[i] Hello!

[r] Hello!

[i] Do you have an object that you feel strongly about introducing me?

[r] An object that is close to my heart… Yes, I have one.

[i] Which one, please?

[r] It’s this object. It is a pearl jewel, a pearl jewel that initiates wear on the last day when they have finished the cycle of initiation. They come to the public square to dance and it is this pearl jewel that they wear that covers their faces with many other jewels that I didn’t take everything. But this one in particular, I take it everywhere with me.

[i] Can you tell me why it’s important to you to present it?

[r] It means a lot to me because it’s a jewel of contrast, we’ll say. It is a jewel that has hurt me as much as it has good, in the sense that you wear it when you are initiated, and since I went to the initiation in spite of myself because I was harassed, so that’s the negative side. The positive side is that this initiation has brought something to our society and it is that because of that today, I can speak freely about the fight against FGC [Female Genital Cutting] because I myself have experienced the situation. So, it’s an object, let’s say, that feels good before it has… no…

[i] It’s symbolic in a way.

[r] Exactly, it’s a symbol. It is a symbol of my youth, a symbol of my transition from the state of adolescence to the state of the girl. It is a symbol of integration into society, so it is something that is important to me.

[i] Okay. Can you introduce yourself?

[r] My name is[name of the interviewee], wife[name].

[i] What country do you come from?

[r] I am from Chad. Chad is in Central Africa and particularly in Mandul, therefore in the department of Moissala.

[i] Okay. Were you born there in Chad?

[i] I was born in Chad, let’s say there, because after that there was the cutting, but otherwise I was born in the Middle Shari, in Bedjindo

[i] When?

[r] Before independence.

[i] That is, born before 1960?

[r] Yes, born before 1960, yes.

[i] Can you tell me about the circumstances of your birth? Did you hear a little bit about it or how it went?

[r] The circumstances of my birth, I didn’t really ask myself the question, but I just know that I was born in Dedjiondo, my grandparents worked there and my father was a nurse in sector 4, he travelled a lot, so when my mother was almost full term, she left Fort Archambault, currently the city of Sarh, to go and give birth to her parents as many women did, many families in her time. And that’s how I was born in Bedjiondo.

[i] Do you have any brothers and sisters? What is the sibling?

[r] I am the second of eleven children, including five boys and six girls.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit about your siblings?

[r] Since I am second, there were many children after me. And as in our customs, the eldest daughter is the one who takes care of her brothers and sisters, so I was practically the second mother of my brothers and sisters. There was a very good understanding at home, there was respect. I looked after the children, I made them food. I was the one who washed them in the afternoons. I was totally in there like I was the mother. And that’s also how you learn to become a mother, to take care of children. It’s because you do it all the time in your family, you learn it on the job because there’s no school here where you go to learn how to cook or take care of children, take care of the house. It’s done at home, so with her aunts and mothers. That’s how I took care of my brothers and sisters.

[i] And where do the parents come from? They also come from the same region of the Middle Shari.

[r] My parents both come from Moïssala’s department as well. They are both natives of Mosesala. They were born there, my father and mother.

[i] And the eldest is a boy or a girl?

[r] The eldest was a boy, unfortunately disappeared very early today, but it was a boy who was… It is difficult to talk about his brother, but for the people who knew him, he was a brilliant journalist who made people talk about him despite the short life he led, and he marked national and international opinion, especially during the Cameroon-Chad match, I think in 1978, if my memories are good, and that’s where he stood out and everyone talked about him because of this report which really crossed borders. Sadly, he died very early.

[r] And the disappearance is a sudden or sick death or a disappearance… don’t you know?

[r] It’s a disease except that it happened when the country was at war, there were no hospitals. It was not possible to take care of the people, but nevertheless we were able to evacuate him to Cameroon but when we arrived in Cameroon, it was too late. And that’s how he died, after which his body was repatriated home.

[i] And the other brothers and sisters, the other nine?

After me, there was a boy who joined the army and died very early. He himself has not even served a year in the army, he died in northern Chad and another boy who is currently in Chad. After that, there was still a boy who is currently working in Chad. He’s a businessman. After the boy, it is a girl, a girl who was a woman’s director at the Ministry of Social Affairs for a while and she is still there, so she is a sociologist. After the sociologist, there is another girl who lives here in France, who is an administrative agent working in a local society in France. And the other girl, she’s a lawyer, she has a master’s degree in law. She stayed in Gabon for a long time. And now she has returned to the country, to Chad. I think she’s looking to make her mark right now in the country. After the lawyer, there is a girl who, unfortunately, did not go to school like us. So she’s at home, actually she’s in charge of the house. Even if she has not had much education, she still has a role to play because she has been with our mother until the last few days. She is the mother of the house now. Another boy, the last one, who currently lives in Mosesala.

[i] How long have you lived in Chad?

[r] I left Chad at the end of my secondary school studies in 1975. I left there to study midwifery in Togo. After these studies when I finished in 1978, like everyone else I returned home to work, and it so happens that my husband came to France for training. And I took the opportunity to follow him here to enroll in medical school. Unfortunately, war broke out again, there were no more possibilities to get the scholarship. We stayed without a scholarship so as I couldn’t continue my medical studies, my husband having finished, he sent his resume everywhere and we kept his file in Niger. That’s how we left France to work in Niger. From Niger, two years later, he sent his resume everywhere again, he was recruited in Gabon. And so, we came to Gabon in 1980. It was in Gabon that I spent a lot more time. From Gabon, my husband started working and I didn’t do anything, so I couldn’t stay waiting for him to bring me money so I did odd jobs. I sold to the cosmetics market. I even sold the ice cream in the schools. And it was after that that I was recruited to work in the Gabonese civil service as a midwife. So, from 1980 to 2004, I was still in Gabon in the civil service; and in parallel with the civil service, I opened a birth clinic. So I was a self-entrepreneur from 1992 to 2010, let’s say. And cumulatively with my position as a midwife in the public service and owner of my medical practice, I was involved in medical delegation, thus providing therapeutic information to doctors. I represented the pharmaceutical products of an agency that is based here in France. I represented that agency in Gabon.

[i] Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about life in Chad before you leave Chad, then Gabon? How…? Your journey in these countries? What was life like?

[r] My life in Chad was a normal one. I lived in the family home, as I said earlier, with my brothers and sisters. So everyone went to school and there was a good atmosphere at home and there was nothing special. Except that my father, like all fathers, because in a household, if the man is hard, the woman is not, and vice versa, my father was very hard on us. It bothered us a little bit because he was watching us a lot for studies. I never went to a cinema or a nightclub before I left Chad, I didn’t know all that because my father didn’t give us the opportunity to go there. We were not happy, but as we grew up and once we entered the workforce, we thought he was right because if he hadn’t done all this, we would not be able to continue our studies and enter the workforce and live normally from our work. So it was a serene, normal life, nothing special. My journey in Gabon was a combatant’s journey. Because with hindsight, I wonder, how could I have held three positions while being a mother of four children? I had no time for myself, and very little time for the house and I didn’t realize it. It is now with hindsight that I realized that I wasn’t at home all the time, but that didn’t stop my children from learning normally and being able to succeed in school too.

[i] And in Niger, how long did you stay there… with your husband?

[r] In Niger, it was quite short, we stayed just two years. I also worked at the maternity ward in Niamey during these two years. It was my first job and I had a memory that left its mark on me and continues to do so today because it was in Niger that I was… confronted, during my first shift, with a dystocic delivery problem on a 15-year-old girl who was excised. This girl arrived, anemic, tired, after several hours on the road, she was brought in and I was the one on duty. When I examine her, I see that the baby almost doesn’t live anymore and that’s when I realize that she couldn’t give birth because her vaginal canal was narrowed after the excision. We had to perform a cesarean section on this little girl to remove the baby who died and that really affected me. This is one of the reasons why I am fighting to fight FGC today.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit about midwifery work in general in these different countries in Gabon, Niger?

[r] Midwifery, the profession of midwife, is a profession, we will say, paramedical and medicine being a universal science, it is everywhere the same, the way women are followed, it is everywhere the same except the conditions which can vary from one country to another because of technical platforms, because of financial means, because of the problems of underdevelopment. Otherwise, in Niger, it was just in the maternity ward for two years, I gave birth to many women. There have been moments of sorrow and there have been many moments of joy, but the sorrows mark more than the joy. As I said earlier, they were excised women and that did not help things. It was quite difficult and I was warned, but I still managed to avoid having these women perform cesarean sections often. So, in Niger, I can only talk about the practice of childbirth. On the other hand, in Gabon, I started in maternity, so also childbirth, where it was much better than in Niamey, because there were many more of us. There were several delivery rooms, the women were not on the floor so there it was fine. Everything went well so, three years in the delivery room and then we rotated between the delivery room and the diaper suites. The consequences of childbirth are the hospitalization of women who have given birth. Then you also have to watch them to see that everything is fine, that they are not bleeding postpartum, that the baby is fine. They are monitored for four, five days and depending on their condition, they are allowed to go home and come back for monitoring. After the maternity, I was sent to a dispensary of a teacher training college. It may seem a little strange because it’s… it’s a college, we train teachers but there’s an infirmary. And I was chosen because I am a midwife and this school… When we were in the maternity ward, we noticed that most of the girl students who came to give birth came from this school. So a midwife had to go there to do family planning, to prevent them from getting pregnant and to continue their studies. So I did family planning at the normal girls’ college in Libreville for 11 years. After that, I also worked in a small business, so it’s an extension of what I did in college except that in college, I was alone and there, it’s a whole family planning centre. So there were several midwives, several childcare assistants, childcare workers, there were gynaecologists, there were general practitioners. We followed them from pregnancy to childbirth and then we referred them to the maternity ward. After the birth, these women come back with their babies so that we can continue the vaccinations, monitor the evolution of the children’s weight gain, their eating habits, do they need to be fed, breastmilk or artificial milk. They were given advice and so I went through the practice of childbirth, family planning and post-partum supervision, supervision of infants and their mothers, to get back on track.

[i] What is family planning? You mentioned the PMI… what is it?

[r] The IMP is the name of maternal and child protection. So it is in this centre that we receive pregnant women for surveillance, mothers and children.

[i] And the planning…?

[r] Family planning is that women should be taught, for example, to space pregnancies because women in Africa generally have many children. Especially if it is in a country like Niger or among Muslims, forty days later the woman can go with her husband. And this woman who has just given birth at barely two months old gets pregnant and ends up pregnant with a two-month-old baby. And this family planning consisted in monitoring these women to avoid close pregnancies, to also monitor children for food so that children can grow up well because not all mothers necessarily know what to feed their children. After breastfeeding, the meal should be balanced, so we try to tell them, what to prepare, when to feed the child according to age. So all this is part of family planning.

[i] Was there no cultural interference with this family planning that might have come from elsewhere?

[r] Cultural interference, we can’t avoid that. It was also one of the problems that needed to be made clear to these women that not all cultures are necessarily good. We should take what is good and leave out what is not good. Like them, you absolutely have to go with their husband on the forties, if you explain to them that if you are pregnant, the baby is two months old, you have the nice signs of pregnancy, you will be tired, you will vomit, you can’t eat well, whereas when you have a little baby, you don’t sleep well at night. And on top of that, you’re tired yourself, during the day you can’t do anything for the older children. And even for your husband, you won’t even be able to cook for him anymore. So we explain it to them and they finally understand. There is family pressure but with time, little by little, we don’t rush them, we don’t impose ourselves, but we put them in front of the fait accompli that you have, the situation in which you have… you will find yourself if you do that, that. It was difficult, but in the end there were many who understood and managed to space their births without any problems.

[i] Why did you choose medicine, especially health?

[r] I chose, it’s about my father. My father who was therefore a nurse and head of the centre of our sub-prefecture in Moïssala. Once, I was sick and so I was….. They picked me up from school to take me to the hospital. And knowing that my father works there, the person who accompanied me didn’t take the normal circuit to say we’re going to go to the consultation to have you examined and all that. He took me directly to the pavilion where my father worked. They were on a medical visit. There were at least twelve people dressed in white coats and when my father was told that his daughter was sick. He replied, “Bring her in for a consultation, I’ll finish the visit and come, I’ll come after.” Well, at first glance, it shocked me. I say, but I’m sick and my father wants to take care of the other sick first and then come and take care of me? But with hindsight, I had more admiration for him because he took his work to heart. He is not a nurse for the family, he is a nurse for everyone. He is a nurse to treat the entire population. So there is no priority! And it touched me a lot and I say, I want to do what my father did. And that’s how I took three contests in the year there. The midwifery school competition, the customs competition and the ENA competition, i. e. the National Administrative School in Chad. I was successful in these three competitions but since I already wanted to do medicine, I didn’t hesitate and then in my family too I was told no, don’t do the administration because it will be the papers. We have to go to medical school to come and heal us. And that’s how I went to midwifery school.

[i] Okay, can you tell me when you arrived in France?

[r] So I arrived in France twice. The first time was in 1978, as I said earlier. And then we went to Gabon. I used to come back a few times, but it was for the holidays. But there to settle down, I arrived here in 2004.

[i] Under what circumstances?

[r] As I often came here, when I came in 2004, I didn’t plan to stay, but since in Gabon, I had already lost my husband and it was a little complicated with the medical practice I had, it was starting to flounder and then get there, I said, well, but since I’ve already worked here, why not try to see if I can move here. And that’s how I got a job, so I stayed two years. And after these two years, I went back to Gabon to resume my activities. I even resumed my activities and my head of department here called me and told me, because I resigned before leaving, that one of my colleagues had resigned and that I should come. I told him that no, after two years, I had just started work. I can’t do it anymore… I have no reason to leave again because if I leave again, it is because I am leaving the public service. He convinced me by saying, but people, they want to leave Africa to come and work in France. You, we call you to come to work, and you want to stay to work in Africa? Now I don’t understand. And that’s how he convinced me and I quit. I came back.

[i] Didn’t you have much more difficulty getting a visa, papers to get there?

[i] No, no, no! I didn’t have any difficulties because, since I came and went often, I stayed two years so for two years, I had a one-year residence permit. And when I came back, I didn’t have any trouble getting the visa.

[i] Okay, and when you arrived, what city are you in? Are you in Paris or Ile-de-France?

[i] When I arrived, I was in Ile de France, at a friend’s house near Créteil. She was the one who took me in for the first time. And, it’s from there, when I started looking for work, I went to see the social workers who gave me… Besides, they’re the ones who helped me get a job. And it was the social workers who also helped me to get an apartment in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.

[i] Okay, and how long have you been living there?

[r] Since 2004.

[i] Okay, can you tell me about your stay in France, in Paris?

[r] My stay in Paris, good! I can say that I still had fewer difficulties compared to other people because since I was already… I was already there, I know about how it works. I know a little, I say a little, about the workings of the administration, so I didn’t have too many difficulties. But once things are back to normal, that’s where the difficulties will start. Because I realize that I now have to live here, be cut off from mine. I was alone and my children had stayed. And that was the big problem, how do I get my kids to come? And it wasn’t easy.

[i] Okay. What are your expectations when you come to France?

[i] Well, my expectations when I came to France, I had already made the decision to go back to Africa. But as I said earlier, my head of department convinced me. So, when I come here, I say that I can no longer go back to work in Gabon. Because it’s going to be the third time I’ve left and come back, they’re not going to accept it anymore. So, when I come back here, it’s to fully integrate myself and live in French society, now for as long as possible.

[i] For the children, it was a family reunion or how was it done?

[i] For the children, I tried to do family reunification and it took time, it took more than three years. And according to the advice of people who have experienced this situation that, if at a certain age, it will be more difficult to bring them in. So I would bring them in for the holidays and they would never leave again.

[i] Okay. Were they able to normalize their situation? Everyone?

[r] Yes, yes, they managed to regularize their situation and they learned here, everything went well.

[i] Can you tell me in which environment you live in Paris or Ile-de-France.

[r] I left the Ile de France three years ago. I went to live in Auvergne where I bought a small country house where I currently live and I feel good there. And it’s a bit like living in Africa because in the countryside it’s much more friendly than in Paris. People, they hang out, they say hello. There are small gathering points where everyone sees each other, everyone knows each other. I feel fine.

[i] You always go back and forth Paris, the countryside, right?

[r] Yes, yes, since my children are here and because of the associative activities, I am regular in Paris.

[i] Still in the 20th, your address?

[r] Still in the 20th century.

[i] Okay. So now you have your whole family in France with you?

[r] Let’s put it that way.

[i] Can you tell me a little bit about your family in France? How many children are there? What are they doing? How is it going?

[r] I have five children, four of whom are here. So I have five children, four of them here in the Ile-de-France region. The first one studied insurance, but since the work is difficult, she has turned into a hotel business. She has a CAP in cooking and works in restaurants. The boy already had a BTS in computer science in Africa, and when he arrived here, he studied computer science…

[i]… cinema, photography, communication,

[r] he made a… Wait, wait… [cut]

[i] Yes. You were telling me about the children…

[r] Yes, the boy, he has done an audiovisual study and so he is currently working. And the girl, she studied aesthetics, she’s here too and she’s doing home care. The last one, she graduated here. She’s studying, she’s in college. She is in economics.

[i] Economics, right. And you, have you been able to train here since you arrived?

[r] Not especially, I didn’t do any training because the midwifery diploma, I said it’s a universal diploma but unfortunately France doesn’t recognize diplomas, all the diplomas spent abroad. It is not only a question of medicine, but in all fields, France does not recognise diplomas that have not been awarded on French territory. And when I started looking for work on my first stay, I was asked to go back to nursing school in grade one. And I said it wasn’t worth it because the midwife does what the nurse does. So if it is to work here that I still have to do three more years of study to work as a nurse, I prefer to go back to work in Africa. And that’s how we left, but when we got back there, my diploma was converted into a childcare diploma. So instead of working as a midwife, I work as a childcare worker, except that in the field it’s not the same. In the field, it’s not the same knowing that they know I can do this job. But since it’s how they work, it’s the administration, they have to hire me as a nursery nurse, but when you’re in the delivery room, there’s no difference.

[i] Can you tell me about your work here a little bit? What did you do as a nursery nurse? Which clinic, which hospital did you work in?

[i] I worked at the Jean Verdier Hospital in Bondy, so in the delivery room, it was a clinic, as a nursery nurse, but as I said when we were together, we don’t know who is a nursery nurse, who is a midwife, but we all do the same thing. I also worked in the 11th arrondissement at the Bluets polyclinic, and so here in Paris, still in the delivery room as a childcare worker and since I was a little uncomfortable, because I didn’t have my hand free, to work as a midwife, but at the same time when they can’t handle it anymore, they ask me to take my hand. So I’m here as a childcare provider, but impliedly, I play the role of a midwife, and it’s a situation that was a little complicated for me. Somehow, I think to myself, if there is ever a problem, it will fall on me, because I am not hired as a midwife. And I thought there’s no point in coming to work in the maternity wards. I don’t have my bearings as a midwife. So this diploma, which was reconverted as a nursery nurse, also allowed me to work in a nursery. And I applied to the nurseries so I worked in a nursery in Arcueil-Cachan. After Arcueil-Cachan, I came to a crèche at Place de l’étoile, Paris 8e, near the Champs Elysées, and it was from there that I left for the province. So my diploma allowed me to work in maternity hospitals but also in nurseries. And that was a new experience for me. It was a new experience. Childbirth and baby care are not the same as in crèches because in crèches, children are taken from 3 months to 3 years of age, but it is not for medical care. It’s for education so I discovered another profession through my diploma that has been converted. And it went very well.

[i] What is the difference between a childcare provider and a midwife? Is there a significant difference?

[r] The difference is not very great. The midwife can very well play the role of a childcare provider because once the child is born, we also learn how to monitor the children. The childcare worker is the one who takes care of the baby who is already separated from her mother until a certain age, until she goes to kindergarten. So the midwife can do this follow-up, but unlike the nurse, the childcare worker cannot deliver babies or follow pregnant women. So the role of the midwife: pregnancy follow-up, childbirth and infant follow-up. The nursery nurse is simply from the infant.

[i] Can you tell us about your daily life in the 20th century? Is it Saint-Mandé?

[r] Yes, I am in the 20th; the 20th is the border in Saint-Mandé. It’s like I live in Saint-Mandé. My daily life, now, I’m retired, so I’ll say it’s a good life. I do almost nothing now except take care of the little children when I can, go for a walk, travel.

[i] Okay. What are your hobbies? Sports and cultural activities? Or when you retire, can you still play sports?

[r] Yes, yes, yes. In retirement you can still play sports. In my spare time, we have a sewing room where all retired women meet once a week. Everyone comes with their work and we are together, we work, we have tea, we eat cupcakes. This is at the level of the town hall and apart from that, I am very involved in the associative life so I often go to meetings. I move around a lot, I’m never there. My days are full. I walk, I registered in a hall in the place of the Nation where I go as I want to do maintenance sport. So I’m taking care of myself.

[i] And cultural activities, theatre, cinema, library, do you go there from time to time?

[r] Theatre, from time to time, but library almost not, almost not… but I have been to the movies. I have also been to the theatre sometimes. But above all, I watch a lot of TV, as a good retiree that we are all[laughs], I spend more time watching TV.

[i] Okay. What are your favorite shows? TV, general information?

[r] Information is essential, but I’m mainly magazines, reports, films unless it’s really an exceptional film, otherwise I don’t watch films. But magazines because they talk about everyday life, they talk about activities, about everyday experiences. And that interests me a lot, I learn a lot by watching magazines than by watching movies.

[i] Are you a member of an association? associations?

[i] Yes, I am a member of an association, therefore Assodecum, an association for the Mbaye culture. It is an association that speaks exclusively about the mbaye society. In Chad, there are many ethnic groups and we are a small group of Mbaye here. And since we’re far from home, we thought that even being far away, we have to get together so we’re not lost forever. And we have formed an association to search for our origins, since we live here, we have much more access to documentation to search for our origins and all that. And it helps a lot. Children born here are also taught to speak Mbaye, which is our dialect. So there is a linguist among us who is the trainer of the trainers. And this one, with him, many discovered Mbaye words they didn’t know before they came here. These are the ones who give the Mbaye course to children who do not understand anything about the Mbaye language. It’s a very interesting activity and it brings us closer to our country. And that way, we’re not detached from our culture.

[i] And other associations around here?

[i] Yes, I myself am the president of the Association for the Fight against FGC and the Protection of our Cultures. The fight against FGC has become a global phenomenon, everyone is talking about it, everyone is fighting it. Except that in this struggle, in this practice, there is the culture behind it. The cultural aspect is completely neglected, all we are talking about is banning FGC and if we let it happen, if it is banned, culture will go with it. And so the association we have formed fights against FGC, but with the difference that FGC should not swallow up the cultural side. So, we highlight that behind FGC, there is the practice of initiation, which is a culture rooted in our countries that is tending to disappear. We should try to maintain this culture because it is very important in the society of Mbayes women, in the community of Mbayes women.

[i] Why fight FGC? Why genital mutilation? For you?

[r] Fighting genital mutilation is necessary because we already do not know why we are doing it. It is a practice that has no advantage in the lives of young girls. I tried to understand why FGC is practiced in the Mbaye country, for example. I went to the countryside, I asked questions to the old aunts who are still there, but no one was able to tell me why FGC is being practiced. The answer is unanimous, everywhere we say but as our grandmothers did, so do we. They don’t know why, but it’s a practice that comes from elsewhere. It is a practice that has existed since the dawn of time. I think the origin comes mainly from Egypt. Then it went through the Horn of Africa, and with immigration, it came to us. So it’s been rooted in our culture for a long time, we make it our own. But in fact it is a borrowing practice and this practice is harmful, harmful to the lives of young girls. Girls are brought in from 6 to 15 years of age, the clitoris is removed. There are medical consequences. This young girl, if the scarring does not heal well and the vaginal canal is narrowed, she will have difficulty giving birth if she gets pregnant. And even before getting pregnant, there is a dyspareunia problem. Dyspareunia is painful intimate relationships. This healing, this ablation also puts the couple in difficulty and it can sometimes lead to divorce, it can also lead to sterilization, because… there is an infection problem. The objects used to remove the clitoris are not necessarily sterile. The same blade or shard of bottles is used on 4, 5, 6 girls. If they are sick, they will become infected. There is a bleeding problem and the bleeding can be fatal, she can die right away. Or the bleeding is not acute, it’s chronic and she will eventually die. Or she develops an infection that will turn into sepsis, this little girl may die. There have been many cases like this and when you explain to people that FGC can cause infertility, they don’t understand. It’s a total paradox because in their heads, they say to themselves, we would have to remove this organ for the girl to be fertile. So they do not understand why FGC can make them sterile and that they understand it when explained to them. For example, when there are menstrual periods, blood flows every month, but if the canal has become very small because there are places where the clitoris, the labia minora, part of the labia majora, are removed and cut, it narrows. If all the blood doesn’t flow, over time, it stays and rises in the womb, it can become what is called endometritis. It can go up in the fallopian tubes, so this girl will never get pregnant and no one will know that FGC is the cause of it. We’ll blame the aunt, we’ll blame the village witch. It’s because we didn’t share the dowry fairly, it’s the mother’s rival who bewitched her, but it’s the excision that caused it. So FGC kills, FGC makes you sterile. FGC has also, let’s say, the social side, it desocializes women because it can lead to what are also called vesico-vaginal fistulas. This woman who sees her peeing running on her while she is sitting with the others under the palaver tree, she gets up and the loincloth is wet, but we will accuse her of being a witch. The husband will leave her to take another wife because it’s unbearable to sleep on the same bed with an adult, and then in the morning, we get wet. She will be marginalized both by society and by the husband. So FGC has many more disadvantages. There is no advantage, the only advantage is not the practice of FGC but it is the initiation that accompanies this excision, which is why we were told that we must ban FGC, the practical side of mutilation and continue to perpetuate initiation.

[i] Perpetuate how?

[r] Perpetuate, in the sense that we can initiate girls without excising them because FGC somewhere is about religion, that it is a religious recommendation but it has nothing to do with religion. There is no passage in the Bible or in the Koran that talks about FGC. And if we see correctly, FGC existed before the two monotheistic religions, so we cannot say that it is the religion that recommends FGC. It’s always been around, religions came later. Simply in our countries, before the introduction of the practice of FGC, there was already initiation. It was called the “maa’g”. So we initiated the girls, brought them out of the village. They remain confined for three months and during these three months, they are introduced to the things of everyday life. They’re young girls, we’re going to learn how to take care of your husband. The relationships you need to have with your in-laws, how you need to talk with your in-laws. The respect that is really essential and if you have children, how you should educate your children, and all that. So, we can very well separate the practice of FGC from initiation and it is possible. Since this was done before. The maa’g, we have always practiced it and until today, we can still continue to practice the maa’g which is initiation without excision.

[i] How is it possible to lead this struggle in France?

[r] That’s why we set up this association because, whatever we say, here in France we also excise, we excise girls, the little ones. Before we waited for them to grow up, before we did and as grown-ups, it’s known. There have already been excisers here in France who have been imprisoned. And now they have understood, they do it when they are still a baby. Unfortunately, in nurseries, since children from 3 months to 3 years of age are received, it is also noted that babies are excised. So this struggle has reasons to be here in France because the practice is also done here in France. To help our countries, there are many communication tools here, there are many organizations that can help fund associations so that we can help girls who are in the country to do and prevent, and also treat those who are cut. Lately, on the day of the fight against FGC, I was in Chad, the sad fact is that there are girls who have these big keloids that block the vaginal canal, who can no longer have a relationship with their husbands. So it requires surgery. That is why, at the local level, we have set up this association and if we try to contribute something already at our level, if we try to help those who have stayed in the country, the organizations can help us so that we can already treat those who are traumatized, who can no longer have sexual relations, who can no longer have children. And above all, to do prevention so that this harmful practice can be stopped. Prevention is very, very important.

[i] Can you tell me what are the major events, key moments in your life in Paris, France? What really marked you when you arrived?

[r] What impressed me was the organizational level of medical care because everyone knows that in Africa when you come to the hospital, if you don’t pay, you don’t get received. I’ll tell you an anecdote that will amuse you. I’m coming here! I had my malaria attack. They take me to the hospital, I say, “But I don’t have any money, how am I going to do it? ” I’m told, “No, no, no, no, there’s no problem where we’re going to treat you.” And so, I was left on the stretcher, they came, they took the blood sample. They were waiting for the result to give me the treatment and I say, if they bring the result and I am sick, I will be hospitalized. How am I going to pay for it? I ran away to avoid paying the hospital. I was caught to bring me back and to my great surprise, I was taken care of. I didn’t pay anything, I went home. So it’s a significant fact that you’re sick, you get to the hospital, you don’t spend anything and you’re treated. And that I’ve never seen before before coming here, so that’s the event that marked me the most first.

[i] Are there other key events in your life in France, Paris or Ile-de-France?

[r] Events happen every day. It is true that there are others that are much more striking, but it is…. In my work when we talk with others, then they will whisper in their backs to say, “But how come she can speak French like us or even better than us, and sometimes she says words that we don’t understand?” That, it has, I can’t say that it has frustrated me, but it has given me the opportunity to show them that even when you are a man of colour, even if I don’t like the term men of colour because white is a colour, black is also a colour. Even if you’re black and you’ve learned, you can do the same thing as a white person. So why not better too, we can do as well as a white man. So I tried to make my colleagues understand that I was born in a country that was colonized by France. I learned to speak French at home, at school and that’s how I came here I didn’t learn to speak French in France. I came here with my African French and it did them some good too, because in fact they don’t know what they’re talking about. For these young girls, we are all like those who arrive because there are many, it must also be said, many who arrive here without knowing how to read or write. So when we see that you are Black, we put you in the same bag, that not all Blacks can speak French, not all Blacks can write. And finally it brought us closer together. They were no longer ashamed or reserved to ask me certain questions and I answered as much as I could.

[i] Can you tell me what your perception of Paris, of France in general?

[r] In a rather general way, if I compare with Africa, it is obviously a country of freedom already. We are much freer here in our reflections, in the actions to be taken, but without going beyond the authorized limit because we say that freedom ends where the other’s freedom begins. So, it’s a country that gives a lot of opportunities, when you want to do something, you do it. There’s no one to come and tell you, if you’re not outlawed of course, there’s no one to come and tell you why you’re doing this. Unlike our countries, where we are afraid of it all day long, we have no freedom even if you do something that is not political, we will turn it into a political act. I have seen here that we are much freer in our approaches, in our behaviour, in our thoughts about our countries.

[i] Okay. In what way…. In a general way, can you tell me how you see social issues in France?

[r] Social issues, I can only compare them to our own social issues. Society, France, is a very old civilization and therefore well organized, well structured. The company the way it is structured, I think it is one of the best companies. It’s not because I live here, but it’s one of the best organizations. We have a lot more facilities and there are a lot of opportunities. If we have the will, we can succeed here in France. There are so many things to do, you just have to be creative or follow the example of others, you will get by. I find that society is well structured, well organized, but somewhere along the line there is also a bit of a paradox. There is a bit of a paradox because I don’t understand why people sleep on the street. In Africa, they say we are poor, but I have not seen people sleeping in public places, on the streets in Africa. There is always an uncle, a cousin, an aunt to keep the person at home. This is what struck me a lot here, too, that in a developed country, where there is everything, the fifth largest power in the world, there are still people sleeping on the streets. For me, this is a paradox and I can’t understand it.

[i] Okay. When it comes to health care, do you have anything to say to me about that? You mentioned your case very quickly but in a rather general way, did you…?

[i] Yes, yes, I mentioned my case without finishing. As a result, health care is very good for me too. I was a little surprised to find in my mailbox the addresses of gynaecologists, radiologists to go and do tests. Because from the age of 50, there are these diseases that come without us noticing, such as cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer. They say you have to go and do it, and you don’t pay anything. I say, but what is this country, where you are at home, and they come to give you the paper to tell you to go for treatment. That I’ve never seen before. That’s part of the facts that also marked me. So, to talk about care in general, I find that the sick are cared for very well here. We can’t do miracles, but prevention is the most important part of medicine. Prevention is done here, especially for serious pathologies and it is done at no cost.

[i] Okay. Can you tell me about your relationships with your entourage, your neighbours, your community?

[r] I have this aura, to drain people when I’m somewhere. I don’t force it, but it comes by itself. I have good relations with my compatriots. Well, the other side in France, here where people are individualistic, so this is their way of life, we can’t ask them to change. There is individulism here. It’s very difficult to make friends, but when you’re at work, it’s not the same thing, you make friends. But in the neighbourhoods, it’s a little complicated because people, they leave very early and come home at night. Everyone closes their doors, they try to make something to eat, rest, start again tomorrow so it’s a little complicated. But only at work can you make friends. In my community, things are going very well. I have brought many people together when I am somewhere, I am looking to see a person. And it’s not a person I want to see, I want to see 4 or 5. And when these people get together, they say, ah, but here, we haven’t seen each other in eight years, have we? Yet, they are in the same city, but I had to be there to bring these people together. And it’s a gift, I don’t force it. I have this aura to attract people to me and it’s going very well. I welcome that.

[i] Can you tell me about your status right now in France? Have you always kept your original nationality or are you planning to apply for French citizenship?


[r] I still have my nationality. At one point, I was tempted to do it and I had a blockage and then I say, what more will it bring me whether I am French or Chadian? Insofar as I have a residence permit, that I am in a regular situation, it is a document that allows me to go out, to go back, to work. I don’t see why I’m going to try to change my nationality? I feel very well like that.

[i] What are your intentions? Are you planning to go back to Africa one day, live there or spend the rest of your life here in France?

[r] Unfortunately, these are questions that have no answers because no one has the future. You can say that you will live here for the rest of your life, but by a combination of circumstances, you end your last stay elsewhere? For the moment, I’m here, everything’s going well. We’ll see what the future will tell me.

[i] Are you still in contact with your country of origin?

[r] I go there often. I go once a year, or every two years. I go there regularly.

[i] For activities or to visit the family?

[r] To visit the family, not to be forgotten already, not to cut because, as they say, a piece of wood may stay in the river for a long time, it will never become a caiman. So, even if I live in France, I know where I come from and I want to maintain relations with my country, with my family, with my origins. It is by focusing on one’s origins, on one’s identity that one can assert oneself because one knows who one is. And in front of the other, we affirm ourselves by saying that I come from such places. That’s it, what’s going on in my house. If I forget everything, I’m in France, the French will talk about their origins, their social life and I, with my colour, will say the same thing as them? It doesn’t make sense, so I’d have to show that I come from somewhere. I have an attachment, I have a culture and that this culture can be exchanged, we can confront in certain circumstances.

[i] How often do you return home? Even if it’s temporary, for a while.

[r] I am already organizing my return home. I organize because it’s quite complicated, it’s quite complicated to go home. When we talk from here, we are expected because we think that euros grow on the tree, that we can pick to distribute to everyone. So it’s a whole organization. We don’t come empty-handed. We must, we must always give gifts to friends and family. And even when you don’t want to give, you give. Because we are faced with situations where we really can’t turn our backs. If there is anything we can do because it is very difficult right now in this country. It’s difficult, the social, financial situation, hospitals, schools, it’s quite complicated. So if we can help, we help.

[i] In France, what are your friendships in general, or the people you meet, we talked about it just a little bit, community, but are there other friendships in the community…?

[r] Yes, yes, I have French friends I have known for more than 10 years, including a couple who currently live in Nîmes. I go to see them often. Well, often, it may be a little too much to say, but once a year I go to see them. And when they arrive here, in the Paris region if I’m there, we go out together, we go to restaurants, we go to the theatre, we go to the cinema. And friends like that, I have two or three couples with whom I have fairly close and regular relationships. So I still made friends.

[i] Okay. We’ve almost gone through all the topics, I don’t know if there’s anything we haven’t said that you’re going to add, apart from everything we’ve said.

[r] Yes. We’ve done all the way around. We’ve gone all the way around. I think that when it comes to here, in France, it’s for a purpose. Some come to study, some come on adventures, some come because they can no longer live at home for economic, social or political reasons. So we all have a purpose here. And so, if we are there, the purpose for which we are there is that purpose that we must pursue. Sometimes we may change course because the situation allows it but we keep our heads held high. We keep our heads held high, do not have a low profile and especially do not forget where we come from.

[i] There is one last small question to close, are there any cultural differences when you arrive from there, here or when you leave here, there, how come… ?

[r] Yes, of course, of course the difference, it’s very obvious, because we, when you come in somewhere, you say hello to people, even if you don’t know them. There are also anecdotes where a gentleman enters the subway and says salam maleikum and no one answers.

[i] What does salam maleikum mean?

[r] Peace be with you, it’s a way… it’s like saying, hello. You go in somewhere, you see people, out of politeness, you say hello! And the gentleman said “hello” in the subway and no one answered. So he said, but are these people crazy or normal, we say hello to them and they don’t answer? So hello is difficult here, and that’s what strikes first. It’s very obvious and after that….

[i] And when you leave here, I say “you” for all those who have arrived from Africa, when they leave, when they arrive there, what is the way we look at them? Do we think they are acculturated? [Laughs]

[r] But the look, it is they who make the look. It depends on how they behave with their own. If you stay here for a while, you go home on your high horses and say, “I live in France, I have nothing to do with you anymore”, people will see you from afar too. That’s where you’re going to be criticized, but you come in and say, “I was here, I left, I haven’t changed. I’m back to stay with you for a while,” people will welcome you, everything will be fine. We are the ones who give people that look. The judgment comes from us, comes from how we behave, I think.

[i] So, to conclude, we can take up the quote you gave earlier that “the stay of a tree trunk in the water does not transform it into a crocodile”. So you’re not a crocodile yet?

[r] I don’t know if I will become one…. laughs], I don’t think so, but I’m well integrated into French society. I have my bearings. Everything is going well but I know I am.

[i] Well, thank you for those words and then we’ll see you soon.

[r] Thank you to you!

[i] Thank you!