The Strength of Womanhood

Picture1 — By Ejiro from Nigeria

It was the second week in December 1953, warming up for the Christmas celebrations. Daniel and Dorris welcomed their baby girl called Caroline. Daniel was a very handsome man, held a chieftaincy title in his community, and had four wives. Dorris was the second of his wives and he loved her dearly. Unlike other female children at that time, Caroline was fortunate to acquire an education. Daniel was educated and believed education was the legacy any parent could give to their child, regardless of being male or female. As such, all Daniel’s children attended school and attained different levels of education. He was well to do, and provided all thirty-seven of his children with all the pleasures of life.

Caroline was one of Daniel’s favourite children. She was very petite in size but very beautiful. She was soft spoken, brilliant, and loved to study, hence capturing the heart of her father. Caroline completed her A-Levels in a teaching profession and had plans of furthering to the University. She met Clement, a young medical surgeon who had just returned from abroad. He too was tall, handsome, eloquent, and most importantly, very intelligent, which was what captivated Caroline. They fell in love and Clement proposed marriage. He promised Caroline that she would complete her education from his house, as his wife. Blinded by love, with so much trust, she accepted and they got married. She was much envied by her family and friends. She had it all, married to a rich, handsome, highly educated man. Also to add, Clement was the only man  who owned a Jaguar car which was the latest at the time. This was every woman’s dream!

Then reality struck and this bed was not one of roses as Caroline imagined. Her seemingly perfect life gradually began to turn ugly. Her dream of furthering her education was aborted with childbearing and other wifely responsibilities. In addition, she also had to deal with Clement’s frequent anger tantrums, verbal and emotional abuses, and hatred for her family. He never let them visit. She lost everything: her dreams of education, her friends, her loving family, and herself in its entirety. All efforts to maintain peace in this home proved abortive. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was having to share her husband with two other women. Clement married two other wives and life became even worse. She was eventually thrown out of the house heavily pregnant. Clement refused to take her back and that was the end of this unpleasant journey which started radiantly. Caroline who used to be full of smiles, calm, and very charming had evolved into a very sad, gloomy, and unhappy woman with no hope for the future. She was only thirty-one years old at the time.

She swore to never give Clement the last laugh. She gave birth to a set of twin girls and had three girls in total for Clement.

Leaving the children with her mother, when they turned one-year old, Caroline moved to the Northern part of the country with her elder sister. She was determined to rebuild her life and create a better future for her girls. She took back her children and began raising them herself. Enduring so many hardships, from losing her only son to the lack of basic needs like befitting clothes and so on. She opened a small grocery store where she sold fruits, food stuff, and other items. This phase of Caroline’s life she hated so much, because she had to struggle at the farmers’ market to buy her products for the grocery store. This was not the life she envisaged for herself.

Nevertheless, she kept looking forward with so much optimism and support from her family, who never abandoned her at this trying time. Eventually, some ray of light!!! Caroline secured a job with the State’s Civil Service using her A-levels degree, which meant better income and a befitting quality of life for her and her children. She worked there for several years. In pursuit of her dream, at age fifty Caroline enrolled in a university to pursue a degree in Accountancy along with her girls, who were now grown. She graduated the same year as her second daughter, and proceeded to attain a professional certification as a chartered accountant. At fifty-seven, not only was Caroline a chartered accountant, but all her girls were graduates too.

Today, all three of her girls are Masters degree holders and established women in different walks of life. Her oldest daughter is married with two girls also. Caroline like so many women in Africa, weathered the storm with determination, hard work, and indeed God’s grace. She changed the gloomy story of her life to one of motivation for her girls, other women in Africa, and the world at large.

I am indeed very proud to be one of the daughters of this great and courageous woman, my role model and inspiration. She continues to inspire me in the work I do today.

I respect the labour of womanhood and the strength that lies therein. Promoting and protecting the rights of women is my life-long vision and commitment. I believe every woman deserves to live their dreams!

This blog post is also featured on Woman.ng, a website “for the Nigerian woman, by Nigerian women.”

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Woman; Human

Chinemerem — By Chinemerem from Nigeria

He asked me, “Are you angry?” I said “No. I’m not.” And he said “Good. It’s right that you’re not the kind to get mad so easily. You know, women shouldn’t.” 
And it was this, more than anything else, that got me seething with rage. 
You see,

I can be angry.
I can be careless.
I can be very short-tempered.
I can be aggressive.
•••••
I can be sexually reckless.
I do have feelings – all kinds.
I can be lazy.
•••••
I can be talkative.
I can be disrespectful.
I can be unsubmissive.
I’m capable of hatred.
•••••
I am not perfect.

These are not the best traits, but it’ll be foolhardy to pretend that they don’t exist in me.
It is a disservice to womanhood that the society has conditioned it to be something of perfection, and nothing less.

This desire to be likeable; to please people; to not show anger, even if you’re angry; this need to always smile, even when you’re hurt. All these, stifle our humanity as women. 
I refuse to be perceived as a ‘special’ creature. I refuse to accommodate hurt, just so I can be likeable. I am not sacred. I am human. Just human.

I am a woman; and I’m capable of imperfection!

They Thought I Was Nothing

— By Omolara from Nigeria

It was a cold night one morning in July. I had woken up really sick and frail. All I now remember was that my mother, a passionate and caring mum, was in tears as I carefully laid in her arms; at this time, I was only two. Days later, the most playful child in the neighborhood was now legally blind. I could no longer see, so they thought I was nothing. I could no longer play, so they thought I was nothing. I could no longer go to school, they were sure I was nothing. It’s no surprise however that I didn’t know my father’s family until now.

A time soon came when I began school again. Even though it was later than usual, it was better than never. Being aware of the societal stereotypes that surrounded my life, I drew my strength from all of them. With all of the insults, discrimination, stigmatization, and isolation the world had to offer, I was not discouraged but instead these were all the source of my inspiration. I made up my mind to prove something out of nothing, after all, they already thought I was nothing. I soon took anything and everything that society had to offer, and made it into something.

First, I graduated as the best student in my class after my primary school education. Then, I made very good grades in my West African school certificate examination. Soon, I was in the tertiary institution, a polytechnic for that matter, when the biggest challenges appeared.


I was a student of Mass Communication in a class of about six hundred students and the only visually impaired student in the entire polytechnic. This was going to be difficult; but remember, I had a drive, a plan, and an objective to make something out of nothing. So, I gave it my all. I was sick many times because of malnutrition, and unable to pay school fees at times. But, at no time did I allow them to stop me.


I remember one day, I had gone to the social welfare unit in a church to seek for help to pay my school fees a second time. They had helped me the previous academic session and so I thought to go back to them again to see if they could help since I had nowhere else to go. My mother at this time had no job nor business. It was really sad that she could not pay for my fees. However, her moral support towards me was worth much more.


On this day, I had waited until dark because there was a crowd and we all had to take turns to see the panel of decision makers. They decide who they wanted to help. They even humiliated you before helping you. “What’s the point,” I began to say to myself as I sat down waiting for my turn. I felt really sorry for the way some people were being treated by this panel. My heart was beating really fast as I began to imagine the worse that could happen to me. Soon, it was my turn.


As I sat in front of them, presenting my case and trying to urge them to help me, I was suddenly shouted at and walked out of the room. I was told never to come again and to go seek help elsewhere. This was the most humiliated I would ever feel. I cried, but never blamed anyone for their hostility towards me. After all, the world was hostile to people like me. Society never gives us a chance. But, in my struggles, I learned never to blame anyone; remember, I still had a plan to become something.

 

After two years of hard work with severe hunger and hardships, I finally got what I wanted. I graduated as one of the best five in a class of about six hundred. This was definitely something out of nothing. At last, I was something. At this point, I knew I could do more. My journey had just begun. I became the pride of many and the pride of my community.

 

I soon got admitted into the university for my degree in English. I developed my passion of mentoring people with disabilities. I needed to tell my story to change history. My determination would never give up because I knew I was going places.


Soon, I started to attend conferences centered around persons with disabilities both locally and internationally. I began to make headlines in my family and community. I soon emerged as one of the one thousand Africans selected to participate in the Mandela Washington fellowship under the recognition of former president Barak Obama in 2016.


Today, I’m happy to be a part of someone’s story. I run an NGO that deals with issues surrounding persons with disabilities. I am a mentor and a coach to people with disabilities. I’m very happy today because I am something.

My Nurse

Anibe — By Anibe from Nigeria

It was just months after my twentieth birthday when I had the unforgettable accident. I remember how one morning, as I laid in the hospital bed with my right leg hanging, it dawned on me that I may never walk again. The thought didn’t scare me. I was numb of all feeling, except for the burning sensation in my dangling leg.

From the corner of my eye, I saw someone coming in. I knew it was my nurse. You see, I called her my nurse because we became such close friends. No one else would check in at 3 am to see if I was really sleeping. Before then, I also never heard of a nurse who bought fruits for her patient. She had no child of her own, but was one of the kindest people I ever met. Like me, she loved books, and would always bring me some.

As I jotted down random thoughts in my diary that morning, I looked up and it was her, of course. I guess she knew I wasn’t in the mood for our usual gist. So, she pulled a seat beside my bed and watched as I wrote, without saying a word – because she didn’t have to. I wrote about how I would become a successful CEO. Only, right then, I didn’t believe it.

How could I have believed in anything when I could smell sickness and disinfectant everywhere? I was assaulted by these smells from the first day I was wheeled in. But they paled in comparison to the real problem – that patients died every day. And some of those still living would never get better. I knew because I saw it in their eyes. Then, there was me in that odd gown with talcum powder all over my body, because I could get bedsores from prolonged immobility. How could I have believed in anything? How?

A moment later, I thought back to one night, a year before when my roommate and I were talking. She kept saying that it couldn’t be stopped. “What?” I had asked. “Accidents, illnesses, and especially death.” She spoke slowly, her teeth seemed clenched, eyes focused straight up at the ceiling. When I pressed her for more, she said, “I’m afraid I’ll end up just killing myself.” At that time, it had given me shivers, a clammy feeling ran throughout my body. But I talked myself out of it, saying she was only being dramatic.

Well, here I was, a victim of an accident – one of the things she talked about! More than anything, I wanted to break free. I worried that I might remain tied to that bed. I was stuck. So I figured if I couldn’t change the situation, maybe I could pretend it wasn’t happening. My only bright moments were my nurse’s visits, books, and a small radio she got for me. They were my tickets out of whatever I thought I was in.

Many months later, I was discharged from the hospital with a slight limp, crutches, and the will to live again – thanks to my nurse. But two years after this memorable experience, I heard a sad news – my nurse had passed away. It was painful because I wasn’t sure if I thanked her enough for being nice to me, a total stranger. I felt guilty because I didn’t return some her books like I promised. I was confused because I didn’t understand why she had to die when the world didn’t have enough good people.

It’s been a long journey to personal growth and a lot has happened to make me the person I am today. But to her honour, I decided to start helping to make someone else’s pain less painful – no matter their colour, religion, or tribe. I take small steps towards this every day, and I hope my nurse is proud of me.

Rest in peace, my nurse.

A Stand Against Oppression

Abdulmumin (1)

— By Abdulmu’min from Nigeria

It was back in high school some years ago, on the Lagos Island of Lagos State, Nigeria. We had finished prep class, and it was around 9:50 pm on Tuesday night, in the boys-only high school in which four different houses: red, yellow, blue, and green, served as the major difference in the lifestyles of the boys.

We were in our finals, and as the most senior students in the school, we had every other thing going easy. We usually had our whites sparkling, well ironed out such that it could tear one’s skin. Every student had to respect our seniority, those were the benefits of being a senior class student, except of course for the tight schedule of having to prepare for the senior school exams. Everyone barely had time to do other chores, so we had to do those chores after prep class, which usually ended at 9:30 pm leaving us with just 30 minutes before lights-out.

Lately we had been complaining about our stuff going missing from the large building which the final year students of the four houses occupied as dormitories. Every dormitory contained bunk beds, arranged in rows and columns, and locker rooms to keep some of our belongings. We had started to blame each other for the theft.

The Sunday before I was up at night, like every other day, studying, when I suddenly noticed one of the security guards, employed to secure the school, trying to find his way to the hostel, which was already locked, around 2:30 am. I alerted some of my housemates who were awake then to also see what I had seen, we decided to pretend to be asleep. Just as the security guard jumped in, I switched on the lights; the guard noticed this and absconded. There were about ten security guards in the school.

The next morning was a Monday morning, at the beginning of the week there was much to do so we didn’t discuss the incident. It was Tuesday and we had just 10 minutes left until lights out, and I was determined to end the treacherous acts of the guards.

I was standing with the utility prefect, Stanley, when we saw one of the guards by the name Innocent, heading towards the hostel. Now aware of what had been happening, once prep was over, Innocent alongside two other guards nicknamed Boko and Haram, Boko was friendly while Haram was the strong faced guy, would all come into the hostel claiming to send everyone to bed even before lights out, with the aim of getting everyone to sleep at the same time to give them enough time to do whatever evil act they had to do. Innocent was the team leader.

One funny thing about the Name Boko Haram is that, it’s actually the name of the dreaded terrorist group which had been causing insurgency in the Northeastern part of Nigeria, where over 280 schoolgirls were kidnapped.

Innocent wasn’t just heading towards the hostel, he had a bamboo stick in his hand. I told Stanley, “What the hell does this guy think he is going to do with that stick in his hand, hit anyone of us! Hell no, just see what I’m going to do tonight, this will have to stop.” As he got nearer to the hostel Stanley cowardly went into his dormitory, while I went to the front of mine.

There were five of us from blue house, Steve, Owuri, Tobi, Toba, and myself. I informed them of the incident and asked them not to move when Innocent arrived, we had to stop the act. Innocent was in the hostel and as usual chasing everyone to go to bed, he got to where we were standing and suddenly Tobi and Toba made away to their beds, while Steve, Owuri, and I were left. Innocent said “Go inside,” but we didn’t respond so he told us to get on our knees.

By then the whole building was quiet, Steve and Owuri were about to kneel down, when I moved forward going head to head and chest to chest with Innocent, even though he was the leader of the security guards. My words to him were, “Why should we go to bed? Is it because you and your gang want to come and steal our valuables, No! This would have to stop today.” 

Owuri had left, Steve was about to do the same when Innocent suddenly dragged him back and hit him hard on the head with the bamboo stick. Haram was with his boss by then and both were fighting against me. We were exchanging blows and words, more students now trooped out and aided the struggle against oppression after hearing the noise, and finally the fight against the oppression of innocent students had been won.

I thought to myself the school management wouldn’t have believed us if we had gone ahead to report the incident, since we had no evidence, but now we had fought, I had fought for us. They stopped coming to the hostel, which wasn’t their responsibility in the first place, and our properties were safe again. What if I had not taken my stand against oppression?

What Unfairness Has Fate Brought?

— By Editoro from Nigeria

It was not the rays of the sun that seeped through to the road, nor was it the dog barking with so much ferocity, the stench from the heaps of abandoned refuse has given them an enduring purpose: to become the downtrodden and the wretched in the society.

They neither smiled nor frowned, perhaps they were content, but their eyes were begging pleas. Clinging to their arms were children, that have already become a mockery to the perfect deity anyone worships. Buzzing from giant flies was more of an accompanying tune, rather than a discomfort.

I walked faster, with haste, head down in weariness. Knowing I could have become one of them with a mischance in the game of genes sent shivers down my spine.

The aroma of richly cooked food hit my nose, it was from an adjoining fence. Before my eyes were the glitz, the glamour, the ostentatious nature of wealth. Cars of varying sizes and colours were laid one after another spectacularly, like rainbows. Bulky cheeks, potbellies, and proud disposition characterised their features. These were the elites, the ones whom fate had been ‘partial’ to. A mother with richly designed headgear and shoes that made her tiptoe, held her son who was suckling his lollipop. If only he understood what was happening to his peers few metres away.

I scuttled along, my feet dragging on. My eyes watered, not at the deep social divide that has plagued most third world countries, nor what unfairness fate has brought, but the ever-present lacking of the poor.

That experience gave me a powerful sense of responsibility and purpose, and it became my compass in the midst of my travail.

I Was Simply Getting Ready for the Day…

adebisi

— By Adebisi from Nigeria

Some days seem hotter than others; especially in April when the morning sun is in a haste to beautifully display its radiance and cast its heated smile on everyone. That was the case that Monday morning. Until a big bang altered the day’s DNA. It knocked me out of the bed and woke me to a shaky building, the walls vibrating and the roof gnashed their teeth until its sound hit a crescendo.

I rushed briskly to the window, wondering at my own safety, but everywhere was calm the very second the blast ended. I overheard someone says it was a rock blast at a quarry site nearby, so I moved ahead with my day like nothing significant had happened. Hurrying to fix breakfast and get set for the day, I was barely done with any particular chore when my phone rang. “Hello, hope you are fine? I’m just checking up on you”. That was the voice of a very old friend. Then the phone rang again and it was my mother. Why is she calling again this morning after we already spoke last night? Then it was my dad calling; “We heard there was a bomb blast this morning, just checking on you”. He hung up. It was at that moment I realized the whole neighborhood was rowdy with everyone rushing to the scene of the bomb blast.

It was Monday the 14th of April 2014. A bomb had blasted in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and it was obviously the handwork of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. Looking up to the sky towards the direction of the scene (a few miles from my residence) was a gigantic cloud of smoke rising slowly into the heavens. Minutes later, images of hundreds of dead bodies, all burnt and blasted to death made headlines social media. Headless bodies mingled with shredded human parts. An arm lying atop a car, limbs across the culvert, a woman holding tight to her baby (both dead anyway), busted bellies, broken brains and a few survivors still shivering in an almost lifeless state. Then an unborn baby busted out of a pregnant woman alive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, lying in a pool of blood left everyone awestruck.

About thirteen luxury busses, then some smaller busses, countless private cars got caught in the blast. It was the worst attack ever, yet it happened so close to me. But that Monday morning had a lot more in store. As victims were rushed in their hundreds to hospitals and pharmacies, the telephone lines jammed as a result of the thousands of calls emanating from that direction. Over the news, the incident was reported mildly “A bomb blasted in Nyanya, killing about thirty people. Boko Haram has taken responsibility for it. Also over two hundred girls were reportedly abducted from a boarding school in Chibok; a small village in Borno state of Nigeria”.
The president came on air to condemn the act and consoled the family of victims while promising to take care of the survivors’ medical bills. Just as days went by, and the events were about to be swept under the carpet, a global movement began.

Everyone, demanded the President to “Bring Back Our Girls” and that was it; the birth of a new movement that continuously sat-out in public places and daily requested the speedy return of the Chibok girls. Then as this movement began gaining momentum, the news reported that no girls were abducted in Chibok on that morning and that this movement was politically driven, and aimed at destabilizing the government. That sounded believable and just as I was about to believe it, the news reported that seven of the abducted girls had been rescued by the military. Then I heard that a search party from the United States of America had arrived Nigeria to comb the Sambisa forest (a forest that lies along the Nigeria and Niger republic border) and rescue the Chibok girls. Then I heard silence, and again a series of rumors every once in a while about the rescue of some more Chibok girls.

The government through our local media agencies had at some point lied about the total reclaim of territories controlled by the terrorist group. The truth is only made known through international media agencies since the Nigerian government cannot influence nor have their report edited by the State Security Service (S.S.S) as they do with the seemingly largest television network in Africa before broadcast. What this implies is that the larger population is fed with lies and only those that can afford the high rate of subscribing to cable networks monthly have a chance of hearing the truth as it happens.