Narratives

Afropean Voices during Covid-19: The evolution of the “Djangué”

 

Lucia Mbomio

 Lucia Mbomio (Spain) is a journalist, TV reporter and documentary scriptwriter and filmmaker. She is the author of two novels “Women who dared” (Sial, 2017) and “Daughter of the Way” (Penguin Random House, 2019), and contributor to the anthology of female Spanish writers “Metamba Miago. Stories to walk alone at night” (Penguin Random House). In 2020, Lucía was awarded the Pro Human Rights Association of Spain (APDHE) Human Rights Award in the communication category.

 

Throughout COVID-19, Spanish citizens had to learn or re-learn to improvise to deal with the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. Those who already had experience with neighbourhood associations, popular across Spanish cities from the second half of the 20th century on the occasion of the rural exodus, could build on this experience. When regional migrants from across Spain arrived in city, say Madrid, they built their own houses brick by brick, some without building licenses. Their descendants ensured access to sewage systems, running water, electricity, streetlights and built entire neighbourhoods, mostly in the periphery, with little or nil government assistance. 

But community solidarity is the legacy of African and Afro-descendant communities around the world and it is articulated in various ways. One of them is the extended family or household that, oftentimes, takes over from inoperative and non-existent governments the role to identify and redistribute wealth and opportunities. Another are the women savings initiatives which have a thousand names — estique in Mozambique, tontina in Senegal or djangué in Equatorial Guinea – through which women pull together their savings, periodically, for the benefit of one member of the group at a time. This zero-interest microcredit makes it possible to start small business, pay for education, legal fees or electricity bills. 

Across Spain, African migrants have used adaptations of this customary wisdom to develop self-managed migrant resistance boxes which provide a crucial layer of support, especially for those in irregular and precarious situations, not covered by already overwhelmed NGOs or social services departments. These have been instrumental in the provision of food, medicines, clothes, legal services and personal companions to health centres for migrant groups. 

These self-management strategies to combat the ravages of the pandemic – in places that the State does not reach among African migrant communities – mostly derive from the tradition of solidarity and autonomous organisation of African women.. This is a fantastic paradigm of enhancing and updating one’s own customs, for both migrant and autochthonous people in Spain. Learning from the benefits of this evolution of the djangué can help bring us together and better prepare, adapt and overcome future emergencies.

This perspective is included in the upcoming Collateral Benefits Perspective Paper IV: Voices of the African Diaspora, a collaboration between Collateral Benefits , Fundación Manos Visibles and Afrøpean.

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