Maria Karlya is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ghana. In an article in the Fall 2010 Worldview magazine she writes about the problem of the shea butter machines that are locked up in an old factory, while the women keep laboriously whipping the shea nut butter by hand. (I didn't know what shea butter was either so I looked it up.) They work so much harder than necessary, but the machines go unused.
So Maria contacted Adisa, an Ghanaian woman who works at an NGO that helps women to become self sustaining. Her encounter with Adisa leads to another long story about Peace Corps and Adisa's life, but for this post I'm just concerned with the shea butter mystery.
After a long conversation with Adisa, Maria asks her about the shea butter machines. Adisa responds:
"Maria, here is the problem. Making shea butter is a social event for these women. All day, they are in the house serving their men and children. They can't discuss their problems, because the men will hear. They have no privacy. But when they are under the trees making shea butter, the men won't mind them. That's when they can talk. They give advice to their daughters; they share ideas and discuss their troubles. They cherish that time. Those machines are incredibly loud, and only a few can use them at a time. The process ceases to be social. . ."
I try to remind myself that most things do make sense if you have all the data. Especially at home. But my wife will tell you I forget a lot.