The worst place on earth to be a woman

In Congo, a 35-year-old is an old woman.

Published November 16, 2005 7:55PM (EST)

Broadsheet was moved by Helene Cooper's reflections in today's New York Times on the lives of women in Bukavu, Congo, where civil war and grinding poverty turn 35-year-olds into old women.

Cooper, who grew up in Liberia, considers the recent election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia -- the first woman to be elected a head of state in Africa -- who was voted in despite the threats of violence by supporters of her soccer-star challenger.

"Ever since the voting results started coming in a few days ago, showing what the Liberian women had done, I've been unable to get one image from Bukavu out of my mind," Cooper writes. "It is of an old woman, in her 30's. It was almost twilight when I saw her, walking up the hill out of the city as I drove in. She carried so many logs that her chest almost seemed to touch the ground, so stooped was her back. Still, she trudged on, up the hill toward her home. Her husband was walking just in front of her. He carried nothing. Nothing in his hand, nothing on his shoulder, nothing on his back. He kept looking back at her, telling her to hurry up.

"I want to go back to Bukavu to find that woman, and to tell her what just happened in Liberia. I want to tell her this: Your time will come, too."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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