In my first month at site, three babies have been born within a 500 yard radius of my house. Muso cura fila (two new girls) and ce cura kelen (one new boy) have blessed the families around me. Because the family whose concession I live in is so large, I have a hard time understanding who is married to who, which children belong to which parents, etc. It is easiest to say that they are all in the same family!
According to Muslim tradition the babies are not named until seven days after their birth. On the seventh day, the community comes together to name the baby. Actually, I should be more specific…the men of the community come together to name the baby on the seventh day. The men and the women sit separately and a grio (town crier) comes to announce the baby’s name to the women.
I attended one of the naming ceremonies and sat with the women while they waited. Somehow, I missed the actual announcement of the name and was surprised to see people getting up to leave before the main event! When I asked the mother if the baby’s name would be coming soon, she informed me that it had already happened. Oh the joys of living in a place where you are not fluent in the local language, haha!
I returned to the new baby’s home in the afternoon for what was essentially a baby shower where gifts and money were given to the mother. They also served one of my favorite Malian dishes, “ku,” which reminds me of a meat and potato stew.
I’m sure these three babies are just the beginning of the slew of children that will be born while I’m here. Currently, Mali’s population is growing by 2.7 percent per year, on average women have seven children, and 50 percent of the population is under the age of 15. Compare that to a less than 1 percent population growth in the United States per year with an average of 2.1 children per family…
It is interesting to analyze the impact that these statistics have on the Malian society. With such a young population, there is great hope in the future of the Malian workforce – if it is educated and healthy and there are good jobs for it to fill. I’m planting that seed for you to consider, and perhaps I’ll write a post in the future to expand on my ever-evolving thoughts about population control in Mali. I’m sure this will also be an interesting topic for us to discuss when I return to the United States.
Nevertheless, look here for more birth announcements in the coming two years, as I’m sure there will be plenty!