Till We Meet Again

Love. Memories. Loving memories of all the times we spent together.

When the night falls and the tears dry up, that is all we’re left with. To cherish and hold on to as our source of comfort. Alleviate our pain and fill this void that death has left in our hearts and lives.

When my mother shared the news , she started with ‘sorry’. I stamped my feet, screaming No, No, No in defiance. My spirit rejected the news, my heart got very heavy and I was blinded. That last No led me to surrender… to the truth of your demise, the stream of tears clouding my vision.

I was defenseless and I wished for only one thing: to be home where we would all share the pain and comfort each other just like you would have done. Mother said sorry, but I wanted to be there to tell her it will be alright. I know how much you meant to her, to us. Amie is heartbroken. We all are.

It hurts. It is difficult to come to terms with this new reality.

It is painful to know that when I finally come home, my degree in hand, you wouldn’t be there to cheer me on as usual. I think of this and remember our trips to get me registered into Junior and then Senior Secondary school. My mother left everything in your hands, because to us, you were another Mother.

I draw strength from your words on those trips, where you never hesitated to let me know how proud you were of me. I think of the day I left home and how we held on to each other, unable to control our tears, as you shared valuable advice with me. I listened and I practiced. Now I’m almost at the end of the road and you’re gone.

I woke up today, but the pain was still here. The tears still fall. The void remains unfilled. I try to be strong, because it’s what you would have wanted. I worked hard on my dissertation today… it will be my gift of success to you. My concentration flickered a few times, but I kept on, encouraged by the loving memories I had.

I remember the amazing summers we spent with you in Mansakonko, watching you work and serve the community. You were the nurse everyone came to, for your infectious good spirit alone could make the sick better. We were always reluctant to go back to Kombo, because in your home we found love, warmth and everything we needed.

I remember our trip to Tendaba, the joy you brought into our lives, the patience in dealing with a rowdy bunch of kids excited to be free in that natural environment. You were a natural at giving love and making everyone around you feel comfortable and happy. You were the life of the party and when there was no party, you still made it feel like one.

As my tears fall, I am comforted by the visions of your smile and the echos of your hearty laughter. Death took you away too soon, Aunty Marie. Too soon.

I’ve tried to be strong, to stop crying, to pray for you instead. When it all fails, I turn to my words. It is through writing that I find peace. It is through remembering the many moments we shared, each filled with love, happiness and endless laughter that I find the solace I seek.

I write to come to terms with this. I write for closure. I write because God is the only one I can talk to right now and so I will ask Him to take care of you. I will pray to Him to forgive your sins and welcome you among his righteous servants.

You are gone from this Earth, but we are comforted knowing that you have only gone back home to Heaven, where you belong. The Angels will welcome you in their midst and you will share with them the many gifts you’ve blessed us with while we still had you. They’ve won you now, but we still keep a piece of you in our hearts, where you’ve always been.

Take your rest now. You have done well on Earth and it shall be well with you in Heaven, by God’s mercy and grace. When you look down upon us, know that we grieve but still keep you in our prayers. We will miss you.

Till we meet again, Aunty Marie Forbes. God be with you.

The Cost Of Greener Pastures: An Afternoon On The Streets of Rabat

1:30pm. It’s almost the end of the lunch break. I am on a sidewalk just a few metres from the Place Al Joulane in Rabat Ville. The tram passes by slowly, stops to allow cars to cross, before proceeding to its next stop. People walk past, each in a hurry to get to their destination.

A toddler plays on the pavement as his mother, seated a few steps away, keeps an eye on him while begging for money from passers-by. She extends her palm towards an approaching woman and then digs into her pink jacket to keep the coin she’d just been offered.

Rabat Ville

Rabat Ville

Susan* has been begging on the streets of Rabat for the past four months, to sustain herself and her son Blessed. Hers is not an isolated case, as the Moroccan capital has seen an increase in the number of illegal immigrants begging for survival, over the past few years. Most of them come from various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, but some are Syrian refugees fleeing from the unrest in their country. For many of these Sub-Saharan Africans, Morocco is just a transit point, their destination being Europe, where they go in search of a better life.

It is not Susan’s first time in Morocco. Her first encounter with the Royaume Cherifien was in 2003, when she arrived from her home country, Nigeria. She would eventually spend four years in the Kingdom before finally gaining access into the Spanish capital, Madrid. “I did not have my papers but I made it to Madrid, where I was able to find work. In Morocco, I did not have any chance to work and life was difficult”, she revealed. For Susan, getting into Europe was a dream come true and together with her husband, they were able to make enough money to survive on.

Their illegal status, however, meant they could only get barely decent jobs while hiding from the authorities. After four years of living and working in Madrid, Susan and her husband were arrested on their way out of a bank and sent to a deportation camp, where they engaged the services of a lawyer to plead their case. After 39 days at the deportation camp and a lost case in court, they were deported to Nigeria. “During those four years, we tried very hard to get papers so we can stay peacefully in Madrid and get better jobs. We spent a lot of money -over 5000 Euros- but we were still denied legal residence”.

I had been standing beside Susan as she narrated her story, both of us keeping an eye on Blessed as he tested his recently acquired ability to walk. Moved by her story and wanting to hear more, I sat down on the low brick wall beside her.

Is the grass always greener on the other side?

Is the grass always greener on the other side?

Deportation did not stop Susan’s quest for a better life. She returned to Morocco in 2012, with hopes to get back into Spain, joining her sister who was lucky to obtain legal residence in Madrid. Up until her arrival in Rabat four months ago, she lived in Oujda in the extreme North West of Morocco. “We lived in a forest, where we put up tents and it wasn’t safe at all. The cold was unbearable, so I decided to come to Rabat. I found an apartment in Sale, which I share with other people in the same situation”. She gave birth to her son, Blessed, in Oujda but the little boy was denied a birth certificate because Susan could not afford the hospital bill.

Like many other children of illegal immigrants in Morocco, Blessed’s future looks bleak. With no identification papers even in the country of his birth, he remains one of the 230 million children who do not officially exist, according to UNICEF. This means Blessed could not reclaim his rights and enjoy the benefits of being a Moroccan citizen, one of which is free basic and secondary education.

A new directive from the Ministry of National Education in October 2013, provides access to public and private institutions of formal and informal education for immigrant children in Morocco. Children like Blessed now have the opportunity to go to school, but the conditions may not be met in many cases, given the absence of some of the documents required for inscription. For some parents, as is the case with Susan, this information is news to them. “It’s the first time I’m hearing of this provision. I haven’t heard any of my friends and neighbours talking about it either. It is good and will help some to educate their children free of charge”. Asked whether she will enrol Blessed in school, Susan tells us that she prefers to send him to a private school in her neighbourhood in Sale, where her friends send their children to learn.

Femi, her neighbour, has a 6 year old daughter who goes to this school, started by a fellow Nigerian. “We pay DH100 every month and the children are able to learn in English. Also, they are not afraid to go to school because they don’t get mocked and called names as is the case in the streets”. For parents like Femi, the safety of their children is worth the fee paid every month. Equally, this Nigerian-taught school ensures that their children learn in English and do not have to struggle with learning Arabic, which is the language of instruction when they enrol in the public schools.

A man dressed in a well-pressed suit approaches us. I cannot see him for I have my back to him. He hands a one-dirham coin to Susan and nudges me on the shoulder. I look up and he hands me a coin too, smiling. We thanked him as he went on his way. I handed the coin to Susan and we resumed our discussion.

Susan doesn’t mind sending her son to a Moroccan school for free. After all he was born here, even if unaccounted for officially.  However, she does not see the benefit of him learning in Arabic and would rather he study in English. “I’ll like him to learn French too, because that one is international and will benefit him more than Arabic. When his father comes we will decide”, she said. Her husband is set to return to Morocco, joining his family as they continue to find ways to get back into Spain.

A passer-by walks past, pauses to play with Blessed and then hands Susan a 1 dirham coin. She smiles and thanks her, drawing Blessed closer, with a faraway look in her eye. Just then a black 4X4 stopped in front of us. The traffic lights had gone red. The driver and his friend in the passenger’s seat lean forward to look at us. The latter lifted his hand and pointed to his ring-finger, his way of asking Susan if she was married. She pointed to her son and they smiled. He gestured in my direction and Susan told him I was also married. I was used to these approaches, having dealt with about three on my short walk from the taxi-park to Susan’s spot, so I had averted my gaze as soon as I noticed the car. The lights turned green and they drove off.

Susan looked at me and smiled. “See what they do. Even when I walk in the streets, carrying Blessed on my back, they stop me to ask if I want fuck-fuck. They think we are all prostitutes.” I commiserated with her, while reminding her that we all suffered the same problem and it always took a lot to remain composed in the face of the perversity.

hopeI prefer to stay in the streets and beg so I can provide for my son. There are some women who accept their demands, but their living conditions are not better than mine. I’ll beg and use what I have to pay my rent and take care of Blessed. I’m just waiting for what God can do for us here. Hopefully, Blessed will go to school and become a great person”, she tells me.

A wish that all parents have for their children, even when the future looks bleak and there is little hope. Susan and her neighbour, Femi, are only two of the many Sub-Saharans who risk their lives, live in difficult situations and sometimes resort to desperate means for survival, while they wait to journey into greener pastures.

I pray he brings you many blessings”, I said to her, smiling.

After a moment of silence, I thanked Susan for her time and for sharing her story with me. As I walked away, I remembered to be grateful for the little I have because many are in worse situations and would consider themselves blessed to have what I may consider little.

For Susan, Blessed and many others in the same situation or worse, I continue to use my voice even as I grapple with my own struggles. Service to humanity gives my life much more meaning and I encourage you to reach out to the next person. It might just be what they needed to get through the day. It was for me. Susan and Blessed were my blessings today.

What are your thoughts on illegal immigration and the risks taken by these immigrants to reach this Eldorado that is not all it’s cut out to be.

(*) – not her real name

 

 

International Women’s Day: I Celebrate

It’s International Women’s Day and today, as with everyday, I celebrate (with) all women and girls around the world!

Source: UN Women social media pack for IWD 2014

Source: UN Women social media pack for IWD 2014

I commend us all for the sacrifices we make, the burdens we bear, the changes we influence, the care we give, the love we share, the hope we restore, the strength we embody, going against the odds to succeed, and for a million other things we represent and do as women in this world.

I celebrate the Queens we are, giving birth to Princesses and Princes, partners to Kings, Mothers of the Universe and leaders in our Kingdoms. I celebrate us Lingueres, for even when the crown gets heavy, we still tote it atop our heads with dignity and unrivaled strength!

I celebrate my mother, my ultimate Linguere, for going against all the odds and raising her children and others under her care all alone. I never have to look far for motivation and inspiration and I pray I become even half the woman she is. I celebrate my grandmother too, for setting the pace and inspiring strength through generations.

I celebrate my teachers, mentors, and the many women taking the lead in developing our communities, countries, continents and the world. Your leadership paves the way for greatness and the future is bright for the younger generation.

Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

I celebrate the woman who wakes up as early as 5am, takes care of her household chores and heads out to the farms, the markets, the offices etc to earn a living and give her children a better life than she had.

I celebrate and empathise with that woman who wakes up and tries to cover bruises on her body and face, a result of the severe beating she received from her partner the night before.

I celebrate and give my voice to the little girl lying on a mat, legs splayed apart while older women around her engage in excited chatter, as she loses her clitoris and becomes a ‘full woman’.

I lie beside the mother who is forced to abort her baby -one she had fallen in love with- just because it came with a vagina and is, therefore, worth little or nothing at all. Womanhood is sacred and I celebrate her today.

I remember the many victims of honor killings- stoned to death, drowned, suffocated, slaughtered, shot at- all in the name of restoring dignity. May God in heaven grant you the pleasures and freedom you were deprived of here on Earth.

I stand with all girls and women who’ve had their innocence stolen in childhood, during war, down that dark alley, within the walls of the homes where we are supposed to feel safe. I celebrate you and share my hugs when the hot flashes return and the trauma continues, even after 15 years. Rape is not your fault and you have nothing to be guilty for.

I celebrate, stand by and add my voice to the cries and calls of all women and girls who have been, are and will be victims of violence. One in three women could be me… and it is!

I celebrate the women who are rising against the status quo and proving that we are strong, phenomenal and forces to reckon with.

This year, the United Nations celebrates IWD with the theme ‘Equality for Women is progress for all’ and calls for more involvement from men and boys through the #HeForShe campaign. Partnership is the way forward. 

So today, I also celebrate our men and boys! Yes, I shall never tire of saying we can only really make great progress if we work together as partners. This is what the world needs and it will lead to progress in attaining equality and development. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue; it is humanity’s issue!

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Source: UN Women Social Media Pack for #HeForShe campaign

I celebrate the men in my life, and around the world, who recognise that women are equal beings and who continue to support us and work with us as we strive for excellence. I celebrate and commend all men who see women as partners and are not intimidated by a woman’s success.

I celebrate the men who say NO to violence and are ready to protect the women folk from any of its forms.

I have had quite a handful of these amazing men in my life and suffice to say, it has made a big difference and contributed to who I am. They’ve been some of my biggest mentors and supporters and I’m grateful for their presence in my life. I celebrate my WE-MEN today! I love you all!

Remember, equality for women is indeed progress for all! Let us reflect on this and work towards a better world, where gender is no longer an obstacle to success and growth.

Happy Women’s Day everyone!

Gender Equality: A Call For Understanding And Partnership #WCY2014

For many decades, gender equality has been the subject of much debate, with the main issue being its nonexistence in our world. By nonexistence, we refer to the remarkable absence of equality and equity in various spheres, ranging from the social to the economic, political and other sectors.

It is no coincidence and certainly with great reason that the promotion of gender equality figures in the Millennium Development Goals, with special focus on equal access to education, political leadership and employment opportunities. Arguments have linked improvements in promoting gender equality to an increased progress in attaining the other seven MDGs for obvious reasons.

It is important to note that the call for gender equality predates the establishment of the MDGs, reaching far back into history and gaining greater momentum around the beginning of the 19th century. The movement was further pronounced by significant milestones like the creation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the 2005 Beijing Platform for Action, among others.

Young men and women working together; partnership is key

Young men and women working together; partnership is key

Barely a year to the target date for the attainment of the MDGs, the progress made in the various sectors still leave much to be desired. Gender inequality remains a significant problem in most parts of the world, regardless of economic, political and social advancements registered.

One is bound to question the effectiveness of the various projects and measures put in place to promote the cause and ensure much progress is made. Why haven’t we seen more improvements in this area, despite the growth in human rights and especially, feminist groups working for a common cause?

The growth in the women’s movement did not leave the world indifferent; very significant encouragement and criticism have been received. Equally significant is the reaction to the nature of the participants in and promoters of the cause for gender equality. It has become normal to identify gender equality as a women’s issue, extending to the labeling of women’s rights advocates with various adjectives, most of which are not positive. Angry, bitter, man-hating, male-bashing, brainwashed are just a few. This perpetuates the misconception that advocacy for gender equality is a domain exclusively for women, most of whom personify the adjectives listed above.

It is evident that one of the main issues hindering progress in achieving gender equality is the existence and preservation of traditional gender roles that naturally make leaders of men and followers of women. This already creates an “us VS them” dynamic, that continues to set one group against the other, in sticking with the binary definition of gender. However, it would be unfair to blame men for all the disparities in this cause, despite the suggestions that the opposition or passivity is due to the ‘fear’ of being overtaken and dominated by women. Arguments have presented women as contributors to the perpetuation of the challenges caused by gender roles, through their decisions to stick with the familiar and preserve their traditions and cultures.

This stems from a general misunderstanding of the call for gender equality, or the equally renowned fifty-fifty slogan and their objectives. It is, therefore, very important that people are sensitised and educated about the aims of the movement to foster better understanding and consequently increased participation in its promotion.

Only when all parties are aware and well-informed can we register even more progress in attaining equality and ending discrimination due to one’s gender. The empowerment of women translates to marked development in various sectors, as everyone is free to contribute their quota and develop themselves, their families and their communities.

It is also crucial that women’s rights groups work towards an end to the alienation of men from the work being done to advance gender equality. This has been a cause for concern and has contributed to the belief that promoting gender equality is a women’s issue, when it really affects people from everywhere around the world.

For this reason, gender equality should be everyone’s concern – male or female. With concerted efforts, preceded by equal opportunities, we’ll observe a growth in productivity and production while registering declines in issues like Violence Against Women touching on problems like early and forced marriages, domestic violence, FGM/C, rape culture etc, as well as the over-expectations on men to show dominance among other issues born from patriarchy. Respect of human rights flourishes and the existence of level grounds for all will positively affect the progress made on other development goals.

As the world transitions from the MDGs to the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, it will be beneficial to establish more inclusive approaches and promote more education on gender equality, its benefits and the consequent ripple effect of its progress with regards to other goals and causes.

There is strength in unity and our differences as humans should never be a threshold for injustice, inequality and the violation of basic human rights. Gender equality affects us all and should be everyone’s concern. It is not just a women’s issue. It is humanity’s issue.

We Rose With The One Billion

Image courtesy of pa Abdou Waggeh

Image courtesy of Pa Abdou Waggeh

About two weeks ago, I sat in my room browsing through the One Billion Rising website, hoping to find a V-Day event I could attend on February 14th. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day. No, I wasn’t looking for a Valentine’s Day event. V Day is a day of victory, celebration and solidarity with all victims and survivors of Violence Against Women. It is a global day of action to call for solutions to this problem and work towards creating a better, safer world for women and girls. You’ll get more information on their website.

My search yielded no results, for the second year in a row. The nearest event was in Spain and it was completely impossible for me to make it there. To keep it short, I went from wondering why there was no event in Morocco to drafting a plan for one. Due to certain conditions, I couldn’t host a physical event. However, my recent post on three years of blogging reminded me that I had an online platform I could use for this. I also took cue from my participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. I had a great online presence and Linguere could definitely host a One Billion Rising event. About five days to the day, Rise With Linguere was born.

I sent out a mini-survey question on Twitter to see if people would be willing to participate and the response was great. I shared the idea with a few close ones and cooked up a flyer that night before going to sleep. The response grew the next day and the campaign was already taking form. Excitement built up and within two days, I had three amazing ladies offering to help me run it. These, apart from the ones that shared ideas, helped in promoting the campaign and just being there to offer moral support. Word went round and the team was ready.

What I rose for, among many other things

                                    What I rose for, among many other things

I’ll have to confess that we didn’t expect the response we got for the Rise With Linguere campaign. What was supposed to be a day’s event eventually ran for five days, including the two days after V Day. Work came in and sleep, food and rest went out. There were peak moments when the team was completely overwhelmed by the amount of submissions we had to deal with at a time and stress levels ran high. Our Facebook message thread was quite fun to read after we closed the campaign. However, it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done and I’m sure I’ll do no wrong if I said the same for my teammates too.

At the time of closing the campaign, which got very emotional for us, we had created both Facebook and Instagram pages and posted all the submissions we had received/saw.
Within 5 days, we received over 275 photos from 20 countries around the world; a manifestation of our unity and recognition of our collective responsibility to end Violence Against Women . Each photo conveyed a message, taking a stand against one form of violence that women and girls go through. We sought to raise awareness about VAW and encourage more action in this regard. The participation was very symbolic and reaffirms that there is strength in numbers and we can indeed make a change when we come together!

That phase of the campaign has ended but for us, everyday is a day to rise to end the injustices against women and girls. The hope is that we translate the powerful messages into action, starting from somewhere as near as our homes, spreading out to the streets, schools, offices and other public places. One little action can make a great difference. Our tiny steps will lead us to a great place where fairness, equality, equity, love and respect reign. We chose to ignore comments aimed at devaluing the campaign and watering down the significance of getting people together for a cause. The response we got,  spoke for us and showed that, indeed, we could – and had – made a difference by getting people to talk about these issues. Every act from thinking up a message and writing it down, to taking a photo and sending it to us meant a lot.

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We’ve sent out gratitude posts to the many participants who made this campaign successful. I’ll go on to thank my teammates Haddijatou Ceesay, Ndey Ngoneh Jeng and Mariam Camara. Without these amazing ladies and their incredible resourcefulness, sacrifice and readiness to work, the story would have been different. I can’t thank them enough, but I am comforted with the knowledge that they don’t need to be thanked for doing what they felt they had to do. Mother’s blessings and encouragement sealed the deal for us too. Many thanks to everyone who helped out in any way, to those who offered to help with any other projects we come up with, to those who mobilized groups and sent us lots of photos. It was all amazing!

Finally, special thanks to Mine for accepting this new way of spending Valentine’s. No complaints, much support and encouragement, and reminders of the task at hand and what it meant. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. Thank you.

Take a look at the photos on the links below:
Rise With Linguere on Facebook
Rise With Linguere on Instagram

 

 

Rise With Linguere

February 14th is V-Day! To millions of people around the world, the V means Valentine’s. To others -at least 1 in every three women and girls around the world- it means another day as a victim of Violence. One Billion Rising for Justice calls on you to RISE on this day and call for an end to Violence Against Women and Girls. People all over the world are rising to speak, sing, dance, walk, run and get together for this cause!

Join Linguere to rise online and add our voices to this call. Get your friends to join you too. Your voice matters and together, we can raise more awareness and call for more action to end VAW. Let’s show some love!

Below are the details you’ll need to join the campaign. If you have difficulties coming up with a message, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’ll be glad to help you find one! Let’s do this!1391908195492

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#RiseWithLinguere  #OneBillionRising

Blood, Fear and Ritual: Witness to Female Circumcision in Kenya

linguerebi:

I reblogged this because it captures the many things that are wrong with FGM. Looking through the photos is difficult and I couldn’t stop my tears. I can only imagine how much pain these girls and countless other victims endure as a result of a practice that has no benefits whatsoever, but still exists because of the wish to preserve our culture. A culture that has sadly led to the loss of lives and innumerable complications faced by victims. I strongly advocate for an end to FGM!
#EndFGM

Originally posted on LightBox:

As the world marks the annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on Feb. 6, the U.N.’s commitment to ending a practice it calls “a violation of the human rights of girls and women,” it’s worth remembering just how far away that goal remains.

Despite a drop in recent years, female genital mutilation or circumcision is still practiced and valued in some 30 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, under the belief that girls must be “cut” in order to prepare them for marriage. The procedure ranges from snipping off a piece of the clitoris to the removal of all external genitalia and can lead to a litany of health issues, from urination problems, cysts and infections to severe bleeding, infertility or complications during childbirth. The U.N. estimates more than 125 million girls and women are living with the often-horrific consequences of FGM/C. Finnish photographer Meeri Koutaniemi…

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