11 Aug More than a Woman (Part 1)
Looking regal in her traditional attire, she watched the happenings around her with a composed calm. Her younger brother who was sitting next to her was also dressed in clothes sewed from a similar cloth material. A small crowd of people made up of a few family members and friends sat behind her. All were also dressed in gorgeous attires.
Sitting some five metres away and facing them under their own canopy were the groom’s family. The groom’s parents who were both forward thinking progressives were present. Both of them were doctorate degree holders who studied abroad, one in the United Kingdom and the other in the United States. It wasn’t a surprise they had liberal views.
Schooling abroad isn’t always a reason for being progressives though. Cause she had met people who had doctorate degrees, but still behaved like stone age Neanderthals. She had also heard of people who had lived in Europe and America for decades and still insisted on carrying out fetish, superstitious and cultural practices like female genital mutilation and others.
Some have had to travel in secret. They deceive immigration officials and their daughters about the true reason they are travelling down to their countries of origins. They tell these lies just so they can carry out these cultural practices which are illegal in these foreign progressive countries they have chosen to call their homes.
She never had the opportunity to work abroad, nor live there. She was born here in a backward village in Nigeria where men are gods in their homes. The culture made men everything. When they said yes in their homes, there’s nowhere any woman could seek redress to overturn that decision, no matter how wrong it is. The men are everything.
In her village, women are considered less than humans. They are meant to be pleasure things, meant to breed like farm animals, feed, tend and care for the children whose future they are not allowed to have an opinion about. They wash, clean, cook and care for their husbands. They are slaves.
Years ago, when she learnt about how slaves were treated in the United States, she couldn’t really differentiate their fate from hers, and women like her in the backward place she was born. They were slaves by every definition.
When they are born, they are thought of as less than boys. Their value is so low, parents, especially fathers, tend to reject them if that particular wife had not yet given birth to a male child. The mothers tend to suffer because of giving birth to only girls which makes them pray to have only male children, and if not, they end up hating the female children too, just like their husbands.
While the boys are allowed to play, learn skills or go to school. The girls are made to stay at home with their mothers, where they help to clean, wash, cook and care for their fathers and siblings. They are brought up with only those things in mind.
When they reached the age of puberty, they are sold off in ceremonies called marriages, most times to men as old as their own fathers or grandfathers. In these new homes, they are made to continue where they stopped in their father’s houses. They washed, cleaned, cooked and are forced to have sex, and with time bear babies too, who if they are girls, are tied to the same fate.
She was very sick as a child and it continued until she was a teenager. She was lucky in that regard, because she was only married off by her father when she was around thirteen, which was years after she had reached puberty. That’s between one to three years more than her age mates had.
After suffering what she could only describe as gruesome rape on the night of her marriage, she was instructed to begin fetching water, washing, scrubbing and cleaning by the older wives the very next morning. One of these older wives was just a teenager herself, but already looked like she was in her thirties. The eldest wife was in her twenties, but could pass for a woman in her late forties.
There was no denying the wear and tear the body goes through during child bearing, and years of working and being treated like a slave in a place which is supposed to be your home. She knew this first hand, from living with her mother and from watching other women around the village.
She got pregnant a couple of months after her marriage, but lost the baby in the third month after falling sick. She got pregnant some six months later, and yet again she lost it, this time in the fourth month. This continued for the next five years until her husband, a man in his late forties got tired of her, and kicked her out of his home accusing her of being a witch.
She returned to her father’s house, but she was thrown out by her father who also accused her of being a witch. With nowhere else to go, she stayed out in the bush where her mother brought her food. She remained there for a week until the rains started. After being drenched on two consecutive nights out in the bush, she developed a fever and fell sick. Her mother treated her with herbs and fortunately for her, the rain let up for a week – even though the clouds looked heavy with rain – and she was able to get well.
With nowhere to go to in her village because no one would take her in. She decided to leave the village, even though she had no idea where she would go to, or had anyone she could go to. Her mother gave her all of her savings. With this money, she travelled out of the village to the nearest city, which was the capital city of the state.
To be continued…
By Oluwaseyi Olusanya