You Are Woman

You are born, the only one crying in a room filled with laughter and smiling faces…your cry either natural or induced by a large palm on the small of your back. Sometimes, there is no laughter… the smiles replaced by grim looks on the faces of those around you… disappointment and fear lining their eyes as they take a quick glance at your sex. It doesn’t bulge out… it is flat… tame… as you would be expected to be… all the days of your life.

On your eighth day, you are given a name… carried onto the basang by your bajen. You hear it first from the Imam… and then it sticks on… to be used by all around you…. uttered on the lips of many who meet you… in varying tones as per the varying situations. Your mother will use it…as she sings to you each day… telling stories of going to Saloum…Saloum of the three rooms… a fourth being the kitchen… belonging to the Buur… that Burr of Saloum. Your father will use it too… as he calls out for water… for his meal at the end of a long day… for one to run a short errand for him. He’ll use it when he discusses with your mother… of your coming of age… of the time to make a full woman of you… of your visit to the ngaaman. This latter will use it as she prepares her instruments… the same ones she had used on your friends before you… telling you to calm down…promising you it wouldn’t hurt… assuring you that you will be worth a lot more when you come out of her room…a part of you missing. She does not only cut your flesh off… she cuts off your feelings… your sense of arousal… the ownership of your body… a part of your femininity. Your family uses it as they receive you… a second welcoming… your coming of age… amid dancing and drumming… feasting and merry-making… while you bleed somewhere within your chest… and further down.

You grow up… growing increasingly conscious of yourself…your feelings… your features… your surroundings. Your chest has turned heavy… curves mirroring those on your lower limbs… your hips… still capturing the defined contours of your face… your lips when you smile… your brows… suspended atop your large eyes. Yes, you are aware of these changes… just as everyone else starts to notice them too.Your mother lives to rain admonishment on you… telling you to be careful… to stay away from men… that a mere touch could get you pregnant… that your father will not hesitate in harming you for bringing shame to his name. That name he had proudly handed down to you… waiting for a suitable person to add his own to it… waiting to hand you over to another… a new owner… for a price. Your father…he says nothing to you… choosing to warn you with his eyes…his grunts… his refusal to let you attend the school party. He warns you silently… for his silence is louder than any words he could use.

You count yourself lucky… one of the few who go to school… even when you have to return to waiting chores. You are brilliant… a fast learner… fired up to shine among your peers… easily gaining recognition from your teachers. You keep growing… more beautiful… smarter… and as you grow, your dreams grow too. Your vision expands and you can’t wait to turn your dreams to reality… even as you hurt… even as your days are often marred by painful memories…painful moments…painful truths. You resolve to grow out of them.. to choose a different path… refusing to let them define you… reflecting the strength of the women you look up to… women who share similar stories but have overcome the pain…or so it seems. You keep trying… succeeding sometimes…failing most times. They’re a part of you… etched in your mind…your feelings… your being… until that last day… when you shall take your last breath. You force yourself to work hard… to take up more responsibilities than you can handle… to zone out of this world… to live a life void of pain and suffering. Your work pays off… at home… in school… as you weave your way to your final years… a secondary school certificate in hand.

You want to go to the University… to learn some more… be introduced to more ideas… philosophies… theories. You want to create your own… become a professional… from whom others could learn. Your family has other plans… different from yours… tied to the destiny of another… willing you to complete him… while he completes you…makes a full woman of you. You are entrusted in his care… but in fact, you are the caregiver… to feed him and cater to his needs… succumb to his demands and respect his wishes. His wants will be your wants… and all he loathes… you shall loathe too. This is expected of you… as it was of your mother… and her mother before that. You turn has come… and the legacy is for you to continue… your family’s pride in your hands… your wishes a non factor. You still have dreams… and still wish to see them come true. You were wronged once…left with the painful memories to live with… never having  a say in what concerned you. Not anymore… you tell yourself… not anymore. On your wedding eve… you walk away… covered by the darkness of the skies… the heavens aiding you… hiding their lights… yet guiding you. Your feet lead you on… even as you heart threatened to burst through your chest… and your head swam with a million thoughts. What if you get caught… what  will your father say… do? You still went on… starting a new life… an unsure one… one full of doubts… but still a new life.

The years go by… and you’ve survived them all. With God and his angels on Earth, your dreams start unfolding… when you thought you’d lost it all. You are independent…made it through life… the envy of many… most of whom do not know your story. They see your poise… the spring in your heels when you walk… the clothes you wear… the confidence in your every movement. They hear you speak… in that calm voice…yet so strong…commanding respect… willing everyone to listen. The women you’ve seen… once loved… once wished to become. You are them… they are you… the roles have changed… transforming from that night you walked away. You made a decision… a choice… to defy… refusing to conform to the norm… to let your future be planned…ruined… by another. You brought back life… to yourself… to your daughter after you… to her daughter after her.

Yes… you found love… even when you thought it impossible. You had been condemned to a life of solitude… by your peers…your colleagues… your neighbours and your friends. All they saw was a woman with too much power… too much education… a high-earner… an intimidating woman. They said no man would want you… that they would be afraid to approach you… that you should tone it down and settle for what was available. You… you stuck to what you believed… that which made you walk away… that which drew you through the pains…molded you and kept you strong when life threw rocks at you. Your growth wasn’t easy…but that was only for you to know… and with that knowledge, you  set your standards…for you deserved the best… never choosing to settle for less.  They talked… you worked… you earned… you built… you smiled and stayed happy… until love came knocking.  It knocked softly… and was let in… bringing all you deserved… worked for… started a new life for.

You had been hurt… a victim of tradition… of society and its beliefs… a patriarchy. You had a reason to crumble… to let go… accept whatever else was thrown at you. Yet…you chose to walk away from it… starting a new journey… with routes different from the usual… getting scorned by your family. They eventually came back… when you had made it…and you took them in… for they were still family. You traced a new path… for yourself… and for many after you… giving them the courage to make their choices… to own their lives…to live their dreams… to refuse to adhere to the rules that will only crush them. You are molded by the past…you are the present… you are the future.

You are hope… you are love… you are life. You are woman!

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5 thoughts on “You Are Woman

  1. haddi

    Love it! Reminded me of an earlier post of yours which has been a firm favourite of mine on forced marriages

    Reply
    1. myzzdiamant Post author

      Yes! That has been my favourite too. Realised the similarity mid-way,but decided the ending was different. About time I started creating happy endings, if only to motivate women to believe in its possibility.

      Reply
  2. Gloria Mangi

    Reblogged this on Gloria Mangi's Blog and commented:
    This post is from a fellow 2012 Milead Fellow, from The Gambia, who is an aspiring journalist. I had to share this because not only was it so well written but the power behind each word and the story that is being told needs to be spread to the ends of the earth.

    Reply

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