Amina was an African girl like any other from a respectable family. She lived her life just to meet the expectations of everybody around her except hers. In this part of the world, it is not rare to see a girl child that has been married out to a wealthy and influential man at birth. Maybe to pay a debt or sort financial assistance from such a man and his family. Fortunately, this is not the story of Amina.
Also in this part of the world, a lot of families are reluctant to give their female children a proper education. They rather invest heavily in their male children whom they believe are their name bearers and heirs to their throne, even if the so-called throne is just a piece of farmland or cattle. They believe that one day she will be married out and will have to drop her father’s name and become “the property of another man’s family”. And those who send their female children to school are doing it with the mindset of auctioning her out to the highest bidder during the marriage.
Marriage has become an institution of buying and selling a female child with or without her consent in the name of bride price and it is termed traditional rites. The word tradition is now being used to make sure that the cycle of buying and selling a female child in the name of tradition continues. But in the real sense of it, men who had to pay so much to get a wife, only live to retaliate when they become fathers and are in the position to demand a bride price for their daughter. And women who were subjected to it only encourage their daughter to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.
But this really wasn’t the story of Amina.
Amina was like any hardworking yet talented African girl whose life was designed and controlled to fit into the norms of society even if that meant displeasing herself. She was advised to dress a certain way, look and talk a certain way, and even smile a certain way. She was taught that a woman doesn’t contribute even a word at the gathering of men and that a woman’s place is in the kitchen while every aspiration she may harbor only comes second to her kitchen duties. Compulsorily, she cooked and cleaned while her brothers were relieved from most homely chores.
She grew up thinking it is a man’s world because she was not exposed to the same opportunity as her brothers.
At the age of 39, widowed, helpless, and subjected to extreme poverty with her kids, Amina reminisces on the struggles of being an African girl and how her life would have been if only she had taken the opportunity she deserved.
Growing up, Amina was a very brilliant student. She was considered the brains of the family. But all changed the day she became famous for her good works.
Amina was fast on the tracks, the fastest runner the village had to offer. She represented her secondary (high) school in a race against other schools from both the same village and neighboring villages and she came out victorious. This was supposed to be the beginning of her success story. She was to represent the whole geopolitical zone and subsequently represent the country according to merits.
Amina’s parents initially excited about the possibility of their very own Amina representing the country shared the news with friends and relatives.
The opportunity presented to Amina was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in which others would kill for their children to be given such. So jealousy wasn’t farfetched.
Friends and relatives began advising Amina’s parents that giving Amina such exposure would be a terrible idea and they stand a risk of losing Amina. They cited that if Amina gets the exposure, she will definitely consider herself too good for people in the village and wouldn’t want to marry any of them and this will bring shame to the family in the future. They convinced Amina’s parents that their control over Amina will be gone if Amina is exposed and besides she might decide not to come back hence losing Amina forever.
Not appreciating the fact that Amina’s story was the most talked-about gossip in the community and neighboring villages, Amina’s parents decided to stop Amina from participating in the competition any further. It was their own way of protecting Amina from the impact negative gossips would have on her and losing her morals. It was their own way of keeping her grounded and under control which they thought was for the best of the family.
Devastated, Amina argued that it was her dream. But her father threatened her with disowning her if she should go against his will. And Amina’s mother explained to Amina that this decision was for the best both for her and for the family.
No child would ever want to be disowned by his or her family. Apart from the disgrace and embarrassment, where would you go as a child? What would you eat? How would you fend for yourself or survive? Besides, the race wasn’t a sure victory for her. What if she doesn’t win and is not selected, what would be her gain? Also, what were the chances of her winning with her heart torn apart and her mind not focused? Considering all these, and the fact that family comes first, “or so they say”, Amina yielded and listened to her parents.
On the day Amina was to depart for the competition, she was locked inside and restricted from going out as the town’s crier kept calling out for her. And just like that, she missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Unfortunately for Amina, she never went back to school. Not for the shame of letting the school and the whole community down, but because Amina’s parents were advised that giving a girl child a formal education is risky and that they almost lost Amina thanks to education.
Amina being taught that the duty of a woman is to put her family first and take care of her family while she leaves provision to her man or husband just lost her husband. With two girls and a boy not older than 3 years, Amina is being considered a liability by her in-laws who claim she is responsible for the death of their son and brother. And she is left to provide for her babies.
This is definitely not where the story ends for an African girl…