When you go back, don’t forget us

I always knew that approaching Janet, #26 of 40 of the women I’ve interviewed in the past month, to work with me in July was going to be a challenge.

Her first question in our initial interview 2 weeks ago?

“Why should I talk to you?”

This had been something I’d been dreading and had read about.

Researcher fatigue.

So many journalists, academics and researchers have preceded me. Each, with a few exceptions, plumbing these former abductees for juicy, sensational headline-grabbing stories, never to be seen again by the participants.

Janet said that others had promised to build water boreholes for them or to give them money.

They never saw them again.

So Janet’s question was a valid one. Despite the fact that my research was focused primarily on what had happened to her since she’d left the bush, why should she talk to me?

I don’t think she was convinced by my arguments: that I wanted to see what NGOs/govt were doing (or not doing to help women like herself); to work hand-in-hand with 5 women in phase 2 of the project; to let these 5 women help tell their own stories through photography.

So today, she was the first to admit that she was wrong, saying she hadn’t expected to see me again.

Just for the record, I didn’t want to work with her just to prove her wrong.

Janet’s story is certainly typical of most of the other women I’ve spoken to. But as mentioned in an earlier post, she’s the only woman out of the 40 I have interviewed that still has a husband.

The fact that he’s a returnee himself is particularly telling.

So I had the chance today to do TV interviews with both of them.

They say that most of the NGO and government officials have gotten rich because of this war, and that they’ve lined their pockets by pretending to help people like themselves.

The highlight for me though was showing Janet how to use the camera that she’ll be using for the next month.

It was the first time I’d seen her smile, as she snapped me and her children, getting to grips with the camera.

But afterwards she came up to me and said that whilst she appreciated what I was doing, it was important for me to come back and to not forget the women like herself.

Come back, she said.

After you’ve told people in Canada about us, please come back and help us.

I’ll try. I will try.