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Woman abandons home for tree

2022-05-10  Aletta Shikololo

Woman abandons home for tree

As people go about their daily activities on a busy weekday in the Omaalala village of the Oshana region, a mystery is unfolding.

A woman in her mid-40s has left her home due to unknown circumstances to take up residence under a tree alongside the Ondangwa-Ongwediva main road.

The woman, who is only known as Meme Magano by the villagers, apparently lived with her mother, who died six years ago.

Since then, she has been living alone until a few months ago when her family members decided to relocate her home (a few kilometres away from where she used to live), and apparently built her a new shelter.

“She decided not to move into the new house, but rather to go and stay in those trees,” said her niece, Aina Shitefa, pointing at some big trees by the road where Meme Magano is isolated.

She lives under harsh conditions.

She spends her days and nights sitting under a tree and when not under the tree, she goes to the cuca shops across the road.

Behind the tree is a medium-sized pink bag packed with her belongings.

When New Era visited her yesterday, Meme Magano was found sun-bathing, sitting with her arms and legs crossed, seemingly to fight against the cold.

She was clothed in torn black trousers with a skirt on top and a matching jersey, adamant on not talking to this reporter. However, a few moments later, she said that she has been living under the tree for two months.

She refused to give further details on why she left her house, but rather referred this reporter to the local headman and her family members.

“You must go and ask my relatives in that house (pointing towards a house); they know why I am here. They must tell you the truth. I am sorry, but I am not going to give you any information. They know, they must tell you,” she reiterated.

Asked whether she needed any assistance, Meme Magano stubbornly querried who said she needed assistance.

“Do I look like I need assistance?” she asked in quite an aggressive tone.

She added that she is only waiting for the headman to allocate her land because she is not going back to where she used to live.

“I am just waiting to sign the papers, I don’t need help,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Shitefa said her aunt does not have any history of mental problems, and has been leading a normal life. But a few months ago when she started to sleep under that tree, they suspected something was wrong with her.

“We took her to the doctors, and were told she is perfectly fine and not showing any sign of mental issues. But that is not how we have known her,” she added.

Asked whether the family had done something to assist her, Shitefa said, “we have done all we could to accommodate her, but she kept saying she wants to go to her grandmother in that tree.”

She added that the family cannot forcibly move her because she can be “dangerous”.

“She can bite/fight if she is provoked,” said Shitefa.

Safety at stake

Meme Magano’s life in the middle of nowhere resembles a constant battle for many homeless people, but for women even more so.

On top of the everyday challenges of finding food, battling extremely harsh weather, Meme Magano is also at risk of sexual violence and cruelty.

Not so long ago, Shitefa received a call at night from a neighbor, who informed her that there were men who carried her into the bushes.

“They might in all likehood have raped her, but what do we do?” she asked hopelessly.

Attempts to get comment from the headman have proven futile.

Ongwediva constituency councillor Andreas Uutoni said he was not informed about it, but later called one of the community leaders, who confirmed the situation.

“I am out of the region at the moment. But my team is already preparing to go there and see in what better ways we can assist her. Thank you for bringing it to our attention,” said Uutoni.



2022-05-10  Aletta Shikololo

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