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Amazing Women: stories of women in communities around the world

For International Women’s Day 2019, we asked our depositors to share stories of amazing women who they have worked with in communities around the world. Unsurprisingly, we got so many contributions and we weren’t able to share them all at the time. Today on the ELAR blog, we are sharing even more contributions on our blog to highlight the variety of stories we received.

Inés Nemonte Nenquimo (contributed by Connie Dickinson, Documentation of Wao Terero)

Inés Nemonte Nenquimo
Inés Nemonte Nenquimo delivering legal documents to the Ecuadorian government in February 2019 [Photo credit: Mitch Anderson/Amazon Frontlines]
Inés Nemonte Nenquimo. one of the major collaborators on the Waorani Documentation Project, has moved on to found and direct Alianza Ceibo, an organisation of northern Ecuador indigenous nationalities – Waorani, Siona, A’i Kofan and Siekopai.

Working with Amazon Frontlines they have installed over 1,400 rain water systems in the communities most affected by water contamination from oil exploitation. Inés is a strong, dedicated and tireless worker fighting for the rights, territory and welfare of Amazonian people. The projects of Alianza Ceibo are many and varied. For more information, visit the website.

In the photo above, Inés (Nemo) is delivering legal documents compiled by Alianza Ceibo and presented to the Ecuadorian government on 27 February 2019 to protect Amazonian territory from oil exploitation.

Hannah Kasoi (contributed by Jane Oduor, A preliminary documentation of the Okiek language of Kenya)

Hannah Kasoi, speaker of Okiek

Hannah Kasoi is a traditional birth attendant from the Mau Forest Complex, Kenya. She assists women in the village during childbirth. The nearest hospital is more than 10 kilometers away but she looks for a way of getting them to hospital when there are complications and will go back the following day to bring women home again.

You can listen to Hannah talking about her daily activities here (via the ELAR catalogue).

Felicisma Hachangucho Andrew Ngiralbong (contributed by Peter Black and Barbara Black, Documenting Ramari Hatohobei, the Tobian language, a severely endangered Micronesian language)

Sisma (lower right) demonstrating weaving with her sisters and friends at her home in Koror, Palau, 2013 (photograph: Barbara W. Black)

Felicisma (or Sisma for short) is a strong pillar of the Hatohobei Island community.  Youngest of ten siblings, she is one of the last people to come of age on the remote and isolated Micronesian island of Hatohobei (Tobi) while it was still home to a largely self-sufficient and nearly autonomous community of fishermen and gardeners. That neo-traditional adaptation largely vanished with the relocation of Sisma and most members of her community to Koror, a port town and former capitol in the new Pacific Republic of Palau.

Although the multi-ethnic, cash-based, consumer economy of that town is far removed from the taro gardens and sailing canoes of her early life, the lessons of hard work, generosity, modesty, respect, and good humor learned from her elders have stood her in good stead. And now, after a full life as a commercial baker, wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, she – along with her two sisters – are much respected matriarchs. Repository of her culture’s customs, she is actively transmitting to younger generations of her people the values, knowledge and wisdom learned from her elders and from the rich experience of her many years.

Sisma in her house garden, Koror, Palau, 2013 (photograph: Barbara W. Black)
Sisma in her house garden in Koror, Palau, 2013 (photograph: Barbara W. Black)

Kunbarlang Women (contributed by Isabel O’Keeffe, Comprehensive pan-varietal, ethnobiological, anthropological record of Kun-barlang)

Talena Wilton (centre) transcribing a story by her kakkak ‘mother’s mother’, Millie Djamuddjana, with help from Millie (L) and Sandra Makurlngu (R).
Talena Wilton (centre) transcribing a story by her kakkak ‘mother’s mother’, Millie Djamuddjana, with help from Millie (L) and Sandra Makurlngu (R).

Millie Djamuddjana is a highly multilingual senior Kunbarlangelder who holds detailed ethnobiological knowledge of the western and central Arnhem Land region of the Northern Territory (Australia). She first worked on documenting this knowledge–and other aspects of the Kunbarlang and Ndjébbana languages–with linguist Carolyn Coleman in the 1980s and continues to do this today, working with linguists and passing on her knowledge to her children and grandchildren. She is considered a community expert on the Kunbarlang and Ndjébbana languages and also speaks fluent Mawng and some Burarra, Nakara, Kuninjku and English.

Talena Wilton is a young Ndjébbana woman who has been learning Kunbarlang from her kakkak ‘mother’s mother’ Millie Djamuddjana. As well as caring for her young children, Talena has been working with her kakkak to record stories and ethnobiological knowledge in Kunbarlang. She has also been learning to type in Kunbarlang and translate it to Ndjébbana and English.

Janet Mardbinda is a young Kunwinjku woman who was the first person to complete year 12 (the final year of schooling) at Warruwi Community School (a remote community on South Goulburn Island in western Arnhem Land). Since then she has been employed as a research assistant at a number of universities, working on language documentation projects. She has developed proficiency in using recording equipment and the ELAN software, transcribing and translating material in Kunwinjku and Mawng, and is learning to transcribe and translate Kunbarlang.

Sandra Makurlngu is a highly multilingual Kunwinjku woman from Warruwi, South Goulburn Island, who has assisted with numerous language documentation projects. She is a skilled transcriber and translator of Kunwinjku, Mawng, Kunbarlang and English and is a translator for the Mawng Bible translation project. She has been helping her daughter (Nathalia Gumurdul) and niece (Janet Mardbinda) learn to transcribe and translate Kunbarlang.

Nathalia Gumurdul is a young Mawng woman, who has been learning how to use recording equipment, the ELAN software, and how to transcribe and translate Kunbarlang from her mother, Sandra Makurlngu. As a young girl, Nathalia she used to sit on Sandra’s lap, or draw pictures, while Sandra assisted Isabel O’Keeffe with language documentation work. Today, she is involved in this language documentation work herself!

Rita Djitmu is a senior Ndjébbana woman, with expert knowledge of Kunbarlang. During the 1990s, she worked as a bilingual teacher in the Ndjébbana program at Maningrida College. Despite her deteriorating health in recent years, she has continued to record stories in Ndjébbana and Kunbarlang and to provide advice to linguists.

Learn more about Isabel’s project: ELDP Project Highlight: Documenting varieties of Kun-barlang, Northern Australia.

Selina Jebiegon (contributed by Benson Ojwang, Documenting narrations of personal experiences of the process of initiation into manhood in Terik language of Kenya)

The late Selina Jebiegon (85 at death) was an outstanding woman in the Terik community. She was the wife to our main informant, the late Sonono Magut. Selina gave birth to seventeen children and nurtured them into adulthood through peasant farming.

Rich in Terik folk knowledge, she was a keen traditionalist and could narrate the Terik history, migration path and socio-cultural practices back to ten generations. Schooled by the missionaries to the elementary level as early as the 1950s, she learned to read the Bible in her native language with the help of home-based tuition by her grandchildren. She was a language volunteer teacher and spent her old age formally teaching the under 30 generation to acquire Terik, an endangered Kenyan language. Unfortunately , Selina died in August 2018, leaving behind many language orphans.