Society failed me, and it was not my fault; Story by Alusine Barrie.
Standing in the face of such a beautiful, respected and powerful young lady seeking help, I feel sure that something is going to happen. Eyes wide open firing a brilliant, vigilant and scowling gaze onto the wall opposite like a scarecrow in the seasons of ripe in my village. Questions shooting from the deep of my heart, worn out tear sacks burst open, a sorrowful spring of tears flowing from its pores, it is happening, just as I knew it would. It is all coming back to me now, it has only just happened. Wow!
Was it my fault to be born a girl? Why has it been so difficult to be me? The battered life I now live is the relic of age-long discrimination and subordination of all women in my community. Countless numbers of girls are suffering through the same ordeal shoved down my throat while I was just a budding young girl . Why is this silence so loud?!
I was only eight years old, if I can still remember. Or perhaps even younger when men (very old ones) started investing in my sexuality. Men older than my father, my uncles started bringing gifts saying jokingly “ mother-in-law, this money is for my new wife’s nappy.” Or perhaps, as it turned out to be, it wasn’t a joke at all.
As I grew up, more gifts, money and favours took a different pace. My mother and father seemed proud to have been the parent of such beautiful fruit. I experienced the title of ‘wife’ at a very tender age. This all seemed so ‘normal’ in my village that I also started conceding to be ‘happy’ and looking forward to it!
The opportunity cost of staying and working hard in school and the very frail possibility of reaching to university as a ‘girl’ was thoroughly contrasted by the ease with which I reaped the fruits of my sexuality; of my just being a beautiful young girl; ‘a fine pikin’ as they would say. And even better, my parents preferred the quicker profits of giving birth to a girl to that of tedious education.
It was the same all over my village. And even the surrounding villages that I get to visit on luma days (market days). Everyone of us seemed to enjoy this immoral predatory tendency.
At the age of 11, as the ‘my wife’ logo started to get more serious and practical, I started giving up on the tedious work at school. I came to prefer learning to take my rightful, and perhaps, only possible place in society; a wife. This seemed and was made more natural by the norms and traditions of my village.
At 12 years, it all cracked open as I was informed that I shall be marrying the Pa Komrabai (the regent chief) of the neighbouring village of Kamabai. I was asked to bring honour to my family, and I dared not defy the sacred word of my parents lest I become disowned. It was less devastating that I accepted, so I did.
I was very well taken care of by my husband as the ‘batheh’ (sweet heart) as I was called by the chief’s friends and kinsmen. I became very effective in my office of ‘wife’ (and batheh for that matter). I gave birth to so many children in no time!
Clearly the new role of ‘mother’ withered away my beauty and my grand title of ‘batheh’ as I soon started looking old and saggy. While I suffered, my ‘husband’, the chief, was out looking for another ‘batheh’ to add to his growing team of farming and child-bearing slaves.
Now, here I am, looking at a very young lawyer. How I long to be like her! I hear she is 27 years old! I failed! Or should I say Society failed me,but it was not my fault.