By: Innocent Doris U.
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”. – Nelson Mandela
Agnes sat down on the platform at the back of her house staring into space, her mind whirring like an electronic fan at its highest pace. As a young woman at 28 who has 6 children for a man who kidnapped her as a child and was forced by her uncles to remain with him, tradition they called it. She was only 14 and newly orphaned. Her life from then on turned inside out and all she had become accustomed to was a dark tunnel, at no time did she see the light as there was no one to show her the way. For the past 14 years of her life, she has endured a place worse than hell, because of her helplessness first as a child and subsequently as a mother who feared to lose her children. Her 4 beautiful girls and 2 little boys who were still running about in their knickers in their childish innocence, oblivious to the reality around them except for when their mother becomes a punching bag, which happens very often.
She smiled on the platform, so much sadness, anguish and pain in her eyes as she relived the past 14 years of her life. Life has been so cruel to her, as she endures constant pain, abuse, rape, neglect and even torture. She definitely didn’t suffer alone, any child who dared come between her and the man who calls himself her husband when he is beating her, would be beaten as well.
Samson really personified his name on her body, he was tall, dark and handsome, such an irony to his personae. It would be too kind to call him a beast, because even beasts have time for rest. He always found an excuse to hit her, rape her or even torture her, sometimes in the presence of their children. He also didn’t relent in saying terrible things to their children about her. This was the system that enabled her conceive 10 times; of those 10 pregnancies she lost 2, had 2 still births and nurtured 6 children who she is grateful, are alive and healthy.
As she continued her reminiscing, she remembered the many times she had woken up to realize that she had fainted from domestic violence. She took a look at her young battered body, the scars on her body and the gaping wound in her heart.
Samson had threatened to separate her from the kids forever if she ever dared to leave him. This threat was etched in her heart and so with every child she bore, her fear grew and so did her anger.
The most troubling part of her situation that has kept her in this quagmire presently is the plan to marry off her first daughter Ruth who is only thirteen, to a rich man who had promised to give them a new house, buy them three cars and send their two boys to school. Samson had eagerly agreed without her consent, she was deeply troubled; she was only a year older when she was kidnapped. She couldn’t stand and let the same evil that befell her and caused her, her entire life befall her precious baby.
By this time her tears had become groans and her tears like a torrential rain fall luckily, Samson is not home. As Agnes fights in her heart frantically for a solution, her mind wanders to what she could have become if only one adult had fought for her fourteen years ago, she could have been an enlightened graduate and would have every form of security any woman could dream of, be it mental, economic or even marital.
These and many more she wanted desperately for her children. She would fight tooth and nail and sacrifice anything to ensure that all her children would get the things she could only dream of. She is still thinking of a way out of this dilemma.
This is currently the plight of hundreds of young women somewhere in Northern Nigeria today. They transit from girlhood into womanhood in a nightmare they have no choice but to call home. The many unheard voices filled with anguish and pain still abound. Their Sexual, Reproductive and Health Rights are still violated thoughtlessly. Some of these young women and girls lose their lives during child birth or from domestic violence. Others contract Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and are left to suffer until they are either helped or they eventually die. Some others who are bold enough to escape may never see their babies again. Others just endure the precarious situation due to fear and pressure from family and friends. These are the ones who cannot even cry silently, because of the burden in their hearts. I can hear the cries of this young girls; “Save us, the ones we were entrusted with, have failed to protect us. Rather, they have let us out to the wolves to devour. But, I am only a child.”
We see how Child Bride practices foster and sponsor Gender Based Violence and other Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) violations. This is the reason why this menace must be strongly hunted down and stopped. We must lend our voices to victims of Child Bride and reinvigorate their broken spirits and bodies. They have the right to dream as much as the rest of us do. We must also do our best to ensure that Parents and members of the society recognize child bride for what it is so that together we can discourage it, stop it and have a better Nigeria. A Child Bride Free Nigeria is a great Nigeria.