So here is the story of Mr and Mrs Still (not real names). They have both been married for awhile and are blessed with children. Mr Still, one day needed some money and the end of the month was still a week away when salaries get paid. So his wife gave him her ATM card to withdraw some money. He blew her a kiss and she smiled satisfied that she was a dependable partner. But alas it was a big mistake. Mr Still refused to return her ATM card, instead he withheld it and withdraws money from his wife’s account at will. In fact as soon as her salary hits her account at the end of the month, he withdraws every penny leaving Mrs Still with nothing to cater for herself. All attempt to get her husband to give her back the ATM card had not been successful. Mr Still claims that he is the head of the home and he had right to control everything about his wife. This has been going on for several months now and Mrs Still is terribly worried and looked tattered. Some of her friends have advised her to take the matter to the bank where her salary is paid to but she refuses to take any action. Her family (parents and siblings) beg her not to do anything that will break her marriage but instead continue to endure until maybe one day, Mr Still will have a change of heart. Mrs Still is at a loss about how to best handle the matter and continues to suffer in silence trying to be a submissive wife while her husband spends both his salary and hers.
This story which is a true life story makes me to wonder how far submission should go in a marriage. Many women suffer in silence. Why do men like Mr Still do this? And why do women like Mrs Still continue to suffer in silence?
Mary(not real name) is a young lady with great dreams for the future. Fortunately her parents unlike others decided to ensure that she had a good education. They encouraged her every step of the way, right from kindergarten, and now she is on the last lap of her education, being at the university. Mary in spite of the great promising future that lay ahead of her has one “Fear” and “pain”. Her room mate, Pat(not real name) had tried to persuade her to set herself free herself from the source of the fear and pain but doing so would make it worse. Every time Mary went to use the toilet, it takes her about an hour to be able to pee/urinate. The pain shoots through her temple and a few tears roll down her cheek. Pat is frustrated and can not understand why Mary had to hold unto this torture even with all the education she had gotten. Every time Mary visited the toilet she had to keep checking on her to make sure she is alright until she comes out . Pat had made several attempt at encouraging Mary to set herself free but like other times Mary is more terrified with the idea of breaking free from a tradition that must be followed according to her people and parents. The tradition of circumcising a female child as soon as she is old enough and worse still sewing up the opening of her Virgina until she is married. This practice is an attempt to keep girls from sexual indulgence. Any girl who does not maintain the statuesque would be rejected by the society and her family would find it hard to get her a husband. Mary did not want to be a disappointment to her parents and so she bore the pain bravely. But Mary wishes she could be free and a greater fear lucks in her mind. She wondered about what her sexual encounter with her husband would be like? She dreaded the pain as she had heard that many girls undergo excruciating pains when they get married.
Pat is lucky that even though she comes from this same culture her parents are liberated and refused to subject their daughters to this horrific practice. Many tribes in Somalia, Ethiopia and other African countries still violate the human rights of girls against genital mutilation. In places where Female Genital Mutilation had been outlawed people still pay huge sum of money in order to secretly ensure that their daughters go through the ritual. This practice is seen as a “cultural must do”, so even those who live abroad send their girls back home to go through circumcision. It is estimated that about 80% and above number of women and girls go through circumcision in Somalia and in other African countries. Some of these women and girls go through traumatic experiences that can go on for a life time. Imagine sewing the Virgina opening of some of these women and they have to have sexual intercourse with their husbands. They are only allowed to remove the stitch at delivery of a baby and then it is sown back again. This information I got from talking with a friend from Ethiopia and was horrified by what she shared with me.
A lot of questions come to my mind about why people choose to hold unto a cultural practice like female genital mutilation that has done more harm than good. Why subject a girl to such torture all in the bid to curb her God given gift of sexual fulfillment? Why is it ok for men, boys to exercise their sexual gifts without any inhibition? As a saying i heard recently goes “A key that can open several doors is known as the master key while one padlock opened by many keys is said to be fake”. Meaning that a girl has to be padlocked to keep her from being opened by many keys but a boy/man should be a master key. Sex is meant to be enjoyed by both men and women, it shouldn’t be a source of torture for women. A few women i have met in my own community who have gone through FGM are frustrated with the fact that they don’t enjoy sex, and this affects the stability of their marriage/relationship. I believe a bride should look forward to enjoying her sexual encounter with her husband not dreading it because of the excruciating pain as a result of Sewn Virgina in the name of cultural practice. A happy bride makes a happy husband.
Girls like Mary are caught in the web of either going through the pain or be rejected and isolated by their society. She dreads the day she’ll get married while Pat her friend looks forward to it. Mothers, women should be in the fore front of protecting their girls. The elders, community leaders and all stake holders as my friend said should take a long look at this practice of FGM and see it for what it is.
A lot of women issues have been addressed and continue to be focal points of discussions, campaigns, and lots more. The idea of this site was inspired by an RNTC training i attended in Uganda just recently with the theme: Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health- Getting the stories right. I have always been passionate about women and girls related issues and i dare to say i do my best to paint pictures of the world of women. Hearing about stories of some women and girls from parts of Africa i have never been to left me with a shock and showed me that i needed to do a little more in getting untold stories out or simply just lending my voice to ones that had been told before. The first story that almost blew the wind out of me was the story of girls in some communities in Uganda who miss school on their menstrual days and eventually drop out of school.
What was even more shocking for me was the fact that these girls had to use chicken feathers, corn husk, and even sit on the sand all in the bid to get something to soak the blood that must flow out during their menstrual period. My shock transformed into a deep sad feeling. I couldn’t believe that some girls had to go through all of that. Images of depressed , infection prone young girls filled my mind. These thoughts went through my mind for a few days and then early one morning i began to process in my mind what needed to be done. I wondered if anyone was doing anything about this. I mean it was unthinkable that a girl gets to drop out of school simply because of her monthly menstruation. Fortunately the training included how to tell stories using multimedia formats on social media. So i decided to begin a blog where i can share stories of women and girls and perhaps through this medium steer up action. And for some people who might read these posts, it will be a window into the world and lives of others. I decided to talk to one of the organizers of the training and out came a gladdening information that a group of people were already doing something for girls who have found themselves in the terrible situation of not having a safe sanitary towel during menstruation. I quickly made my own little donation and hope to have the opportunity to do more but most of all i learned that the little things i take for granted are actually a “big deal” for others to have access to.
So i’ll be sharing stories of women and girls that needs to be heard on this blog, femininematerz. The good, the bad and the ugly stories all in the bid to make sense of it all and just maybe make a little difference.