The most apparent difference between the life of an 18 year old girl in Siares, San Ramon and the life a typical western 18 year old is that in Siares she will be settling down and will be either married or engaged. Family and community are very important aspects of village life and from a young age the girls in Siares are taught this. From as young as seven the girls here are seen helping around the house and by 13, if not younger, are in charge of household chores such as cooking and cleaning. The houses are very basic, made mainly of mud, corrugated iron and wood. They usually consist of two rooms and a kitchen. One room is a living room type area containing basic chairs, pictures of the family and occasionally a television with poor signal. The other room is the family bedroom. On average five family members share a house but in the one where we are staying there are nine. The kitchen is an open fire with perhaps a place to put a basin to wash or to prepare food. There is minimal electricity and even though there are lights, these are only used for a short period of time in the evening.
Entertainment for a typical teenager here is the daily soap opera “Maid in Manhattan”. This is on daily from Monday to Friday and shows a life far from the reality they have here. The toilet and washing area are outside, with the washing area consisting of a bucket of water and a bowl. The toilet is a cement block with a hole in the ground which we have all had to acclimatise to!
For an 18 year old girl here education is not
regarded as important and it is rare if not unheard of for females to be in higher
education. It is seen as much more important to be at home. Men however are
either in education such as college or university or are working in agriculture, particularly on coffee plantations. They earn a minimal wage and the work is
hard. We visited one of the local
plantations and witnessed the hard work they put in to support their families. Recently
however there has been a disease that has spread through the crops of coffee and this has meant a drop in the amount produced and consequently a decrease in earnings. Despite this the families have been incredibly friendly and generous, welcoming us into
their families and making room for us in their small homes.
staying with six different families who all have young children within them. They are all so grateful to Raleigh for building
the preschool which will be so beneficial not only to the community as a whole but particularly to the young women of Siares. The preschool will give the children a safe and less crowded
place to receive an education. It will also allow the young women more freedom and time to provide for their families and even gain an education for themselves. As we can see how it
will benefit so many people it makes all our hard work worthwhile. Seeing how the families live and how they
take such good care of their homes and families even though their means are so basic makes us all grateful for our own home comforts. It definitely has made us realise how lucky
we all are and how much we take things for granted.
|Typical house in Siares, San Ramon|