Peasant Autonomy
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Story 152

A small village in Burkina Faso – 2004


for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Rita Willaert)

Burkina Faso.

Tired, but satisfied, Ciré Bathily walks along the path to his village. In his hand he has the lead rope of the donkey, which is pulling a cart full of corn. For the last week he has worked like a mule to bring in the harvest. He even spent the night in the field, so as not to lose any time. But, the harvest was good.
When Ciré has almost reached the village, he sees his older brother striding towards him. “Ciré, listen what has happened! Your second wife has no respect whatsoever for the customs of the village. She is blocking the circumcision of some village girls. You have to put an end to this right away. For once, show that you are the boss at home.”

Mama Collé is the second wife of Ciré. A few days ago, four girls about ten years old had come running to her, and threw themselves to the ground. “Mama Collé, please help us. We are afraid. We don't want to be circumcised. It is terrible. For God's sake, help us.”
Mama Collé doesn't know what to do. If she helps the girls to avoid circumcision, she will experience the indignation of the whole village. Criticism of circumcision will not be accepted by the men, but also not by most of the women. While she is hesitating, her daughter Amasatou comes to her. “Oh, mama, don't turn them away. They are desperate, you have to help them. You also didn't get me circumcised, did you?”
That is true: when Amasatou had reached the age for it, she decided not to get her circumcised. She herself had suffered so much during her own circumcision – she almost bled to death – that she had resolved to spare her daughter this by any means. So much goes wrong with a circumcision. She was able to convince her good-natured husband Ciré to accept her decision, but since then in the village he is known as a spineless fellow.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Breezy Baldwin)

Burkina Faso.

Helplessly Mama Collé looks around, the four girls at her feet. The first wife of Ciré blinks her eyes understandingly. Then, Mama Collé remembers, that it is a holy Muslim duty to help people who seek protection of you. Now she is certain what to do, and says, “Girls, you can stay with me, nobody will touch you.”
A few moments later, Ciré enters the house. He is enraged, his face burns with fury. But Mama Collé is resolute. She will go all the way to help the innocent, terrified girls.


The movie Moolaadé (2004) from the Senegalese film maker Ousmane Sembène is a movie about village life – colourful and charming, until the moment when a terrible conflict erupts.

Go to:
= the next page: The tree of grandpa – Castellón, Spanje – 2006, story 153.
= the Table of contents, story 152.