Who I Went There to Meet #6: Madame Celestine Sacca. We first met on the steps of Bembereke's town hall. She spoke to me dryly, inscrutably, her bearing so formidable she intimidated me. In time I would learn why she looked upon the world with a skeptical eye. When Madame Celestine was a teen she dropped out of school because she was the only girl among her friends who was still in school. The rest were getting married and having babies, so she did too. She wasn't comfortable depending on her husband for income, however, so she attended a training program to become a stenographer, in secret. When her husband found out he was furious. "But what could he do?" she said, chuckling. Her husband died within a decade. Fortunately, she had gainful employment to support herself and her four children. She ran Bembereke's post office, and when she retired she was named Bembereke's President of Women, entrusted with representing women when it came to any local issue or initiative that could affect them. Though I didn't know it when we met, she'd just lost her oldest daughter, whom she called "my true love." As President of Women, over the years she'd had several meetings with representatives from Western NGOs who promised to bring women's development projects to Bembereke, then never appeared again, so by the time she met me, a white American, she was not about to get her hopes up. At first, she treated me with reservation. I don't blame her. Here she is at Bembereke's first International Women's Day celebration, during which she gave testimony about her struggle to gain an education in a culture that told her a woman's place is in the home. We planned this celebration together and also trained a women's cooperative with the help of @kristhomp. The cooperative made shea butter, peanut galettes, and soap together. Ten years ago this month she died in a car accident. Last spring I named my daughter for her, Sadie Celestine.
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