The birth of a girl signals the beginning of a tumultuous life journey. Her journey is worth looking at step by step, evaluating even. At each stage of her life she represents different things and goes through much.
Upon her birth, a little girl may experience her first rejection. This is because she is perceived not to have the ability to carry the family name for future generations, she may be seen as a visitor who will eventually get married and in essence may not be seen as real family.
In some instances at the birth bed she may be seen as a sign of wealth that will eventually come to the family in the form of bride price. This makes this girl appreciable and informs the way she will be raised, being raised to be a wife.
As she grows up the girl will be moulded into an acceptable version of womanhood. If at birth she had a twin brother she is likely to know how to sweep, clean and cook earlier and better than him. She will not know how to make toy cars nor will it be an entirely acceptable thing for her to climb trees.
Her favourite colours would have been decided for her at birth thus all she has to learn is to match them well.
While parents of her male counterpart will laugh when he talks about his girlfriend in pre-school, she on the other hand will be threatened with pregnancy if “she plays with boys”.
As she blossoms into teenage hood she will be taught hard on the virtues of a proper woman. She will kneel while greeting the elders, her brother can do that while on the couch. She will learn to serve the elders on her knees, her brother will not as he is born into elder hood and has to be served by her.
She will suffer more for being ugly during puberty. She will have names given to her and she may suffer low self esteem. She will experiment with different creams to enhance her appearance. Her brother will of course continue using camphor cream and Vaseline and remain acceptable to young girls.
At this point she may begin to be aware of her sexuality. Something she will learn to be ashamed of. The culture of silence will be reinforced at this point. She will attempt to sweep her breasts with a broom so they grow back despite this being a natural process.
She will miss some days at school if she has overtly painful menstrual cramps. At this point her family will watch over her movements with hawk’s eyes. Her curfew will of cause be different from that of her brother; so that she is not defiled by anyone.
This life, that of the girl is tricky. She actually may be ‘defiled’ and impregnated against the values and teachings of where she comes from, she is likely to be sent packing and abandoned to the mercy of the heart of the father to be and his family.
She will be a pride to the family when her suitor comes to pay her bride price in the most appropriate manner and weds her without getting her knocked up. A bigger pride will she be if she gets pregnant soon after the wedding and gives birth to a boy.
The bigger challenges will visit her if she does get married. If her husband fails at anything in his life, mostly his career she will be blamed for bringing bad luck to his life. She of course will turn viciously to religion, climb mountains and fast or even get abused by the ‘helpers’.
If she fails to conceive within three years of the marriage she is likely to be under pressure to leave or accept a second wife for her husband. There is no question of the possibilities of her husband being the impotent one. She will then be voracious in her quest for religious solutions.
She may really be happily married and find bliss with her partner but, if she has made a bad choice for a husband, her suffering will be such that you can touch it.
She may be a statistic for gender based violence; she may stay in the marriage for her children. Children that she is likely to bring up the same way she was brought up.
She may become an aunty and be a menace or sweetheart to her brother’s wife and his marriage. She will support him to abuse this woman or she may befriend her and be a true friend, defying her brother.
Her body will eventually change. She will go through menopause and stop bearing children. Her children will marry and get married. Her breasts will sag and her face and hands will become wrinkled.
All the energy she had would have been sapped away by years of tears and sweat.
People will begin to die in the family, maybe due to sickness or sudden deaths that may come in the form of accidents.
At this point she will be given a new name by her sons and their wives, “Witch”.
She will be the witch that is ‘eating’ up all her children and their children. She will be the witch that will be abandoned and receive no visitors, even her grandchildren will know she eats people. Despite this her smiles and laughter will still attract her grandchildren to her.
She will be the witch who may serve you with poisoned food. The witch all the daughters in law will see in their dreams attacking them. The witch, who wants to take away their husbands (her sons) from them.
Of course she will die. Her obituary will make sure to mention the loving, nurturing and excellently hardworking woman she was. Her prayers for the clan will only be celebrated at this point. Her death will leave a void that borders on poverty in a family.
This is her life, from birth to death. It surely can be better; it has been really good for some, but surely a nightmare for others. What remains is that she will never desire to be anything else; being HER is a gift that has to be celebrated and enjoyed forever. (Sigh).