Thursday, 29 August 2013

...Then The Girls Began To Marry


Mid-Late 80s
This is how we used to play the game: We stand in a semi-circle, all 10 or more of us. One person stands in the middle. We sing a song and clap in unison as the girl in the middle falls backwards, giggling. We catch her by the arms and throw her back and clap and sing. Everyone takes turns until we get tired and move on to our next mischief.

It was fun and interesting growing up in Kaduna. Our houses had no fences. When it was time to play, all we did was scream our names from the comfort of our different homes until we all gathered smack in the middle of the street - Muslims, Christians, Igala, Ishan, Hausa,Yoruba; my playmates all.

The muslim girls followed me to church. I performed ablution at home (Our parents didn't know though...) When they applied lali leaves, I joined in. When they topped it with taki, I did too. During Sallah, we didn’t cook, their pearly white tuwon masara and stew made with dry tomatoes always showed up. Frankly, it always tasted better than anything cooked in my house; maybe because I ate it only once or twice a year. At Christmas, it was fun taking food to each and everyone of them as I got to show off my christmas clothes :)

Early 90s
By primary four however, things began to change. We heard Tambaya was getting married in a few weeks. 
"Married?" We giggled, "Baa ta da nono. Me yaron ta zai sha" She doesn’t have breasts, how will she feed her baby?

Tambaya didn’t have anything to say when we asked about her husband though an uneasy smile seemed to tug at her lips. The D-day came and I peeped through my bedroom window as they took her away covered in a dark, silky veil. I found the ululation of the women who coordinated the event very disconcerting.

After her wedding she stopped going to school. I saw her husband the very first time I paid her a visit; his hair was a dirty shade of grey and he looked old and unkempt. I remember it feeling strange then, like something wasn’t right.

Sensing that she missed school, I would stop by her house as often as I could and bring her up to speed about what was going on - Zainab and Seun fought at the playground, Zainab won. Ugochuckwu stopped bringing milkshake to school and now eats dan wake like the rest of us during break. They drove Titi home because of school fees; again. Mr. Gabriel gave Tarfa the conk of his life during P.E and Tarfa didn’t cry; stuff like that.

And then she got pregnant. I noticed her bulging tummy, her dry lips and her pale, sick eyes. She didn’t look pregnant; she looked like she had kwashiorkor. We never talked about the pregnancy or her personal life. I didn’t know what to say and she looked as surprised by her bulging belly as I was.

When I was told she had died during childbirth, I cried. Her burial and the rapid sequence of events afterwards will always remain etched in my memory. I watched it all through my bedroom window. They brought her out in a wooden box, coffin...I don't know what that thing was; covered in a fancy Superprint I’d seen her mum tie a couple of times. Seeing her husband at the end of the burial procession made my blood boil. He killed her! If he hadn’t married her she wouldn’t have died... Then I saw he wasn’t walking properly because he was crying so hard and my heart softened a bit.

When Sabuwa told me he was getting a new bride two weeks later, I could have strangled him myself. How could he? She just died!
"Shege! Mugu! Dan iska!" She spat. 
"Gaskiyan ki" I concurred. We felt better after that, sort of.

Mid 90s
By the time I left Kaduna to further my education, we couldn’t play the game anymore because we didn’t have the numbers needed to form a decent semi-circle. There were only four of us left, an Igala girl, two ishan girls and myself.  The rest had gotten married...

Recently
I stopped by the kiosk protruding out of my neigbour's fence to buy some things. Hajia, the owner’s wife, is more my friend than my neighbour; being from roughly the same part of the country, we find it easy to talk about anything.
"My sister dey marry. I say make I tell you now before I forget again"
"Marry? Which one?" My eyes must have looked like saucers because she laughed and patted my arm gently.
"No worry, no be Halima, na my other sister"
I exhaled audibly.
"I don try gaskiya. You know since wen I don dey fight my parents before dem even allow her grow like this? Na me say by force she must finish secondary school. At least she don reach 17 years. E no too bad now, abi?"
I nodded.
"As me and you dey here so, them done send 3 people to come carry Halima go back; say the person wey go marry am don dey ask. I tell them say she no well, if she well I go send her but I just dey use style make Halima too finish secondary school"


I was more than impressed.

I drove by earlier today and saw Halima sitting on a bench, reading; completely unaware of  the running battle her elder sister endlessly fights on her behalf. I remembered all the clamour for the rights of the girl child and muttered a silent prayer for her and her brave sister, Hajia, who is all that stands between her and harm's way.

©Naomi Lucas

19 comments:

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vivien chime said...

Naomi, dis is nice. But its only a pity. Tnx 4 awakening in d women of d north.

Naomi Lucas said...

My pleasure :)

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Vivian. It is a pity indeed but its still happening, even as we speak...

Edidiong said...

Lovely piece dear. Really spotlights the cultural dimension to the whole child bride issue. Until we get everyone to see from the eyes of the girl child, this anomaly will continue.

worley said...

I really luv this article. Something has to be done to stop this evil that is arapidl becoming accepted norm. Women, both literate and illiterate, shld be enlightened. Men shld be awakened to their fatherly duties of protectn their babies. Thanks a lot Naomie

Emmanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu said...

I don't know how to sing praises...but it would be unfair that I visit your blog always, get tickled by your sleek writing and say nothing about it...

Emmanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu said...

I don't know how to sing praises...but it would be unfair that I visit your blog always, get tickled by your sleek writing and say nothing about it...

Naomi Lucas said...

Aw *blush* thanks Emmanuel. So you're one of the silent ones eh? I have too many of those. I'm thinking of buying me a brand new audience, lol

Olumide_Ayinla said...

Naomi, how do we engage these people in dialogue about the evil they are doing to these children? I mean a NGO should be spearheading the case. What about movies? Radio Drama? etc. I believe they just don't know better.

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Olumide. You've asked the questions I've hoped a lot of people will ask.Anger doesn't help 'cos like you said, they actually don't know better. I wrote about this when the whole girl child debate was at its peak, check for the note, its Titled Finally, If You Truly Care About The Girl Child Read This!

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Edidiong. True that :)

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Worley for stopping by and you're most welcome. It's already an accepted norm in some parts of the world. You know the ironic thing is some fathers actually believe that they act in the interest of their children...

Yemi said...

Anytime I read articles such as the one you posted, my heart boils in anger; I often wished I havent read it. But not reading it or pretending it is not there does not make it go away. Yes, it makes me sleep well at night but it confines a little angel to an endless life of misery and poverty.

The concept of child bride and arranged marriage is something I can not get my head around. I just wish I had the magic wand. FYI, I never knew of child bride until I started working. Even then the child bride cases I got to hear about were 17 - 18 year old that just left secondary school. Surprise surprise, my secondary school was in JTown. I must have been a complete idiot all these years. I wonder how traumatic it must have been for you and your friends. I can not still get my head around it ma'am, it sounds more like fiction than reality.

My hope is one day I will be able to bring something to the table that will help reduce / stop the incidence of child bride. It is a shame we are discussing this in the 21st century.

Naomi Lucas said...

Yemi, your comment in the 2nd paragraph made me laugh. I think it just wasn't on your radar is all. Plus the prevalence of child marriages in Jos is negligible being a mainly christian population.

The main trauma was not understanding what was going on and watching stuff happen that you couldn't do anything about.By the time they were getting married, most of them didn't know how to prepare a decent meal, or even know what childbirth was...imagine that.

Its indeed a shame we are still having this conversation. Sadly, religion is a very very powerful tool.

seyi said...

This is most touching. Haba! Y are ppl so wicked.yeah it is wickedness

Naomi Lucas said...

lol. Indeed people are wicked. I've gotten over that a long time ago...

Naomi Lucas said...

Lol. Indeed people are wicked. I got over that a long time ago...

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