This International Women's Day, we are celebrating three wonderful women - Stella, Margartu and Samuna - who keep donkeys at the heart of their communities, and put donkey care first.
For !nara fruit farmer Stella !Goramus, donkeys are so much more than a means to an end - they are part of her family.
A mother of two twin boys, Stella's only form of income is from the !nara melon harvest. An 8000 year old tradition in the small ǂAonin community, farmers must band together to face frequent sandstorms and soaring temperatures.
For Stella, though, her donkeys are just as important a part of her community. Her sons adore the four-legged members of their family: “My twins love donkey cart rides," she says. "When they play, they pretend to drive donkey carts or to be donkeys – this was one of their first games."
"Ultimately, they are our diamonds, our pets. That’s why I called one of my two donkeys ‘Diamond’.”
Still a child herself, Margartu has to collect enough water after school each day to not only sustain her family - but other households in her community as well.
Water panniers are bulky and heavy when full, and are difficult for the children to lift, let alone carry. A donkey and cart can collect up 20 panniers of water in one journey - without her three donkeys, Margartu would have to skip school in order to provide enough water for her community.
Margartu grew up understanding the importance of giving back the same care that donkeys provided for her family - and wants it to keep it that way.
“We will keep her forever, and even when she is old I won’t load her anymore, but I’ll still look after her”.
Samuna is the head of her household, single-handedly raising her eight children, maintaining their property and managing a large herd of livestock – all of which rests on her relationship with her donkeys.
“We were born here, our parents and our families have lived here for many years but always with the help of the donkey. We’ve never ever tried to live here without the donkey – it would be impossible."
Samuna's beloved donkeys are at the heart of her community, "like a member of the family", and will stay with her into old age.