Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Lesley Dorman
And while I was there, there was a State visit by President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and his wife, Betty Kaunda. She came to see me. By this time, she had acquired a Lady-in-Waiting, which was really quite impressive. They came and had lunch, and she was on a special diet. We had to whiz around and get some special food, but it was marvelous to see her. I was very thrilled that she had looked me up. So that was fun.
Q: So, the women of the Sudan ... are they under the veil?
DORMAN: No, they wore a “tobe”...were swathed in the same thing as a “chador”. It covers, but the difference is very marked. Most of the women wear it. The older women wear white “chadors”, but the younger women wear all sorts of diaphanous ones. As far as I can recall, the style for women were fairly short dresses when we were there, and so they would have these quite short dresses and these diaphanous “tobes”, which you could see right through. (laughs). You know we laughed with them, not about them. The Sudanese women and we laughed together, because they used to say “We're wearing our tobes”, and I would say, “Yes, I know.” We were very careful, of course, but they were very nice.
Some of the men, the elder statesmen in the Sudan... (and this is where I must applaud the British. The British left an excellent civil service, I believe, also in India. And they left a first-class one in the Sudan. It's too bad that these things had not been retained) ... the eldest Sudanese, all, had a great respect for the British and they had emulated the best. They had beautiful libraries, one wife, then by Muslim law they were allowed more, a respect for their womenfolk. It was most marked.
Q: That's why I was asking you. I was under the impression that Sudanese women were considered... within the home at least... the absolute reigning queen bees, and that if their husbands earned money, because the woman had the highest goal in life or mission... having children and running the home... the husband had to bring his money home and give it to her. But she, if she earned any money, could keep it for herself. Does that ring a bell?
DORMAN: Not really. I think the women are very respected. I'll give you examples. I do think they carry quite an influence, but only to a degree.
Q: They don't have influence politically or publicly, but...
DORMAN: Well, I'm talking about...
Q: I mean, in the total concept of their culture, they are considered higher than the men actually?