by Ron Reed
When Besta Mlowe was born 18 years ago in the town of Ifunda in Tanzania, it seemed this would be her future: she would marry young, have many children, be dominated by her husband and live in a mud hut.
Mlowe was the second born in a family of four children. When she was 2, her father abandoned the family. When she was 14, her mother died. She and her siblings had been working in the fields to get money for food, and Besta had been to primary school and had learned to read in Swahili.
After her mother’s death, the four Mlowe children went to live with their grandparents in a village in the Kilolo District of Iringa. Now, her grandfather is 85 and unable to work. The children cultivate maize and beans, living in a small hut with a dirt floor.