we must all come to wear a certain dusk
with or without stars; a man covered his face
and walked into our sister to open her love
love is what we see at night, when the moon gathers
stars and caresses our bodies with the tender fingers of wind
and dips a light in our mouth till we search for our sister
in the space she used to sit,
we must all dip ourselves in water
and breathe: father said she shall return one evening
and she did, with her tears and other men filled their mouth
with prayers and poems and pleas and she vanished in the body of a chief.
— DAURIN AURE:
they came back with clerics and kegs,
fabrics and little boys learning the taste of salt,
girls with babies woven in their bellies,
some women who brought Kundi
turned us to the field and urged us to laugh
we laughed a laugh that stood in our throats,
my brothers and I merged our bitterness
and it formed a quorum then we said a prayer.
— KAMUN AMARIYA:
my sister was running with her friends
planting freedom in her chest
learning how to laugh
curling up into a song
when they came and begged her friends to leave
she would still dream of running
I know my sister, she would still dream
of wearing the trees with eyes.
— WUNI/SA LALLE:
I peeped through the key hole
and my mother’s tears rushed through
as my sister’s friend drew henna on her skin.
— KAI AMARIYA:
we dusted the cobwebs in her room
and packed it into her baggage
that morning we all went to her husband’s house
and found our father break a bone with his teeth.
we buried our sister in his house
we know her twelve year old vortex won’t survive
a man that has swam countless seas.
Aisha has been up all night thinking and grieving. Her husband is asleep. He can sleep like a cocoyam. He can sleep and the thieves in Accra will rob his house wearing sandals and making noise but he would not hear a sound. With his mouth wide open and saliva running down the side of his mouth, he sleeps like a new born baby with no worries and snores like a tiger roaring in the Kenyan safari. He is a man of many irrelevant words and everywhere money smells his big head will show up. At this point Aisha has gone outside to think. Her husband’s snoring just disturbs her mind just like the issue at hand. Culture and tradition cannot be disrespected and she is only a woman with no say and her place, according to their culture is the kitchen. She walks around her side of the compound. The three other wives are sleeping in their own huts and her witch of a mother in law, at least that is how she perceives her, is also sleeping and snoring. Like mother like son.
She cries and wails. She cannot allow her only daughter be given out for marriage. Not at this age. Not at this time. She wants so much more for her daughter. She wants her daughter to be everything she was not. Educated, a lady and a boss. But she knew with the kind of culture and tradition they had, it was nearly impossible. With tears in her eyes and apoplectic with rage, she walks into her hut with the snoring pot belly husband of hers. It was going to be a long night.
Nawa¾My own. Er babanta¾Your father’s daughter. Kekkwawar uwa¾ Beautiful mother. This is their morning prayer. The bond between a mother and a daughter is one that is unbreakable, one that runs deep in the heart. Kai is the apple of her mother’s eye, but to her father: the future money making machine. Kai is the only daughter of her mother, Aisha and the fifteenth, and last child among her father’s four wives. She is a 12-year-old with the body of an 18-year-old. At age 11, she reached puberty and saw her first blood. Her father jumped with joy and killed a goat for her¾a goat she will later have to pay for with her innocent life. To Aisha it was no good news. It was a bad omen and a sign of lost hope. But she welcomed her daughter into her womanhood as any mother will do, taught her to wrap her blood and how to use the kckcc¾a red cloth used when a woman is in her menstrual cycle¾each morning and night to absorb the blood.
There was something about Kai that will make you love her. her smile, her cute dimple, and her innocence. To the men she was ripped and they adored her although she paid them no attention. Men old enough to be her father, this made her always wonder why these men chased after her calling her their wife when she was only 12 years old. It disturbed her. So, she sometimes went into a long conversation with her mother. Kai will ask her question, questions too heavy for Aisha to answer, and too heavy for her heart to carry. But in all these, there was something that deeply worried the 12-year-old girl. “Papa why am I not in school?” she asked this question daily, imprinted on her tongue and made it her everyday prayer. “What is the use my daughter? Leave the schooling for boys and focus on house work. A man will marry you one day and you have to be a good wife.” This was the answer she always got from her father, Abdullah. This answer burdened her heart and she struggled to live with this pain every day.
Abdullah is a very (un)interesting man depending on how you look at him. He just exists as a man with a penis dangling in between his legs and making babies. A walkie talkie. A man with no brains, well he has one, he just doesn’t know how to use it. 60-year-old with four wives and fifteen children. Wives his mother married for him. Wives his mother controls. His mother Amina is one of the very few respectable women in the community. Respectable simply because she chose and has allowed her only son to marry four wives and knows how to put the house in order. Abdullah is her only son. His father died at the age of 7 in the Akan Kitiwa war. A war that wiped out almost an entire clan and allowed the northerners to be slaves to the southerners for a decade. They got their freedom after signing a bloody agreement. Abdullah married his first wife Mona when she was only 16 years old and he, a 36-year-old man. Within four years Abdullah had four additional wives¾Fatizara, Hamdiya, Firdause and Aisha¾ with his mother doing all the choosing. Aisha was his last wife and only 12 years old when he married her. Aisha came into the picture when the then fourth wife, Firdause was sent away from Abdullah’s house, so we can say Aisha was just a replacement.
Love making to Abdullah is nothing to write home about. No orgasm, No romance no nothing. He just pushes his big penis into his older wives like they are boreholes. Jump up and down on them like he is squatting for a new booty. Ejaculates and calls it a day. He leaves you with wounds that will take days to heal. Wounds only salt and hot water can heal. He is very big and almost all his wives never look forward to spending the night with him.
Firdause was the fourth wife and just like all the other wives she too also suffered the same fate when it came to the manhood of Abdullah. She was very skinny and looked like a sick girl except she wasn’t sick, that was how her body was structured. She was 11 years old when Abdullah’s mother went to seek for her hands in marriage from her parents. She was from the nearby village namely of Kaduna. 11 years old married to a 39-year-old man. She was naïve, curious and innocent.
Four months into the marriage and she had to sit on hot water mixed with salt every day. She used some for her baths and sat on some to heal from the smoke. For months, the little girl who was the brightest girl in her school, best climber among her brothers and the talkative in her family became numb and quiet, a ghost of herself waiting every fortnight to scream in pain. This pain and silence she felt made her curse the day she was born, her culture and tradition. the sorrow in her heart and burden she carried as a little girl made her curse her father for stealing her childhood away from her. Each fortnight, when it was time for Abdullah to come to her hut she cursed him, during those nights, darkness and light all came together in her hut.
Two years later Firdause was in labor. A 13-year-old child pushing and screaming to give birth to another child. She delivered her baby at home with the help of her mother-in-law. It was a bouncing baby boy. A boy meant victory. A boy meant good news. I will spare you the details of what giving birth to a girl meant¾disgrace. The difference between having a baby in the hospital with midwives and having a baby at home with your mother in law is that one is trained the other is a control freak and has no training. Firdause suffered from pressured necrosis from obstructed labor. Her urinary bladder was then injured. She started to urinate without her knowing. She will wake up in the morning and has urine all over her. She could not feel anything. She just urinated on herself. A bad omen Amina called it. She smelled of urine and for that, Abdullah could not have sex with her. “What is the use of a woman if she cannot give birth?” Amina roared like a wounded lion and took Firdause back to her father’s house. The gods were angry at her they said. She must have had sex with another man they said. Ignorance is bliss.
so many broken children living in grown bodies mimicking adult’s lives – Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Gombe is one of the biggest states in Northern Nigeria. Predominantly Muslim. Crops and animal farming are two of the main occupations in the state. A very poor state at that. What do you expect? A town that has no regard for educating or protecting their women and girls. They have said no to the education of the girl child. Hardly do they go to hospitals. Gombe is a state that holds its cultural and traditional values to a higher pedigree, and this is why child marriage is very prevalent. Child marriage has its roots in their religion. Religion is one of the core values in Gombe State¾to them, Prophet Mohammed (peace be unto his name) married Aisha at the age of seven and this is the stepping stone for them. One aspect of their religion is to follow in the footsteps of their prophet and this is why fathers give off their daughters at a very tender age because to them it is morally right¾ do they still believe in this in the 21st century? Yes. Living in the 21st century, with 1860 vintage brains. But do we blame them? Tradition, culture, and religion. It is very complicated.
Abdullah and his family live in the center of Gombe State. Because Gombe is in a desert, most houses are built with sand. Abdullah’s house is built with red mud with such an amazing architectural design. On his compound are six different mud houses, each with its balcony and three windows. Each wife has their own mud house which they share with their children. Surrounding the individual mud houses is a wall which has a gate attached to it. One has to get through this gate before you can fully enter the compound. The gate is built like another mud house but very tall, almost 10 feet, so you walk through it and then you get to the compound. On your left is two mud houses belonging to Abdullah and his mother and then on your right are the other mud houses belonging to each wife. In the middle of the compound is where all the cooking and washing takes place. The wives take turns in cooking for the family every day and Abdullah decides who to sleep with during the night. Kai is the only daughter born to him by Aisha. The gods have closed the womb of Aisha. Or, she has decided not to give birth again. For a reason not known to anyone she has not given birth. Let’s just say the gods know best. Aisha always wanted to be a teacher. For some reason the canes they held in their hands fascinated her. To her, teachers knew the answers to so many questions in the world and they could bring change to it. But, her father selfishly gave her away to Abdullah just so her older brother could get cows and goats to pay the bride price of their wives. She saw how her two older sisters suffered the same fate as Firdause. She vowed to heal her people from such a barbaric act but she just like most girls, became a victim with no escape plan. There was no escaping from this. This was the fate of most girls in Gombe state. When she gave birth to Kai, it was as if she had swallowed some bitter leaves. All she felt was bitterness. All she felt was rage. She knew in some way she could save her daughter. But she had no idea how she was going to save her. Each night, she went to bed thinking and plotting. But she was just a woman.
Because the body itches, this is why we allow the nails to grow. So we can scratch ourselves with them. The day Kai reached puberty, the day she had her first blood, Aisha knew it was time. She knew she had to act fast or her daughter will suffer the same fate as she did. She had saved enough money from the cassava she sold rom her husband’s farm. She will send Kai away to her old friend who ran away to Kano state after realizing she was about to be married to an old man whose stomach alone can carry all of Abdullah’s children. She was lucky she had Aunties back in Kano State so they welcomed her and refused to let her go back to Gombe. She had it all figured out. She was going to send Kai away on the Monday market day. Kai was going to be the woman she always wanted to be. Kai was going to be free, free at last.
The Monday market day finally came. But it came with tears. It came withdarkness. It came with a flood. A flood that will wipe away every dream Aisha had for her daughter. Monday market day came but it came smelling of death.
The previous Monday market day, Amina had overhead Aisha speaking to one of her friends at dusk in one of the bushes. Amina had gone to the next village, Bauchi to see a very rich merchant who wanted to marry Kai. She had gone to discuss marriage rites and everything with Amadu, the wealthy merchant who was to be the husband of Kai in the next two Monday market days. But on her return she saw Aisha, she can smell her from yards away. At first she thought she was having an affair but upon hearing the conversation, she was wrong. It was there she heard all of Aisha’s plot and plan to get Kai out of Gombe and send her to Kano. She heard everything. Word for word. But she wasn’t sure. So she went ahead to ask Awlette¾the woman planning the escape plan with Aisha. If an animal will bite you, it is the one that is buried inside your cloth, and so, Awelette sold Aisha out to Amina. Amina came home and pretended she had not heard anything. She pretended all is well. And instead of Amadu coming on the next two Monday market days, Amina made him come a market day earlier.
Aisha woke up with her daughter nowhere to be found. Amina had hidden her and she would only come out when Amadu and his people have arrived. Tears filled Aisha’s eyes and cascaded to the ground. She sat on the floor like a cripple and cried. She wept bitterly. she screamed and shouted. She knew Amina wouldn’t let her see her daughter. She knew her friend had sold her out. Her little girl, the girl who ran in the park chasing flowers. The one to redeem her and be everything she wasn’t. Her daughter. Her only daughter. She had failed her. The last time she saw her daughter was on the wedding day. She wasn’t allowed to go near her, nor was she allowed to touch her. The cry of a girl screaming for her mother and a mother begging to hold her daughter one more time. Nawa¾My own. Er babanta¾Your father’s daughter. Kekkwawar uwa¾ Beautiful mother. She screamed this after the vehicle Amadu brought and chased after it. She was chasing hope. She was chasing dreams. But hope and dreams were too far from her reach. To Aisha, her tomorrow died yesterday.
You must be wondering where Abdullah was? Well, he was around but couldn’t say anything because his mother not only controlled his manhood but his brains. I know you must be confused so let me help you. Maybe you are wondering why Amina is a woman and has so much power. well, Amina like most women in Gombe state was powerless. The only power women had was over their sons. As a mother, it was her duty to exercise control over her son and choose his wives for him, but unlike Amina, not all mothers are like that, and not all sons are as timid as Abdullah. They just happen to belong to a different breed of mother and son relationships, rumor had it that Amina used Juju to charm her son but I wasn’t there so I cannot tell. One thing I know for sure is, Abdullah, my father was very ruthless when it came money while Amina, my grandmother, was such a smart woman when it came to making money, so you can see how that worked. Oh! You must be wondering why I know so much? Well, under my nose all these things happened. From my grandmother’s mouth I heard stories. I am a boy so I get to go to school. Are you crazy? You are wondering why I couldn’t save my sister? Amina controls the money in the house. Who will pay my school fees? I know I am selfish. I know I am a coward. This is all you will get to know about me.
The day of the wedding was the last time Aisha heard from Kai. Aisha went mad. She was a complete psycho and she started talking to herself and seeing everyone as Kai. She forgot how to live. Day and night became the same. She didn’t know what day it was. She was lost. Lost in her own world and lost in thoughts.
One fateful Monday market day, two years after Kai got married, Abdullah came home to meet his daughter Kai. She smelled so bad. According to her husband, she lost her baby at child birth and after that she started urinating in the whole house. Aisha woke up from her sleep, came out of her hut, and saw Kai. Her daughter had aged. She was now 14 and her husband came to drop her off because he was no longer interested and Kai was no longer a marriage material. Aisha hugged her daughter. Amina quickly called Kai a devil and asked her and her mother to leave the house. To them, such a disease meant punishment from the gods and this made the husbands divorce their wives and send them back to their families. Mother and daughter were united again, but in a very sad circumstance; Kai was no longer talking and her mother talked nonsense. Aisha went back to her family. Her father was dead by then but her mother was still alive and she took them in. Mamud, Aisha’s older brother, was now a doctor and so he came to examine Kai. At this point in time, Kai has been suffering from what Mamud diagnosed as vesicovaginal fistula for a year.
Well, now we know there is nothing like a curse from the gods as my people think. It is rather vesicovaginal fistula. Chill, let me tell you about it. Not only do the people of Gombe disregard women, they also have no respect for the hospital (post and pre-natal care). Mother- in-laws help their daughter-in-laws deliver at home and because we have children giving birth to children, the fault is with the bony pelvic cavity. It is too small to permit easy passage of the baby during labor. Labor gets prolonged and difficult. Failure to relieve the obstruction early, results in serious pelvic damage. Where the urinary bladder and the contiguous parts of the vaginal are injured, a false passage is created between the two, so that urine leaks through the vaginal continuously and uncontrollably, wetting the woman’s clothing, her buttocks, thighs and feet. Where the injury involves the rectum and anus; fecal incontinence results. Injury to the sacral nerves as they traverse the bony pelvic results in obstetric palsy causing difficulty in walking, and eventually gross deformities of the foot and leg muscles in neglected cases.
Kai looked weak and pale, and her smell? Well, if it was the holy ghost, Kai would have touched the lives of an entire household just by standing at the front gate. Four months into seeing her daughter and six months of being with her family, Aisha returned to her normal self. But there wasn’t enough to be hopeful for. Mamud let her know Kai could be operated on but her condition was severe. It was a bit too late for her. There was a 20-80 chance. 20% she will live. 80% she will die. They went ahead and scheduled a day for the operation in Lagos.
Running around on the field! Grass so green with colorful flowers of beautiful petals of wonderful scents with sweet nectars. Running around in bright colorful cloths YELLOW! Chasing flowers with no fears, with no worries just running just chasing and just laughing just living. Life is yellow. Life is colorful. But like a candle in the wind, guarded with our hands, the light goes out unexpectedly. Life becomes still. Life becomes dark. NO ONE IS PROMISED TOMORROW.
This is the many similar stories of young girls in most countries in the African continent. Child marriage is one of the greatest challenges facing girls on the continent. To be born a girl, is a curse in these countries where child marriage is prevalence. It is hard to say what is the course. Tradition and culture? Or religion? Or could it be these factors are being used as a cover up against girls in these countries, to steal their human rights away from them. Africa has one of the highest prevalences in child marriage with Niger on top of the list with 76%. Other countries like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali are part of the top 20 countries with the highest rate in child marriage. In this article, I am going to focus on Tanzania. Tanzania is one of the many countries that is fighting against child marriage. The government together with other nonprofits are fighting for the rights of young girls.
Tanzania is an East African country known for its vast wilderness areas. They include the plains of Serengeti National Park, a safari mecca populated by the “big five” game (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino), and Kilimanjaro National Park, home to Africa’s highest mountain. Offshore lie the tropical islands of Zanzibar, with Arabic influences, and Mafia, with a marine park home to whale sharks and coral reefs. Tanzania has a capital town called Dodoma and the Tanzanian Chilling as their currency. Currently, John Magafuli is the president of Tanzania
Child marriage or child bride as most prefer calling it, is one of the many challenges facing Africa. Child marriage is when girls below the ages of 18 are forced into marriage for cultural, religious, and traditional reasons.
TANZANIA AND CHILD MARRIAGE
Tanzania is one of the countries in Africa with the highest rate in child marriage. Two out of five girls get married by 18 years. Due to inaccurate birth and marriage certificates, it is hard to get the accuracy of the number of girls and women who are victims. But, child marriage is very prevalent in the rural areas and girls in these areas marry as early as 11 years old.
RIGIONS IN TANZANIA WITH HIGH PREVALENCE IN CHILD MARRIAGE
|NAME OF REGION||PERCENTAGE|
|DAR ES SALAAM||19%|
INCENTIVES FOR CHILD MARRIAGE
- To generate income or mahari (dowry) used by the brother to get married
- A practice called Nyumba Ntobu: this involves an older wealthier woman paying the bride price for a young girl to become her wife. A man is being then chosen to impregnate the girl and any children who are born belong to the older woman
- Human Rights Watch highlights that the Tanzanian government’s primary school leaving examination, which determines which pupil may continue on to secondary school, exposes girls to child marriage
- Being forced into marriage after failing exams. Mandatory pregnancy tests and expelling girls from schools also violates their rights
- Other drivers of child marriage include harmful traditional practices such as setting of bride price and the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is used as a rite of passage into adulthood, a signal that a girl is ready to marry. A girl from a practicing community is not considered ready for marriage until she has undergone FGM. The national prevalence of FGM is currently 14.6%.
In 1971, the laws of marriage were passed in Tanzania. In this laws, boys are to marry at the age of 18 and girls 15. Also, it is stated in the law that girls can marry under 15 if the courts approve. In some cases, girls below the ages of 18 need parental permission to marry. Despite all the laws set forth to protect girls, they are never givien the chance or even have the say in who they marry and what time they get married.
Also, ethnic groups can follow and make decisions based on their customs and traditions about child marriage. The division and lack of understanding between the government and traditional leaders makes it hard to reach a compromise of the decision concerning child marriages.
INITIATIVES TO STOP CHILD MARRIAGES
- In 2014, UNFPA, Graca Machel Trust, Children’s Dignity Forum and Tanzania Media Women’s Association launched “Government Marriage Free Zone.” This is a national campaign to end child marriage in Mara Region. It involves reaching out to communities about the rights of girls and the responsibility to uphold them as part of a AU initiative to end child marriage across the nation.
- The Government has shown its commitment to ending child marriage through particularly the promotion of girl’s education at all levels. It is reflected in the efforts to increase access to secondary education including the re-entry of pregnant girls to school to prevent child marriage. “To be successful in the eradication of child marriage by 2013, there is no village, no township, no corner of this great continent that should not hear the message that child marriage can end” Her Excellency Graca Machel.
- Tanzanian End Child Marriage Networks is a network with more than 25 civil society organizations with the purpose of ending child marriage in Tanzania. CDF is the secretariat and the main objective of the network is to raise awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage by encouraging open, inclusive, and informed discussion at the community, national and international level.
WHICH GIRLS ARE MOST LIKELY TO GET MARRIED AS CHILDREN?
- Child marriage in Tanzania occurs more frequently among girls who are the least educated, poorest, and living in rural areas
- 61% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 39% with primary school education were married or in union at age 18, compared to only 5% of women with secondary school education
- Household wealth influences the prevalence of child marriage among all wealth quintiles. Girls from the poorest 20% of the households were more than twice as likely to be married in union before age 18 than girls from the richest 20% of households
Gender inequality lowers a girl’s and woman’s ability to make decisions related to her education and health but also when and who to marry. In Tanzania, married women have less control over their lives than married men. Two out of five married women do not participate in decision making regarding their own health care. In Mara region 8% of women participate in household decision-making while in Kilimanjaro region the figure is 64%
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD MARRIAGE IN TANZANIA?
- INCREASED EXPERIENCE OF DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
- INCREASED MATERNAL HEALTH AND INFANT HEALTH RISK: Girls who marry and give birth before their bodies are fully developed are more at risk of maternal mortality and morbidity
- GREATER EXPOSURE TO HIV/AIDS: In Tanzania, married girls between the ages of 15-24 are more likely to be HIV positive than unmarried counterparts. (2.5%/2.0%).15-24-year-old girls who are divorced separated or widowed are 11.3% HIV positive (THMIS 2011-2012). Many young brides cannot negotiate safe sex even when they have knowledge about how to protect themselves and are under pressure to demonstrate fertility
- TEENAGE PREGNANCY: Teenage pregnancy and motherhood are more common among young women living in rural areas and those from poorer families in Tanzania. Overall, 23% of women age 15-19 are pregnant or already have children
- ISOLATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA: Child brides are unable to cope with married life because at their young age they are not well prepared to handle family matters.
WILL ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE CONTRIUTE TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
- Globally countries which have the high prevalence of child marriage also have high adolescent fertility and maternal mortality rates: rates of child marriages also appear to be highest where a high number of girls are out of school or have dropped out of school.
- Efforts to end child marriage must also include interventions that
- Help girls stay at school though adolescence.