Saturday, November 15, 2008

You Be the Boss

One of my responsibilities here is to manage the sanctuary and staff.

During this past week, I’ve been mulling over ways to better protect our little interim sanctuary here. One of the plusses of Cleve having hired competent people is that they have developed many of their own systems, which is great, but my real goal overall is to make sure the chimps are safe.

For example, we currently only have two caregivers, who live full-time out at the sanctuary, which is ensconced in a tiny bit of forest at the far end of Aketi. We have the cooperation of the nearby villagers, and a security guard (and a makeshift barricade) but as anyone who has worked with chimpanzees knows, it’s incredibly important to limit their levels of exposures to new people -- for both health and safety reasons.

If one of our caregivers were to get sick, it would leave us with only one caregiver out at the sanctuary -- a real problem! While we’ve just got 3 kids there now, it will be an even bigger problem when Mangé and Aketi head out there.

So the first job on my plate was to remedy this situation, and start trolling for a third caregiver, who, if necessary, could also fill in for Papi, our gate guard.

Problems like this are somewhat easy to solve; I’ve participated in and witnessed enough competent sanctuary management that all I really have to do is duplicate procedure that’s been successful in the past. Sure, the primary caregiver here bristles a bit at the change, but once he’s assured that it is, in no way, a reflection on the quality of his work, nor will his salary be garnished with a third person, everything slides onto the road towards copacetic.

Some decisions are not so easy. We have two staff here, and for anonymity’s sake, we’ll call them Sam and Annie.

Sam has been with the project a long time, and is essential to the work at the sanctuary. Not only is he extremely responsible, but his love for the chimpanzees is evident, and oftentimes in this culture, hard to find.

Annie was his girlfriend, and when we came to Aketi it was suggested that she be hired as our femme des menages -- to do generally laundry and tidying-around-the-house-type-stuff.

Annie’s work has been okay. We often have trouble communicating with her, and she doesn’t tell us when she doesn’t understand what we want her to do.

But when Sam came to us and told us that Annie had stopped sleeping in his house, and that he wanted her to be fired. He said that since she had started working for us, she had been a disobedient girlfriend, and, I guess, uppity.

The feminist in me roared. I am the only woman in this house, aside from Annie, and I felt like by firing her I’d participate in the subjugation of ALL Congolese women!

We talked to Annie, and she said that Sam was jealous, and treating her badly. Even worse, he had yet to go to her family and legitimize their relationship (usually with money) and she was furious.

We left for Yoko Forest after talking to Polycarpe, who assured us that he would take Sam to visit Annie’s family and smooth everything over.

And when we returned from the forest, everything seemed fine. Sam was still working here, so was Annie, and the daggers they had been shooting at one another in the yard.

Then we find out yesterday, that Annie has left Sam, and is sleeping with another man, and Sam’s heart is broken.

...or so he says.

He assures us that he is not ALSO sleeping with someone else (as is often the case here) but it is “too difficult” to continue coming to the house with Annie here.

I’m torn. Yes, it is shitty that she got a job through Sam and then left him. But shouldn’t she be allowed to exercise her right to choose?

Maybe Sam was a bad boyfriend. Maybe he beat her. I don’t know, and probably never will.

But if I’m honest, Sam’s work is a lot better and more valuable to the project. I don’t want to lose him.

What’s a feminist to do?

1 comment:

Brian said...

I've got a Y chromosome, so I don't really get feminism like someone without one might, but isn't it about equal rights? If it were two men having a lovers' spat and the two men broke up and you HAD to fire one of them, would't you pick the employee with who's work you were dissatisfied?
(when in doubt with a civil rights question, always turn the two demographics into the same demographic and your answer is usually pretty clear)