Aché Ahmat Moustapha: “The Chadian woman is not alive, she

The first novel by the Chadian author Aché Ahmat Moustapha has just been published. Entitled Kalam Sutra, it tells the story of one woman among many others in Chad: the story of Kelou, a mischievous young girl who refuses her destiny as a housewife to become a doctor, in a country plagued by insecurity and where the weight of tradition. is still going strong. Kalam Sutra is also a book to condemn violence against women.

AXADLE: In your book Kalam Sutra you paint a picture of the inequalities between men and women in Chad, is it this aspect that inspired your title? What does it mean ?

Ache Ahmat Moustapha: “Kalam Sutra” is in Chadian Arabic, a collection of words with strong meaning in the daily life of Chadian women, which express all the dictates “for a matter of modesty”, “for a matter of dignity”. It tells the story of a mischievous little girl who grows up in the book, as we discover, who meets wonderful people around her. She is a woman who learns to fight to achieve her goals in a world where traditions, socio-cultural constraints mix. It was also necessary to reveal, in the eyes of the world, the extraordinary capacity for resilience of Chadian women, and above all to approach with delicacy the evils that undermine our society.

Your heroine, Kelour succeeds but has to make compromises, especially by getting married. What does her story tell us about the situation of Chadian women today?

Today you have to make compromises for this woman, life is about compromising, it’s always about sacrifice after sacrifice in order to succeed. The Chadian woman does not live, she survives. Everything the Chadian woman has to do and take as an action, she has to think twice before doing anything because everything is a matter of “sutra”, “kalam sutra”; “Ah well you’re going out, be careful, you have to cover up anyway”, because it’s a matter of dignity. Everything she has to do, whether from her young age as a young girl, teenager, woman, is unfortunately dictated by this status. It is absolutely necessary to please the other, and the woman, unfortunately, puts herself aside and sometimes forgets herself for this matter of modesty and dignity.

You write that the Chadian woman also forgets to respond to a beauty poem where one must be light-skinned.

The issue of depigmentation for me was also important, so subtly we talk about it with another character actually depigmenting his skin. It is the criterion of eligibility and beauty. Today, Brazilian women, braids, you have to do all that. I like it, but it’s also to please, especially men.

Your book also talks about complicity between women. Was it important for you to show that?

It was important to note that today, when we are together, we can move forward better. We’re always there saying we have to support each other, but when I see women who are able to take action to change things, but the lines don’t move, I think it’s really sad. And this complicity, it should not just stop at simple complicity. In Kelou’s story, it goes further. We are trying to save lives, and especially when many of our sisters are subjected to gender-based violence and everything related to sexism, it was important to bring it up, yes.

In 2017, you co-authored the book Portraits of Chadian Women, as a tribute to your sisters and mothers who struggle on a daily basis… How do you see the evolution of the status of Chadian women?

Things got worse, because unfortunately I run the risk of being negative in the eyes of others, but you had to live these realities to understand them and accept them. Every day there are cases of femicide, young girls are raped. Just a few days ago, a 7-year-old girl was raped. Few people talk about it, but the judgments do not follow. When all this is unfortunately obvious, a daily experience of women and young girls in the country, for me there is no change.

But in Kalam Sutra, Kelou’s husband, Omar, supports her in her studies and her career. Is this the case for many Chadian men today?

Not much, and I say this with full recognition, because today it is difficult to accept that a woman can overtake a man. I see it personally in my own case. For example, on social networks, all I have to do is launch a serious topic to get an outpouring of anger, where I am reminded of my place as a woman, especially as a Muslim girl – it is again this question of modesty and dignity , which comes back – “you don’t need that, because you’re only a woman, your place is in the kitchen”. Not many of them support women and I don’t agree with that. Things have to change.

How do you change the course of things?

As long as women do not seize the space that is theirs, it will always be difficult. I also talk about it in the book. It shouldn’t just be political slogans. Empowerment of women is like a fashion effect, we talk about that, but concretely, what place do we give women? There is still a long way to go, but I really hope that will change. But it will be difficult because as long as we live with the problems, when we see a bit of the security aspect with Boko Haram, when we also see the political side where Chad is in the middle of a transition, all that does not favor the emancipation strictly speaking of Chadian women .

But you remain optimistic despite…

If a sister today through this history recognizes herself, whether in Chad or elsewhere, and if the lines move precisely positively for the women of Chad, yes, I think it will already be a battle won for me.

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