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Saturday, June 27, 2020

FATIMA

Say no to child marriage

My name is Fatima. I'm a medical doctor and a victim of child marriage. I'm not writing this to condemn anyone but to create an awareness of the so many wrongs forcing a child into marriage does to child. Many have lost their lives in the process, some are frustrated and living in pain while a few number of us manage to survive a life that is hell on earth - married at a very young age. Till today I find it difficult to forgive my father even though I've being told he acted out of ignorance and I still can't comfortably look my mother in the eyes without feeling anger and hatred consuming me. You might say I'm being harsh on them but the pain and turmoil I went through affected me psychologically but I hope with the sessions I am having with my psychologist, I'd finally be able to put my past behind me and forgive my parents.
I was nine years old and had just written my entrance examination into secondary school. I was a bright child so it came as no surprise that I passed my common entrance examination in flying colors. I would never forget that day. I had returned from the market with my mother when Uncle Salisu brought an envelope containing my result and a letter of admission into the only grammar school in our little town. On opening and reading the contents of the envelope, I was so happy. I told my mom howl'd be a doctor and send her "plenty money" but in the midst of my joy, I noticed my mom was not excited as I was. She only sat nodding and managing a smile. Being a child, I felt she was tired from the day's work at the market and didn't sense anything off. Anxiously waiting for my father to return, I ran all errands with extra joy and vigor. I was going to be a junior secondary school student and would wear blue and white like Aisha's elder sister. My joy knew no bounds..
Baba came back late from work. I told him excitedly about my success in the exams.
His replies were laconic and tepid. He told my mother to prepare as we were having visitors the next day. I wondered why nobody seemed excited about my success. Baba had not told me I had made him proud like he did when I won a scholarship two years back. I was depressed but got over it assuring myself they were busy with work and thinking of how to further fund my education little did I know I was going to be shipped of to a man's house as h'\s fifth wife.
Alhaji DanBaba was a very rich man. He had 200 hectares of land and over 600 cows
He was considered the richest man in my village and the only person who had his first son schooling in the big city of Kano. He had four wives and twenty five children. Many young men from my village worked for him on his rice farms; some took care of his cattle. When he visited us the next day, I was very surprised as Baba had no affiliations with him. Mama made sure I wore my new dashiki and had painted my face with iro. When I asked her why we were all getting dressed up and decorating, she told me Baba was expecting high profiled visitors and we needed to look our best.
Eventually Alhaji Danbaba showed up with about twenty men and 20 cows. The women who accompanied them came with several calabashes of fura.I watched from my window and wondered if Alhaji was here to help pay my fees since my success in the common entrance had spread round the village; maybe that's why I had to look my best.
I rejoiced at my good fortune and made a solemn promise not to disappoint my parents.
I knew I had to work extra when I got to junior secondary school. Still caught up in my thoughts, Mama came into my room with a bag and began to pack my things. I joined her in packing my things and noticed she was not happy. "Mama I promise I won't disappoint you, I'd work harder and make sure I top my class every year" I said with apparent eagerness. Mama looked at me and managed a smile then continued what she was doing. By the time the celebrations and festivities were over, I was leaving to my new home. I cried as I left and Mama couldn't hold back her tears; she let them all out and wailed. As we left I could hear Baba scolding her and I wiped my tears reaffirming that I'd be a good student and return home after school to see Mama again. Little did I know I was been taken away from my friends, my future and dreams of being a better individual to become a housewife to a man older than my father.
Few days after arriving Alhaji DanBaba's household, I kept doing chores and running errands believing if I behaved well, I'd be enrolled in school- it never happened. Days became weeks and weeks became months, still no talk of me going back to school. One fateful day, I summoned the courage and approached Mama Sanu the oldest wife of Alhaji Danbaba with hope in my heart. I asked when I'd resume school as my mates had already moved to the next class and I might still have the opportunity to join new intakes. To my greatest surprise, Mama Sanu laughed till tears came out of her eyes, confused
and not understanding the reason for the outburst of laughter, I smiled as well till she broke the news to me. "Fatima them's no school for you oh, you're Alhaji's new wife and once you bleed you'd be sent to him." I couldn't believe my ears. I was in shock and stood rooted there, trying to understand why despite my brilliant performance in school Baba would send me to be yarinya to a man that was older than him. That night I cried wondering why my mother agreed to the arrangement and didn't fight for me. At that moment, I hated Mama but that hate vanished when I remembered who I was and the upbringing I had been given. All I had been taught was how to be a wife even when I had excelled in school nobody really praised me even though Baba had told me he was proud of me when I got a scholarship. Now, I realized he was only proud because he didn't have to pay my fees. I was only praised when I did my chores well. Accepting my fate, I continued to hope for the better and promised myself not to disgrace my parents.
Two days to my 13th birthday, I bled. I was on my way to the farm to milk the cows when Mama Sanu called me back. I approached her and she asked me if I was feeling okay. Surprised at the question, I answered all the same and told her I was okay and headed for the farm. She briskly turned my skirt around to reveal a little patch of red stain on my skirt. How it got there I didn't know. "You finally bled! Alhaji was already preparing to send you back to your Father. Allah Nagode!" she said excitedly. She kept repeating "Allah Nagode"while I looked on in confusion. I didn't go to the farm and Mama Sanu washed me herself that day. She powdered my face and painted my lips and advised me to not shout as it won't be so painful if I fixed my mind on something else. I didn't know what she was talking about but I nodded obediently.
That night I was taken to Alhaji's hut and advised to not scream as screaming was bad omen. I wondered what should make me scream as I entered the hut till Alhaji sat me down and lectured me on the importance of being strong and making sure what I get from his loins is a strong healthy boy. I nodded even though I was still confused till he pulled down my wrapper and laid me on the bed. He removed his Kaftan and laid on me that was when I felt pain like I had never felt before. I wanted to shout but remembered all I had been told therefore suppressing the pain. I lay there dejected and helpless as Alhaji rode me to his satisfaction. When he was done, he picked up his trousers and told me my father would be proud of me when he gets the gifts for sending me "whole" to him. That night I cried and asked abominable questions. I wanted to die but I couldn't, the pain was severe and the hatred I felt was intense. Hatred for my father for cutting short my ambitions and anger at my mother knowing fully well this would be my fate and saying nothing to prepare me for this journey. Mama Sanu came to clean me up and console me, saying I'd eventually get used to it as the third and every other time would be seamless and less painful. She left me muttering some words as I cried myself to sleep, cursing all the gods and supernatural powers in existence.
Just as she had said I got used to going to Alhaji's hut until I stopped bleeding monthly.
I was happy I won't have to go to his hut anymore but realized I was always dizzy and nauseous. Mama Sanu explained that it was the first signs and made me chew herbs. She said I had a little baby growing inside me and I needed to eat more, rest more and avoid going to the farm. She said Alhaji's other wives were capable of taking care of the chores for the meantime. She also said that Alhaji was getting ready to get another yarinya.I listened to all she said with disgust but kept my displeasure to myself as Mama Sanu had been nothing but nice to me since I stepped foot in Alhaji's compound. She was like a mother to me and had taken care of me like as though I was her child; if only I truly was her child and not a co-wife.
Few months later, the traditional healer came and I went through another excruciating pain. I had initially thought the first time Alhaji laid on me was the most painful experience until I faced child birth. The healer kept telling me to push harder as he continued rubbing my thighs. Eventually I pushed out and heard the cry of my baby but it was short-lived as he died even before I saw him. I heard he was not properly formed as he had no limbs. Alhaji on hearing the news came to my hut and told me I shouldn't worry, that others would come. Thinking my pain had come to an end, I carried on with life with little or no hope for a better future till the incontinence came; I couldn't control the flow of my urine anymore. I urinated even without my knowledge. Flies followed me and the stench was bad. Alhaji refused to see me and said I was a curse to his household, an abomination. I was sent back to my father who wouldn't look at me and called me a disappointment. He also blamed Mama for not training me well. He sent
me to the village healer who pumped me up with herbs and tied different charms to my legs and thighs to prevent the sickness all to no avail. Eventually the healer got tired and I was sent out with no roof over my head as Baba said he doesn't want me in his house anymore and I was no longer his daughter. Mama had no say and all she did was cry and mumble words to herself. My world all came crashing at my young age of fourteen and now I'm to fend for myself with no hope as everyone in the village saw me as a curse. Even little children cursed me and threw stones at me. The stench and flies wouldn't leave me till Ahmed came my way.
I was 18 and living at the outskirts of the village when I met Ahmed. He didn't avoid me like other villagers; he brought food and clothes for me. After narrating my experience to him, he promised to help me and few days later, he came with two other people in a car and I was taken to the city hospital where I was treated of IVF.
They say we can't change what's meant to be but was being a child wife all I was meant to be? Is having your dreams snatched away so violently meant to be? These are the questions I still ask myself till today knowing in my heart there are other young girls out there who are going through same fate, whose futures have been snatched from them. With the help of Ahmed and his friends, I was able to pursue my dreams of being a medical doctor.

THE END!

Fatima, though a figment of my imagination is a depiction of the horror the girl child faces when forced into marriage at a young age. This write-up is to encourage every individual with the right power and connection to push for the bill against Child Marriage and to ensure this bill is passed into law. A heavy sentence should await violators; this would convey the seriousness of the crime. Say No to Child Marriage!
It's still happening today, so let's rise up and SAVE THE GIRL CHILD!!!




Written By:
H.U.M
Completed -.5//V2019

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