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Tsihoeza (16) works in a mine and sleeps in a pit

November 26th, 2022

Tsihoeza does not go to school because she has to work. Every day she goes deep underground into the mine to dig for mica. She doesn't know what it is or what it is used for. She only knows that she earns a few cents per kilo: money that her family desperately needs to live on. Tsihoeza is not afraid of falling or being crushed by a stone. She does go to bed every night with fear. "Often I am afraid at night, when I sleep outside with mine."

Tsihoeza (16) works in a mine
Tsihoeza (16) works in a mine

No breakfast

Tsihoeza is 16 years old and lives in Madagascar.  She lives with her little brother (11 years old) and her parents.  Her little brother goes to school, but Tsihoeza can no longer do so.  She has to help her father, because the family has no money.  During the rainy season they live in the village and both her parents work the land.  Now it is the dry season and father and daughter go into the mine every day in search of the raw material mica. 

When the sun rises, they get up and walk from the village to the mine.  There Tsihoeza goes down  without a helmet or protection  and only with a flashlight.  “I go deep into the mine to find mica,” she says.  “I take the mica pieces to the others who process them.  When I'm tired, I take a rest."

The work in the mine is hard.  Tsihoeza doesn't like it either.  Still, she has to do her part every day, even on an empty stomach.  "Often we don't eat breakfast because there's just nothing to eat."

Afraid of the dark

When there is a lot of work to do or the buyer comes by to buy the mica, Tsihoeza and her father sleep at the mine at night.  “We don't have a tent, like some other families.  I sleep together, just outside, with my best friend.  My father is somewhere else, nearby.” 

Tsihoeza is often afraid at night.  “…before the dark, for animals.  And for people who steal children, that's what they say.  We don't know what happens to these children." Her father (43 years old) confirms what his daughter says: "These stories are not only told here but also in the villages. People who take children away: we don't know what they do with them. ”

Future dreams

Tsihoeza is not afraid of getting hurt while working at the mine, because accidents "actually never happen," she says.  Only recently an adult man was injured by a stone falling on his head, but he has recovered.  “That's why I want to become a doctor.  I want to give people injections and make them better”. 

Tsihoeza doesn't know what mica is used for.  But she does know the work of doctors and nurses.  “I hope I can go back to school so I can learn.  And that I can help my mother in the fields.  And when I have some free time, that I can jump rubber bands together with my girlfriends.”

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