference. So far, she has got time to wear her underwear, a bra and a skirt.. She patiently orders her kids to finish breakfast. Dad is there on the other end of the table as a third entity. He doesn’t shout, it’s mom’s role. Maman’s chest is still solely covered by a black bra. As papa and kids are having breakfast, she can rush to the room and get ready. She slips on a colored blouse. She puts on red high heels that the maid has cleared of dust after waxed dad’s black leather shoes.
As usual, she has her make-up box in her handbag. Again she wasn’t able to block off 3 minutes for her beauty treatment. It’s time to go. Her two children have their backpacks. Homeworks were completed last night, all poems repeated and songs sung. They were ready for a successful school day. By the time, they have to get in the car, the second born has forgotten his brand new Mathematics book, he accuses his sibling of hiding it. They find it and finally are ready to leave the family cocoon. The maid opens wide the gate, the car engine hums.
Among other things professional women have adapted to is owning and driving cars. She is driving her kids to school. When she reaches the gate. The maid shouts:
“I don’t have money to buy food stuff”
“I was here since last night, why didn’t you ask me for the money in the evening?”
She is upset. She handles her a 5000 frw note.
“What I am going to cook for tonight?” The maid asks again.
“I will call and tell you.”
She is more upset. Dad has already left with his own car. He has said a hurried almost authoritative “Goodbye kids”. He has forgotten to say nice words to Maman. He didn’t care about food stuff, he knows Madame will handle that. She is an expert. He secretly and unconsciously appreciates she manages such details.
Madame drives to school first. She enjoys the loud but warm screams of the kids in the back of the car. They even sing for her. Her maternal heart is softened, touched. She is instantly forgetting the morning rush. Now, they are mock fighting, prompting her to intervene as a fight is a fight and it should stop.
She has reached the office compound. She is 7 minutes ahead of time. She has time to make up. When she penetrates the office hall, she is a fresh professional woman. None, not even her husband can imagine how many decisions she took for everyone at home to have a good day. No one can guess how many times she ran and came back between her bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the bathrooms, the dining room and the parking.
At the office, she reads her emails, chats and gossips with some colleagues. She is clandestinely investigating on the restructuring process. Who is going to fall or to stay? Someone close to the human resource manager or to the country director? It’s hard to know, there are so many speculations. It’s so hard to focus on work, the pressure is too high. She should have smiled more to the HR manager but she hates that woman. Although she holds the final verdict, she incarnates a vulgar character.
She heard some women have offered sexual favors to their bosses. She knows some stories are rumors but others are also the truth.
She sighs again. Her phone vibrates, which means that emails are popping up. She touches the sensitive screen and sees a yellow envelope. She opens it and it’s a message from a guy, the one who has never given up on chatting her up. It’s a series of sweet words. She feels flattered and condemns that feeling of pleasure. It’s illegal for a married woman.
She focuses on the work, the red, elegant and tight shoes are torturing her feet. She doesn’t think about removing them. She receives another SMS, it’s from her husband. He is asking for details about their bank loan. It’s message without ‘Hi’ or ‘Thanks’.
She thinks about the restructure at the office, again. She has made effort to improve her English and Computer skills. She should have done a Master’s degree. But when? Between two pregnancies, between two diapers? She has lost that intellectual curiosity. She has another expertise to acquire. The balance between the wife, mother, Christian, community member and professional. It’s as hard as finding the right balance in her high heels.
It’s the afternoon, she has enjoyed lunch and she feels lazy and sleepy but she can’t show that. What would others think? In this restructuring period? There is no room for idleness or snooze.
Her phone snoozes reminding her of the meeting she has in ten minutes. She checks her phone, there are two other yellow envelopes. One is from her telecommunication company, it’s an annoying advertising message. The other one is from her house maid.
Kandi n’amakara yashize! - there is no charcoal at home!
This maid! She never makes one exhaustive list of the house needs. Ok, perhaps the maid is not the one to blame but people should curse inflation. She is still earning the same Rwandan francs but the dollar’s value is increasing. She can’t buy the same thing with the same amount as eight months ago. It’s hard to make the two ends meet. She can’t ask money to Mister. He has bought her a car and he is in charge of big family investments. There is her pride too. She wants to prove to him that she is capable of covering her needs and their home’s. It’s important to her.
She could have got that promotion if she didn’t fall pregnant last year. It slowed her career growth. She blames that pregnancy but she can’t blame her baby. He is such an angel. During the meeting, she is actively participating and she is carefully composing the dinner menu. They have guests tonight and she has to impress them. She has to defend her husband’s honor by playing the role of cordon-bleu cook.
It’s 5:40 pm. She leaves the office and passes by the supermarket, she buys some food and condiments. The traffic jam doesn’t help; she is losing time. The fish she bought is de-freezing in the back of the car. The smell is not very charming.
While queuing, she calls the charcoal shop tenant and asks him to send a sack of charcoal to her place. She receives a call, it’s from a great cousin from the village. He wants her financial support. He has been insisting as he is urged to start a small agribusiness. She repeats to him that she doesn’t have money. He begs, she persists and finally hangs up with a lie:
“I’m driving and I am near to the police, I risk to get a fine”
She is still stuck in the jam. She is sure he is cursing her. Because the cousin knows they own a house in Kigali and two cars. He deducts they are rich people who just don’t wish to assist his agribusiness dream. She will hear this from another cousin in the coming days.
She listens to the radio. They are talking about women’s empowerment. She knows there are a lots of women in the parliament and women rights are very respected. Sometimes, she doesn’t know what it means. She misses the point of how this translates in her busy-and-packed day. There is an imbalance in the emancipation. She knows that there are so many things that her husband is not yet ready to support her on. She has to pay attention so he doesn’t feel disrespected because of her professional status. She knows him. He can be bitter and aggressive. She knows how and when to be submissive to him. For her peace.
It’s the night. The stars are discretely shining in the sky. The guests are enjoying food. Men are channel surfing between Aljazeera, France24 news and a soccer game.
While men are distracted, she verifies if the maid has ironed the children’s school uniforms. She helps them to do some homework.
It’s 21:30pm. Guests leave. She has to keep smiling from the beginning to the end to make them feel welcomed. She silences the pain in her back. She takes all the dirty dishes to the kitchen before leaving the living room. Mister is still washing TV news. He used to help her in the first days of their marriage. He has stopped. She resents him, overtime. It’s true that he bought her the car that adds a portion to her pride but she wishes… she sighs. She wishes he could help her more to handle these day-to day invisible but tiring tiny tasks. She brings him slippers and takes his black leather shoes outside. He omits to say ‘thanks’. It’s a care he earned the day he wedded her.
By the time she finishes to showering, he has come to their room. He asks her to turn to his side. She doesn’t necessarily feel love at the moment. She dreams of a long night of deep sleep. She forgets to dream and turns to him. Tomorrow another day awaits her. But she is always thankful to her husband as he ensures that all the house doors are locked before going to sleep.