Ese Oruru: A teenager being torn apart

Ese Oruru: A teenager being torn apart

When do teenage relationships start?

According to raisingchildren.net.au , there isn’t a ‘right age’ to start having relationships – every child is different, and every family/culture will feel differently about this issue. But here are some averages:

From 9-11 years, your child might start to show more independence from the family and more interest in friends.From 10-14 years, your child might want to spend more time in mixed gender groups, which might eventually end up in a romantic relationship.From 15-19 years, romantic relationships can become central to social life. Friendships might become deeper and more stable.

There is a lot of controversy about Ese’s age, but the excellent investigative journalism by AIT with the interview of her parents confirm that Ese is in fact 13 yrs old so there is no need to waste time debating about this.

As a mother of a teenage son myself, I know that many teenagers spend a lot of time thinking and talking about being in a relationship. In these years, teenage relationships might last only a few weeks or months. It’s also normal for children to have no interest in romantic relationships until their late teens. Some choose to focus on schoolwork, sport or other interests.

Each parent is different, and no one has a right to tell another parent how to raise their child. But the problem is when the general public decides to have an opinion over a young girl’s sexuality. Going over Linda Ikeji’s blog when it was announced that Ese had in fact choosen to stay in Kano, the comments people left on the article made me nauseous. They had no respect for her privacy, and no one even viewed her as a child.

It is very disturbing that our society does not view child sexuality any different from adult sexuality. They take it lightly and find it funny that a 13 year old confused and vulnerable, who has obviously made some poor choices  should be made an object of ridicule.

Puberty is the period when an adolescent reaches physical growth and sexual maturity. It is marked with bodily changes and change in feeling towards opposite sex due to increase in sex hormones. This period starts from late childhood and ends with early adulthood. (12 to 18 years).

In this crucial stage, adolescence is influenced by peer pressure especially the opposite sex peers. Puberty is a period marked with rapid physical growth leading to sexual maturity and psychological changes. The average onset of puberty is at 10 or 11 for girls and age 12 or 13 for boys.

Girls become sexually and  physically mature two years earlier than boys. Puberty begins with a surge in hormone production, which in turn causes a number of physical changes a an adolescent is going through drastic physical changes  she also goes through psychological, mental and  emotional changes. Stanley Hall, well known psychologist, describes this stage as the period full of “storm and stress”. This phase is marked with psychologically growing-up. Ericson, another psychologist refers this stage as “Identity Crisis” referring to confusion in identifying oneself neither as a child nor as an adult.

The early and late childhood period boys like to play with boys and girls prefer to be comfortable in the company of girls. Developing relationship with same sex friends and getting their approval and acceptance is one of the important characteristic of interpersonal relationship. The maximum socialization takes place during this stage. But as childhood period end and child enters into an adolescent stage suddenly due to hormonal changes and development of secondary sex characteristics the interest in opposite sex becomes more significant.

Suddenly an adolescent becomes self conscious and  her outlook changes.   She becomes conscious towards herself as well as towards opposite sex. An adolescent spends lot of time looking at himself or herself in the mirror, new look in hair style, preference in clothing and dressing up manners changes, use of cosmetics and interest in looking good increases. Sudden changes occur in improving self image and having better self impression on opposite sex. Girls become shy in the presence  of the opposite sex.

Is all this  my attempt at using pchychology to justify Ese’s behavior? NO! What I am in fact saying is that is is normal for her to be interested in the opposite sex, but that is not a reason to make her an object of  ridicule. She is still a child, and  it is the responsibility of society to protect her till she reaches the age of consent. Just because   she is an  adolescent  with raging hormones doesn’t mean she is a responsible adult ready to make decisions on her own. All responsible adults in her life have to protect her till she is mature enough to understand what she is getting herself into.

Back in 2013, a Time magazine article on abduction began like this…

“Abduction is a singularly grotesque transaction. In a single instant, a relationship between two people changes to one of captor and prisoner, owner and chattel. One holds absolute power and the other holds none.”

The  Nigerian, media had a fanfare with word abduction, but when Ese was being returned, there were a crowd of men around her, the video circulating the web showed a terrified little girl trying to hold on to some sort of control.  There was no comforting voice. Once again, there was absolutely no recognition that this was just a child. For Heaven sakes, Ese is just a child.

She may or may have not chosen to have gone to  Kano. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it will be traumatizing to be the center so much controversy.  She may or may not be in love.  It does not take a PhD to know that no one would want their their private life broadcasted on air. An adult would be nerve wracked to go through what Ese has been through.

The American Psychological Association say, According to research, hostage survivors often develop an unconscious bond to their captors and experience grief if their captors are harmed. They may also feel guilty for developing a bond. This is typically referred to as the Stockholm syndrome. Hostage survivors may also have feelings of guilt for surviving while others did not. It is important for survivors to recognize that these are usual human reactions to being held captive.

When hostages are released, it is essential for them to:

Receive medical attention.
Be in a safe and secure environment.
Connect with loved ones.
Have an opportunity to talk or journal their experience if and when they choose.
Receive resources and information about how to seek counseling, particularly if their distress from the incident is interfering with their daily lives.
Protect their privacy (e.g. avoid media overexposure including watching and listening to news and participating in media interviews).
Take time to adjust back into family and work.

I am writing this as a teacher and a mother, Please for the love of God, leave this child alone to go back to school no more media coverage on this story, it’s doing the Ese more harm than good. As long as she is below the age of consent, all responsible adults should act like it!

 

 

 

Time Magazine

http://science.time.com/2013/05/08/abduction-psych/

 

American Psychological Association

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/hostage-kidnap.aspx

 

Her Parents confirming her age

Blogged onwritestartinternational.com as AN HONEST LOOK AT ESE’S PREDICAMENT

Maryanne Kooda, a CELTA qualified Special Needs Teacher, conducts weekly creative writing workshops and reading programs for 6 to 16 year olds in Colombo Sri Lanka. Ms Kooda is a feature writer with a passion for children; she has extensive teaching experience in the tertiary and primary levels of the Sri Lankan International school system.

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This is all your fault…And slaps her again.

This is all your fault…And slaps her again.

You started drinking when you were pregnant with your first baby, a bottle of small stout spread over four or five days to help with the nausea. By the time you had your second, you were up to one bottle every two days. By the time your daughter – your third child – came, you were drinking close to three bottles every day; ogogoro on days you didn’t have money to spend.

Do you know how much blood comes out of a head wound? Plenty.  Especially when you’re hit on the head with a spanner by your husband. This is after you’ve insulted him for hours and torn his shirt because he wouldn’t bring enough money for your daughter’s naming ceremony. It’s been five days since you brought her home, two weeks since you had her, a tiny little thing who almost died, and you should be resting but it is important to have this party.  It doesn’t matter that your husband hasn’t been getting much work as a tanker driver. Other drivers are complaining about his drinking.

When he is asked why he drinks, he says he has a witch at home.
When you are asked why you drink, you say, you are married to the devil.
Neighbours help you when the blood starts to flow. They got tired of separating your fights a long time ago. Too many people had been hit by a stray fist from you or your husband so they stayed away. But today there is blood and so they hold you by the hand – still spewing invectives and kicking– and take you to a nearby chemist.
Your first has been standing by the door all along; it was his shout, mummy! that drew the neighbours’ attention. Your second is in the village with your mother, he was sick before your went to the hospital. The baby is inside your one-room apartment, asleep through the quarrel.

He goes into the room after everyone leaves, you with the neighbours, your husband to his favourite bar. He struggles to climb the bed, forbidden to him because he wets himself every night.

He lifts the baby net gently. He sits there and looks at her for a few minutes.
The slap is sudden, startling her awake; her cry is piercing.

This is all your fault, he says. And slaps her again.

– Enajite Efemuaye

VIOLENCE AND THE NIGERIAN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN I

VIOLENCE AND THE NIGERIAN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN I

The Nigerian is a violent person. It is a wonder why “violence” has not been inscribed into Nigeria’s coat of arms, along with other words like “progress” and “unity” and “faith”.
The Nigerian’s relationship with violence begins early in life — you will not get what you want unless you are violent. A severe smack by a Nigerian parent to the person of an unwitting pesky baby, the momentary pause in the baby’s movements, the facial expression of betrayal on the baby’s face, succeeded by an explosion of a combination of cries of pain and helplessness. The Nigerian parent, undeterred, fails to register the protest of betrayal and smacks some more, simultaneously placing a single finger across his or her lips and shouting at the uncomprehending child to be quiet or “chop” more licks of the backhand.
This, is Nigerian Parenting 101, ordained by personally by God (or the Nigerian variant, as cynics are quick to point out), who does not mind the parent taking a bribe here or there, or doing something else not to be mentioned in certain types of company, to take proper care of their baby. Parent wants child to be quiet and will not stop smacking until child is quiet or stops the act that prompted the smacking. The child may comprehend in good time, as the months and years go by, violence’s importance in getting what one wants in the world, and internalizes this most valuable lesson.
Adolescents will however always be adolescents — forgetful breed that they are. Many babies will forget this lesson with the passage of time, some will stand up to their parents, either unknowingly or knowingly (perhaps after they have been told like I was told by a close friend when I was a teenager — “If you’ve not started disagreeing with your parents, you have not started growing up!”) The spanking gives way to full blown “discipline” which some unduly scrupulous lawyers whose heads have been filled with Westernisms may otherwise term “assault”. “I feed you in this house! I pay your school fees! You must do what I tell you! You must agree with everything I say!” is the admonition that accompanies the blows from the Nigerian parent to the now growing child. Sometimes, “I will kill you in this house if you don’t do what I tell you to do!” is the icing on the cake, the real yellow card, which for some becomes the red card and means of quick dispatch to the great beyond. This, is Nigerian Parenting 401, advanced level. These blows are dealt with a wide range of objects — brooms, clothes hangers, the koboko (the weapon of choice of the Nigerian society’s disciplinarian at large called the Nigerian military officer), iron rods and cutlasses (both said to be favoured by some officers of the Nigeria Police Force during “interrogations”), pestles for pounding yam, electric wires, the list is almost endless.

Adolescents can be quick learners too, actually, although they may be quick to dispose of old knowledge. If they have younger siblings, their parents have laid down a wonderful template for bringing younger siblings under control. “That story is not true!” younger sibling says to older teenage sibling. “You dare not disagree with me!” older adolescent sibling rebuts and gives younger sibling a thorough beating for daring to think for himself, just as his or her parent before them. The chain goes on, and may be reinforced when they see parent get into fisticuffs for a thing as mundane as two cars bruising each other, with parent at the wheels of one of the cars, mundane in the sense that reason should always trump force in such disputes. The lesson at this stage of the child’s development is clear — force shall always be better than reason, in the Nigerian scenario. To engage reason is folly, the Nigerian adolescent learns fast.  
The teenager becomes an adult, a man or a woman, after eighteen, or so says the law. This man or woman, will be called boy or girl, until he or she has children because a person who has no children of theirs, or is unmarried, has no mind of his or her own (it is the Nigerian way). One way to escape this denigration is to grow ancient features as quickly as possible. Only old people are permitted the privilege of a mind, and respect, although these features may not earn one stripes with the Nigerian armed forces; violence from them knows no discrimination. Elderly men are known to have been dealt koboko blows from time immemorial, by soldiers, for some offence as earthshaking as parking wrongly, or overtaking vehicles at military checkpoints. 

If the teenager, going on adulthood, is lucky to have tertiary education at a state-owned school, they may meet lecturers happy to entertain views divergent to theirs — a most unlikely event, even for those privileged enough to attend private tertiary institutions where it is widely reported that independence of thought is tacitly discouraged. There is a small respite from violence at this station in life, because many universities make expulsion a penalty for violent students, but as usual, this applies to those who have no godfathers. Elections into student union bodies are not for the faint of heart.

If you an aspirant who is apprehensive of being caught out as a violent individual, you can always have a crew willing to get its hands in the mud on your behalf. In the late nineties and noughties when I was a university student in Nigeria, no serious contender for any office at the national level of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) went to the national convention of that body without an assortment of weapons and charms to physically overcome the other. Many of those who occupied NANS executive positions at the time are now to be found in many political “high places” of today, including the National Assembly of the country. There was cultism as well, not the American brand of fraternities, the type of fraternities that killed difficult university lecturers and fellow students. The number of students who went on to graduate from these schools based on their abilities to muscle their ways through, become absorbed into the workforce due to educational attainments they cannot intellectually defend, and then climb to the top of the ladders of their organisations, corporate and public sector alike, will be an interesting statistic to behold, if an international or local NGO with or without a cause can manufacture a figure that will become the official standard. 

– Bolaji Olatunde

Why did your sister not shout when she was raped?

Why did your sister not shout when she was raped?

More rape victims are assaulted by people they know. Stranger-rape is in fact not as common as the one your brother did to your daughter or the one your neighbor is currently doing to your kid sister. So, why did your sister not shout when she was raped?

She was never permitted to ‘own’ her sexuality. She could not even admit that it existed let alone have a choice in what to do with it. Her pre-marriage duty was always to dodge those penises otherwise she had herself to blame. That is why she was born, have you forgotten? So when she goes home with a friend and his penis decides to get swollen that day and he wants to put it inside her, it is her fault because she was there. She caused it. Her breasts jiggled and her vagina called out to him, wanting scratching.

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So he takes what belongs to him and at this point she has become a slut and no matter how she fights and fights him in the process, this is all her fault, what is she doing in this house, who will believe she never wanted this, can a girl not come to play video games without getting fucking raped, I will not shout, I will not shout, he will soon stop, he will realize this is wrong, he is the church youth leader, he is the student union secretary general, he is daddy’s best friend’s son, surely he will stop soon, silly boy – I know he will stop soon, look at his bony chest that sprouted hairs only last year – he will soon stop, the ceiling-fan is white, the ceiling is dirty, he will stop soon, why is that cobweb hanging so low, will a spider fall in my mouth, will it taste the tears that have gathered at the base of my nose, he is not stopping.

When your daughter was raped, she did not shout because sometimes when the person is being violated the soul takes a back seat, not wanting to fully acknowledge the horror, keeping the body comatose, willing it to be all over.
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When your niece was raped, she did not shout because she would be blamed for not succeeding at ducking. She would be asked what she was doing in that office, that house. She didn’t shout because she wanted it to be all over, quickly, and maybe they could all go back to pretending it never happened.
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She didn’t shout because he had rage in his eyes and she knew he would bang her head against the wall if she protested too much and she would soon be a corpse lying in the bush with no one to avenge her death.
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She didn’t continue shouting because when she started shouting and screaming, he beat her up and she realized she would need some energy to survive this assault. So she kept quiet through it all, hearing herself sob in her mind, and waiting for it to end.
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She didn’t shout because she loved him and rationalized that his actions had to have been of frustration, or maybe his bad friends put him up to it, he would beg for forgiveness soon so what would be the point in shouting and ‘disgracing herself’, when this would all end well eventually. All is well that ends well. It will be well. It is well.
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She didn’t shout because every time another victim had shouted, she was blamed for being raped. Strangers and friends ripped her sexual life apart, and her name was tarnished forever.

Sometimes the victim is not even sure she is being raped. She is fourteen after all and she reads Mills and Boon and she ‘knows these things’. She feels certain she is in love with this thirty-year old family friend and he has promised to marry her as soon as she turns twenty. Her parents who think him the perfect mentor for their daughter have originally delivered her into his hands. She is going places and she needs a guide like him – successful, cerebral. And take her places he does. He takes her to his bedroom every evening and mentors her by stuffing his penis in her mouth and bathing her face with his sperm. He wipes her face with putrid socks. And then he cries.
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He cries when he tells her he loves her and cannot wait for her to grow up which is why he is not putting his penis in her vagina – he is doing the decent thing by putting it in her mouth instead so that he can save her virginity for their wedding night. He begs her not to tell her parents because they would never understand – who understands it when young people fall in love? She is in love with him, right? He knows her father is a strict one and it will cause a lot of trouble for her if he ever finds out.

She is confused. This is not how Mills and Boon describes it. Harlequin romances usually have sixteen year-old heroines but she is fourteen, and here she is, her mouth tasting like plastic, her breasts hurting from his attentions and her head spinning. She comes back for more mentoring because she cannot stay away without raising questions. What will she tell her parents if she shirks her daily mentoring classes? Plus, she thinks she is in love with him and her love is enduring. Is that not what love is? Patient and enduring.
Very soon he will stop behaving in this way that confuses her and hopefully six years will pass very quickly and they can be married.

Then he gets married six months later and stops mentoring her. She is heart broken. What could she have done wrong? Was she not good enough? Maybe he just could not wait anymore. It is all her fault for not being ready. Maybe she should have given him proper sex? Everything is her fault. Then she grows up and one day it hits her – “I was raped”. Over and over and over and again. But who really cares? After all “did he put it in your vagina?” and “why didn’t you bite him?”, “why didn’t you shout?”.

Nkiru Njoku

An open letter to paedophiles – Ayodele Olofintuade

An open letter to paedophiles – Ayodele Olofintuade

It is unfortunate that I cannot open this letter with ‘Dear Paedophile’ because the furthest thing you are is ‘dear’. Yes you are human, and you have feelings, but when it comes to criminality, you are in a class of your own. So many things come to mind when I think of you, things like murderer, thief, rapist and most importantly, evil.

I can tell you categorically that there’s no amount of blood that can wash away your ‘sins’, no amount of self-flagellation, of fasting and praying can give you rest, because what you do is ruin lives. You take pleasure in other people’s pain, you take pleasure in the pain of the helpless and the vulnerable, you are beyond contempt and if there is truly a hell, I know you are already living in it. This hell is not the one designed by the religions, this hell is within your head, in the constant headaches, heartaches, in seeing all the things you love wither and die in your presence. You are already suffering from loneliness, dissatisfaction with yourself, and things can only get worse.

I know psychiatrists have tried to excuse your lack of self-control as a sickness of the mind, but you and I know you are not suffering from any mental illness, we both know that what you are is evil, pure and simple.

Psychiatrists may claim that you might have been also raped as a child, that you might have suffered while growing up, but news flash, so were a lot of people that had their childhoods taken away by your groping hands, sticky fingers, by your lack of self-control. We both know that you could have stopped this cycle of pain, if indeed you had been abused as a child, but you CHOSE not to, you CHOSE, to perpetuate the pain, we both know that having sex with children is the only way you feel POWERFUL.

Yes this is about power. The thrill you get when you take a young child of 5, of 7, of 13, a child who is vulnerable, who knows next to nothing about the evil that lurks in the heart of men and women like you and you crush that child by raping him or her.

No you do not love any of those children because we do not rape the people we love, let’s for one sick moment imagine that you actually, truly, love this child, why can’t you wait till such a child reaches the age of consent, why can’t you wait till such a child becomes an adult and can clearly define what he or she wants.

But your pleasure is taken from somebody you have decided is weaker than you. You enjoy seeing their fear, you enjoy taking their childhood and crushing it in your palms, you are the Biblical devil, the Satan in the Quran, you!

It doesn’t matter if such a child is your own, or somebody else’s all you desire is to kill the essence of this child, to impose your sexuality on this child, to break the child, to maim her or him, taking away any opportunity of such a child growing up freely and happily.

Many people might suppose modernity is the root cause of your evil, that you have access to the internet, to the image of children dancing shoki, but we both know that this is not the case, you and I know that you’ve been practising your evil for years, with the knowledge that in a country such as Nigeria, the likelihood that you’ll be caught or sent to prison for a long time is next to nil.

You thrive in dystopia, you love the way things do not work, and that is why you choose people who you believe cannot talk that is why you choose the weak the vulnerable, the one year old, the three months old child.

No you’re not sick, you are EVIL.

Did you also give to the Mirabel Centre? Oh you’ve not heard about them? Well that’s practically the ONLY centre in Nigeria where the victims of your wickedness are being put together the best they could. But if you’ve heard about them, I bet you did send some money to the fund that is being raised, all these noise, I bet you threw them a couple of naira notes, something to shut up all those infernal feminists.

That money means next to nothing to you, but money can’t buy you a conscience, or the power that you need to desperately to shore up your total lack of self-esteem. That is why you constantly need to rape children.

I wonder how you manage to live with yourself, how you cope with the self-loathing, the knowledge that you haven’t found what you’re looking for- love, self-acceptance, power… that you will continually search for these things inside of yourself and see…nothing because that’s what you are, what you’ll always be…NOTHING!

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: THE BURDEN OF A SLOW JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA – by Toyin Adepoju

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: THE BURDEN OF A SLOW JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN NIGERIA – by Toyin Adepoju

The rape epidemic in Nigeria seems to be deepening its roots into our contemporary society due to many factors which fearfully, have become a norm, welcomed by the nation with open arms. Some of these factors no doubt include fear (of stigmatization), poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, corruption and a terribly slow judicial system. The prevalence of this phenomenon, which mostly affects children, calls to question the activities of certain agencies, set up with the sole aim of preventing the Nigerian child from any and all forms of abuse.

stock-photo-stop-child-abuse-sign-words-clouds-shape-isolated-in-white-background-121620967Apparently, child molestation can be said to be the new dimension to rape incidences in the country as the media, on a daily basis, headlines no less than a rape story involving victims which most times are children. Just like other states in Nigeria with increasing records of child molestation, Oyo state is no different. Section 34 (1) of the Child’s Right Law of Nigeria, 2006, domesticated by the Akala’s administration in the state has it that “No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child”. By the specification of this law, a child is a person who has not attained the age of eighteen.

A child subjected to labour is vulnerable to sexual abuse. Such is the story of 13 -year old Abike(not real name) who was left in care of her grandmother and made to hawk “eko” in the evenings. After being stalked for a while in her neighborhood by two men believed to be in their thirties, she was forced into an uncompleted building and was raped. Abike could have been left alone to deal with the trauma and stigmatization which in most cases, often resulted in depression, but she was taken in by Williams Marcus of the Child Protection Network, cared for and sheltered.

Sadly, the alarmingly slow legal system in the country has made it entirely difficult to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous crime who still freely roam the streets. Meanwhile, it is quite heart-warming to know that Abike has continued from where she left-off and has returned to school. But this one story is about Abike who was lucky to have gotten help. What happens to several other victims who have been left alone to bear this burden?

Then, here is another story of Tolani, a nine-year old, repeatedly molested by an “Alhaji” in her neighborhood who threatened death if she ever said a word to anyone about what transpired between them. With a late mother and a commercial motorcyclist father, no one had the time to take care or protect her from the evil machinations of Alhaji who lured her in to his apartment on Sundays and raped her. The girl with no knowledge about what was being done to her tries it out on a younger boy, a family friend of hers, and was caught in the act. Again, the perpetrator has not been made to pay for the committed crimes, due to the terribly slow judicial system in the country. The same Child Protection Network responsible for taking care of Abike (in the first story), does same for Tolani, and just like every other well-meaning Nigerian, they are concerned about how the law enforcement agencies in charge of such cases have done little or nothing at all to bring the perpetrators to book, to at least serve as deterrent to prospective abusers.

The Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, Oyo state chapter, Yetundestop-child-abuse-stop-child-abuse-23073274-400-311 Adegboye also agrees that the legal processes involved in the prosecution of a rape culprit is extremely slow. She explains that the initial process involved in reporting a rape case begins at the Police Station where an arrangement will be made for the victim to undergo medical examination. The charge is then forwarded to the Magistrate court which has no jurisdiction to try rape cases but could remand the suspect in police custody. The prosecutor is then ordered to present the charges to the Director of Public Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice, who originally bears the burden of attending to all major crimes coming in from literally every angle in the state. The ministry, after looking into these charges then tries to see if the suspect is liable to go through trail (or trails) in respective courts. The process in itself is tiring and while some prosecutors give up half-way into pressing these charges, the perpetrators, either with influence or affluence of find ways to escape trial by applying for bail at the High Court.

The Nigeria Police Force has a whole lot to do in a bid to ensure that the required punishment is meted out to the perpetrators of such grave crime by ultimately seeing the reported cases through to courts. Victims of rape should also help the police effectively carry out their legal duties by providing every bit of information they can make available to help in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. The society also has a very important role to play in protecting her children from the seemingly inherent dangers by fishing out those responsible for such crimes and handing them over to the law enforcement agencies to follow-up on their prosecution.

Williams Marcus has called for the establishment of family courts which he says will see to the timely prosecution of abusers; most important are the child rapists, as it is the responsibility of the government at all levels to protect the child from acts that could negatively affect the child’s physical, sexual and mental well-being.

Parents and the society at large should also ensure they make themselves available at all times to provide all the necessary love, care, protection and support to and for their children.

The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. We need to protect them.

Toyin
Toyin Adepoju is an OAP at Splash FM, Ibadan.

PM Kooda: Child Bride, Mother, Divorcee … Hero!

PM Kooda: Child Bride, Mother, Divorcee … Hero!

Editor’s Note: Recently the rumor that the erstwhile Governor of the CBN now Emir of Kano – Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – made headlines across Cybersphere, with much argument about whether it is right for a fifty something years old man had the right to marry a 17year old girl … as his fourth wife.

MaryAnne Kooda
PM Kooda

Our opinion? Should this be up for discussion in 2014, should it be even conceivable? What about the girl? Her dreams, hopes and aspirations, isn’t she supposed to have any? Shouldn’t she be the one deciding who she wants to marry and not forced to marry for economic reasons? But … we held our peace because Nigerian cybersphere cannot be totally relied on.

The truth is that just last year, a sitting senator, Ahmed Yerima, who caused a furore when he married a 13year old girl a few years ago and got away with it! Divorced his 17 year old Egyptian bride in order to marry … a fifteen years old girl.

Maryanne Kooda is a friend of the house, one of the online warriors pushing feminism and equality as the one thing that would save our country, Nigeria from the brink of the abyss it seems determined to plunge itself into.

We got in touch with her and asked that she be one of our contributors, she graciously acceded to our request only for us to discover that she had barely escaped being a child bride and ended up becoming a ‘baby carrying baby’.

In the mail accompanying her article she said something that was touching and revealing, “I wrote this yesterday in two hours, it practically wrote its self. As I read it today I burst into tears  in the part where I wrote about giving up my dreams to be a lawyer … My sister told me not to share it one FB, but it’s my story and I am not ashamed of it…i am at peace with sharing the story on your blog, I feel compelled to tell this story, child marriages need to be talked about! Somebody has got to do the talking.

Read MaryAnne’s story of how she triumphed against all odds to become an independent, thinking woman, with two children she’s so proud of.

 So recently, my fifteen year old son and my nine year son where talking about my possible marriage to the man I had been dating for three years now.

“There are many fishes in the sea mama, you don’t have to marry him” the fifteen year old said.

Then his brother replied, “Why will a fish want to marry her?”

Gosh! That sent me reeling with laughter because it made so much more sense that it made me wonder who came up with that idiom.

You see, I grew up in the middle belt of Nigeria, where girls where raised to be wives and mothers. This is of course a generalization. There must be many women from the Middle-Belt who have successful careers and financial independence. But the reality I grew up with was that I was only as good as the man who offered to marry me. The richer he was the better.

As soon as I reached adolescence, it became a prerequisite that I am prepared to be married to the most affluent of suitors.1015435_10151495660940443_778922431_o Though now as an educated woman I cringe at the very idea of trying to marry off a child. Yet that is the reality of many children in the North and Middle-Belt of Nigeria.

This preparation for child marriage, particularly the way it is carried out in the Middle-Belt, involves some revolting and barbaric practices that I would rather not go through at the moment! I can’t bear to relive those experiences. Needless to say, by the time I was eighteen, I eventually met and married a man who has able to look after me, support my education and of course, my immediate and extended family.

The ironic thing about the marriage was that, it had nothing to do with parental or extended family pressure. By seventeen as soon as I was done with secondary school, I was sick to my stomach with the way I was pressurized to marry and support my family so I ran away from home. I found a job at a video club where I worked for a few months till another job offer came to work as a sales girl in a major super market in Abuja. I had these grand delusions of going to the University of Abuja, so I took my surprisingly good WEAC and JAMB results to the university to gain admittance but was just tossed around. I will never forget bursting into tears at the Gwagwalada bus stop as I got on the bus and headed back to my spot behind the large glass showcase of designer products that I was supposed to market.

It was there, behind that glass showcase that I met my husband. It was early in 1999, when I was disillusioned with life but still had some kind of vague hope that I would go to the university and study law. My dream was to be the “voice of the voiceless”, to stand up for the disadvantaged. There was no way of achieving my goals as my polygamous family was mired in petty jealousies and plain old wickedness. The saddest part of all is that my father was not even remotely poor, though he had other wives and children and my mother was not only fairly literate but a government worker. I had uncles and aunties living in the US. Yet not a single person cared to give me any sort of support or guidance.

Back then I was squatting in a boys-quarters in Asokoro and working at Legend of Abuja in Area 11. I was not there for very long when this man came up to me and asked me, “Can you tell me what pair of glasses would suit my face?” I looked up into his face, and his eyes caught me by surprise. There was an innocence that came through those eyes which I had not seen in most of the men that lecherously hounded me. His eyes told me, “My intentions are noble!”

Though I am usually a very poor judge of character, this one time I was right. I made the bold decision to marry at 18 for the simple fact that for the first time I felt safe with someone. For once I wasn’t a commodity to be traded to the highest bidder or a nubile belle to be seduced with lustful intentions. I was a person that was loved and respected. I must admit, it felt pretty darn good! The fact that he was rich actually did not occur to me at that time.

Well we should have lived happily ever after right! The damsel has finally been rescued by the knight in shining armor. I should be so lucky!

Two years into the marriage I became frustrated and unhappy. I felt trapped! I loved him because he provided for and protected me, and I hated him because he provided for and protected me. Don’t bother trying to understand it, I don’t myself. All I know is I felt like I was in a gilded cage. I pursued a degree part time in Public Administration in the Open University of Abuja. My dreams of becoming a Lawyer went out the window with the arrival of my first son when I was nineteen.

“Baby having baby,” that’s what other pregnant women called me when I went to antenatal care. I felt so ashamed, like I had done something wrong to be pregnant at that age, but it didn’t make any sense, I was raised for this, to marry and make babies there was nothing else that I knew. After the baby was born, just a year after we had been married I got restless. I wanted more out of life, the degree I was pursuing kept me busy and I had every conceivable comfort. I should have been happy, but I was miserable.

The crux of my problems lay in the fact that I did not feel any physical attraction to this wonderful man who had taken me into his arms and made me his wife. I was grateful! My God I was so grateful, but that is all there was. A deep sense of gratitude and even affection but there was absolutely no spark. For the first time in my short life I had the luxury to kick back and relax, to just enjoy being a wife and a mother but I was hounded by discontent.

So soon after I had my second child five years later, I started working for a newspaper, the pay was crap, but then it wasn’t about money but just giving myself a sense of achievement. The job was the beginning of the end of my marriage. As I researched, wrote articles and interviewed people, my discontent increased and I wanted more than anything to be with someone I had chemistry with. Someone with whom we could hold hands and look lovingly into each other eyes, someone with whom I would be with and never wish I was anywhere or with anyone else.

10917118_10152508001605443_8425174448893758191_oSo I left the marriage. In 2008, I simply backed my bags and walked out on my marriage. With two small boys and a little savings I moved to Sri Lanka, my soon to be ex’s home country. Once again, I had even grander delusions of making it on my own. In a foreign country, with no friends or family ties, with no lucrative marketable skills or qualifications. All I knew is I wanted to be happy, I deserved to be happy. I had some vague ideas of teaching English, the research I did showed there was a demand for English teachers.

I should be delighted now right? I had walked out of an unhappy marriage and followed my heart to a beautiful remote Island country. I should be so lucky!

I was flooded with loneliness and the nightmarish reality that teachers simply don’t make enough money to have a decent quality of life. Unless they are supported by family or husbands, most female teachers in Sri Lanka can’t afford proper meals after covering rent and utilities.

So I am back to square one!

I will not bore you with all my efforts and sacrifices to make ends meet. Ok maybe I will, but in another article. For now all I can tell you is that I met another wonderful man, who held my hands in a very dark moment of my life, when I was battered by the stigma of divorce and the emotional and financial hardships of single parenting, or co-parenting as it is called these days,

He told me, “don’t ever let anyone look down on you and treat you badly”, I looked into his eyes and saw the same look, the innocence that spoke volumes, the light that shined through the window of his eyes that said, “my intentions are honorable”.

My loneliness was soothed; we had the incredible chemistry that I always desired. We had stimulating conversations, we travelled, we had dreams of a life time together. At last I should be happy, I have found my “one true love”, sparks are flying and the stars never seemed so bright! Everything should be wonderful now right? Wrong!

You see, after eight years of marriage to a man who met my every material need, and looked out for me almost like a father would after a child. I had to make some serious adjustments to my mindset in order to survive. Not every man suffers from rescue hero-complex.

Now, I had to be the independent woman I always dreamed to be, only I didn’t realize how darn hard it was to begin at 28yrs and with two children to build a life beyond poverty. Career options are limited here in Sri Lanka, if you are not a doctor, lawyer, engineer or accountant you had better have some family support or its curtains for you.

My present love interest is a complete opposite of my ex in every way conceivable, he is the man that my teenage son is rather reluctant I marry because he feels he is not as supportive as his own father is to his present wife, (and how supportive he once was to me).

Friends and family don’t help matters; I get reprimanded for being in love with a man who cannot support me financially. What’s worse is that now, it’s not just me, but I have two children too. Their father has never stopped being a superb provider, even after we divorced and he remarried, he never faltered even once in meeting the needs of our children. He hated me for leaving him, and still doesn’t speak to me, but he never alienated his children.

For that I am forever grateful, as I don’t have to be cornered into choosing a partner based on his willingness and ability to support me and my kids financially and emotionally. Though that is debatable!

Which is the whole point of this piece of writing; this feminism thing, e no easy oh! Not if you are living on minimum wage and have no family support. The poor woman’s version of feminism looks very different from women in more affluent positions. For us, love sometimes feels like a luxury we cannot afford. I can’t count the number of times when I am unable to meet my children’s need and then I find myself self-loathing because I walked out on a really good marriage on some whimsical pursuit of “true love” and financial independence.

Feminism for me has always being about independence and standing up for the rights of vulnerable women. Yet how to be independent on minimum wage and two children? How to speak for the vulnerable when I am part of the statistics?
Then to make things worse, I discovered that my nature is such that I crave a healthy relationship with a man who will make me his wife, not just date, or co-habitate, but take the tradition route of making me his life partner. Not because he wants to rescue me from hardship but because he needs me in his life as much as I need him.

My most naïve ideals was the belief that I could easily earn more than than minimum wage considering my qualifications and skill set, and that I would meet and marry a man who would meet my every emotional and even some financial needs.

The former is still achievable, I haven’t given up, and that’s why I launched my own company www.writestartinternational.com. The latter however, is quite clear will never happen. Reality has set in, and my hope is that by the time I am 38. 20 years from the time I ran into the arms of a knight in shining armor, I would become my own rescue hero. I would have reached a level of self love and self reliance that is just healthy enough to keep me open to the possibilities of a “happily ever after”, regardless of my status; married or single.