I came in from the meeting and couldn’t get past the sound from the leaking tap, the constant dripping grated on my nerves. I dropped my bag and membership card on the kitchen table, tied a cloth around it like a sore thumb and went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. Not with my daughter, Derin’s question running wild in my head, mocking my good intentions.
We had been watching our ancient TV in the living room some days ago when a campaign came on screen. A ‘big man’ was contesting for chairmanship of our little local government. Why had he come? Will he live in our little village now? Or will he stay high up in urban town and give directives from his blackberry?
“Does anyone with no connections even have a chance?” Derin had asked, “He’ll win. I know he will!” and she stuck out her tongue at the TV.
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. “Of course there’s a chance,” I said, willing myself to believe the words. I was contesting too.
I had been chosen by the women to represent the interest of the community. To these women, governance was sacrifice, development and joint effort at making things work. It was a rare and unwelcome definition. We had given scholarship money, renovated classrooms and donated mosquito nets. We were just wives, widows and mothers, but we wanted to do all we could.
Philip, my husband, had laughed at me. “You, chairman? What would you do? Cook rice and chicken for the whole community? Listen Rachael, you are a good cook, a very good cook. Be content.” And he chuckled wickedly. I didn’t believe what he said; not because I was confident of my abilities but he had been staggering, waving his bottle of gin in my face as he spoke.
Two weeks later, after all their closed door meetings and empty pledges, we sat in front of our pre-historic TV to watch snippets of the elections on the evening news. My heart sank with each vote to the opposition; it finally dropped into my stomach when the results were announced.
How could I have won? I had no fancy car, no money to throw around at campaigns, a leaking tap and a black and white TV that had seen better days. Surely I overestimated my chances.
Derin paced the floor, muttering gibberish. Angela, my secretary was riled. Phillip had passed out on his easy chair, drooling and snoring.
“It was rigged!” Angela bellowed. “I visited some centres, clearly the youths voted in our favour. Arrggh…the rascals!” She struggled to calm herself.
“All is not lost,” I said, trying to believe my own words. “We have too many dreams, plans and ideas in the offing; I won’t just fold up and die… Do you have a pen and paper?” I asked.
Derin stopped pacing. Angela nodded and reached for her purse, a puzzled look on her face. I leaned forward on my chair, a finger on my chin.
“We will arrange one more scholarship for the next quarter. The school needs to equip the science laboratory and we should arrange some funding for the VVF clinic…”
I paused and looked around; Angela had been scribbling as fast as she could.
“You know, my mother used to say that you don’t need the title to do the work. It had never made more sense,” I said, nodding slowly.
Derin sighed and looked at me, her expression a mixture of pity and mild irritation. “The tap still leaks,” she said before walking away.