Here are some contexts for our work in Chad, a sub-Saharan republic, and the fifth largest country in Africa.
Chad is nearly twice the size of France, the colonial occupier from 1920 to 1960. Its population is currently estimated at over 10m, most of whom, especially women, are employed in subsistence farming, livestock raising, the service sector and unpaid domestic work. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite recent exploitation of oil reserves and the huge potential of its solar energy. Estimates suggest that around 80% of the population live below the poverty line.
NOTE: Many of the statistics you will come across on Chad related websites can only be estimates. It takes money, commitment and expertise to keep accurate records. And it takes an educated audience to realise that an apparent rise in numbers of, say, miscarriages, can be partly due to improved methods of reporting and counting them.
Such poverty is often a disadvantage of a landlocked country, and the harsh climate in parts of Chad also contributes. There have been long years of intermittent violent conflict, partly of ethnic rivalries.This has led to the displacement of populations, many deaths, and many mutilations. One of the very few recent films to be set in Chad and directed and scripted by a Chadian, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, is A Screaming Man (2010) which deals partly with such violence. See also the Diary article on Chad in London Review of Books by Stephen Smith, July 3rd 2014 http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n13/stephen-w-smith/diary
The country, however, is rich in gold, uranium and oil. US-led foreign investment in oil projects began in 2000 and Chinese companies are also exploring and building related projects such as railway lines, an airport etc. in the south.
Chad’s oil reserves bring the consequences such revenue often involves for ‘developing’ nations. Complex ethnic tensions, hugely unequal division of wealth/power and rapidly globalising economies often sharpen the potential for corruption. In 2013 Chad was rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world (see Corruption Perceptions Index which also outlines problems of assessment methods).
The World Bank insisted, in return for a controversial 2004 pipeline loan, that the Chad government spend 80% of oil revenues on education, health, infrastructure and other desperately needed projects. But President Déby, in 2006, announced instead that he would spend the oil revenues to finance the military, buttress his nearly insolvent government, and shore up his hold on power. A compromise was reached: Chad’s government was to receive 30% of oil revenues with the remaining 70% to be spent exclusively on programs to alleviate the country’s poverty. The experiment was quietly abandoned in Sept. 2008 (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/world/africa/11chad.html ).
Women’s status and maternal mortality in Chad
The women of Chad face many forms of discrimination, depending on whether they are part of the ethnic groups of the north (mostly Arab Muslim livestock farmers) or those in the south (where Animists make up 39% of the population, and Christians 11%).
The World Bank estimates women make up 72% of the workforce.In theory all Chadians over the age of 18 have the vote. But the Chad Family Code grants women almost no rights; there are very few women in the government; and men are traditionally the heads of families, which affects women’s lack of inheritance rights, property and family rights and the confidence to initiate legal proceedings against domestic violence. Many marriages are arranged when girls are just 11 or 12 years old, and sometimes involve the payment of a dowry. Despite a law that prohibits sexual relationships with girls under the age of 14 years, including those who are married, the incidence of early marriage is extremely high.
One hopeful sign of change in male attitudes to family size and maternal mortality (a ‘School for Husbands’ in the Ivory Coast) which may translate to Chad, is described in this 2014 BBC radio programme : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04gwdgx
All this leads to the very low level of girls’ enrolment in secondary education. Even though primary education was declared free of charge in 2006, and many schools constructed, there are large gender inequalities in access to education. For example, primary school completion rates for girls are estimated at only 25%.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) has technically been prohibited in Chad since 2002 and the government has embarked on a campaign to eradicate the practice. Again, its prevalence varies widely depending on ethnic group, region, religion, education and standard of living. To date there is some decrease in the number of mothers who have subjected, or intend to subject their daughters to FGM. This in turn will improve the prospects of women in childbirth, for whom type 3 FGM can impact disastrously. See the work of Comfort Momoh one of SBICF’s Trustees, who visited with us in 2011. And a beautiful film, Moolaade (2004) by the African director Ousmane Sembene is a fine, vivid yet careful introduction to this difficult topic.
Overall, health indicators in Chad are among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, and the lifetime risk of maternal death in 2013 was 1 in 15. Nevertheless, the women and children of Chad are some of its greatest resources. See the fledgling Chad Midwives Association. And see Grace Kodindo’s analysis of the problems and possible solutions to Chad’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in the sidepage to the ’What we do’ page of this website.
This photo is nothing to do with our campaign, or the areas where we work!
But it does show one part of the astonishing country that is Chad. It was taken by ‘menasce‘, with our thanks for its usage here. He comments:
“Camels in the Ennedi mountain range, near the border with Sudan. This barren canyon holds an ancient reservoir of surface water… unique in the Sahara desert. In this dirty pond… can be even found crocodiles… which survived in the region in the last 10,000 years, when the place changed from fertile savannah to arid desert. What really astounded me was the sound produced by the camels, which reverberates through the walls of the canyon.”
The photo is available, with other striking images of Chad, on www.trekearth.com/gallery/Africa/Chad as well as on Dario Menasce’s home page and in his collection of photos from Chad, within http://www.pbase.com/menasce