Although I have written about my lovely counterpart before, I think that by the end of this post you will agree that she deserved some additional screen time. As you may know, Mme Dioma or 'Mamma' as even the nuns call her, has been my loyal guide in Solenzo since the fist day I set foot in this sleepy, cotton-filled town. Mme Dioma is a deeply spiritual woman, up at 6am every day for church kind of spiritual, and her devotion to Jesus is matched only by her devotion to her work.
Mme Dioma is the mother of five grown children. Her four daughters, of which Rita is one, are scattered around Burkina Faso in various large cities emulating their mother with their high levels of education and success. Her son, three years my junior, is currently at university in Bobo studying law. Mme Dioma herself is the eldest of eleven children, the youngest of which is actually only a few years older than yours truly.
Having always been part of a big family, Mme Dioma considers everyone of the appropriate age her child and anyone else a brother or sister. She approaches people with a disarming familiarity and confidence that made it very easy for me to fall under her wing. She is, like my own mother, a Jill-of-all-trades, and can instruct you in anything from making tô sauce to how to best sell a promising product. This Renaissance quality she possess can only come, I imagine, from having to do everything for her family after she was married. Her husband, who I will try not speak too much of, turned out to be less than devoted to his family when confronted with daughter after daughter before God gave him a son. But his infidelity and frequent absences brought him nothing but yet another daughter, this time out of wedlock, which Mme Dioma also ended up caring for.
Despite having to face parenthood largely alone, Mme Dioma saw 4 out of her 5 children through university and 5 out of 5 on to successful careers, something almost unheard of for someone not living in a large city with a solidly middle class upbringing. But her motivation didn't stop at being an excellent parent. Mme Dioma still pushes herself to attain new professional and personal heights every day. About 8 years ago she saw an opportunity to be a salesperson for an American company based in Arizona and jumped at the opportunity to augment her income and build he business skills. She works with a women's association in Solenzo and sometimes can be heard on Solenzo's local radio talking about women's issues and women in the political sphere. When she comes to the Center to teach the girls French, she always incorporates women's issues into her lessons, determined to sensitize the girls about excision, unsafe sex and the consequences of early pregnancy.
The gears in her head are always turning. Often, when we are in a training together, she will reach over and grip my arm and whisper into my ear 'ça me donne des idées!´ or 'this gives me ideas!' Afterwards, I will bitter sweetly watch my comrades bike off to the bar as Mme Dioma pulls me close to explain how she'll end female genital mutilation in Solenzo.
her motivation, courage and dynamism are often what keeps me motivated to do my best, because she accepts nothing less. Just like a good mother, she pushes me and praises me, making sure I know when she appreciates me work. This is in and of itself is a huge reward for a Peace Corps Voluteer. Without her by my side to advocate for me and show me what can happen when a Burkinabe is truly motivated to work, I may have given up a long time ago.