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CHANGE?

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Image by JD 'Okhai Ojeikere, Nigeria

Change is a promising word; hanging on the tips of our lips while we yearn to roll it in our tongues until we have mastered its taste. But change only stands to torture us, and remind us about all the things we will never get to swallow.


Sometimes, I ask myself, “what is the point of fighting for change if oppression always has a way of creeping back into our lives and breeding more evil? What’s the point of fighting if the people you are fighting for will always side with the oppressors, call you crazy, call you stupid, spit on your efforts, laugh at your bleeding heart, throw water at your fire till it dies out just so that the oppressors can pat them on the head and feed them praises of how they are better than you?”


Everywhere I turn, I see the face of a woman I don’t want to grow up to be; the image I long to tear apart so that my sons and daughters will not grow up having that as their only idea of what a woman is.


I recently read about a terrible practice that happens in my country, Nigeria. The Becheve people in Cross River state, have been reported to use women to pay off debts. This means that in my country, a woman has been exchanged for a tuber of yam, for a goat, for a small amount of money not enough to buy three sanitary pads; the ‘money woman’, as she is called, has no rights and she is usually used only for childbearing. This means that there is a woman who is constantly being raped by a man just because her father deemed it fit to sell her body and soul for paper. This means that there are women who are led to believe that they are worth nothing, and are nothing more than chattels to round up a business deal.


My heart sank, trying to assimilate all I had read. I tried to reconcile with the fact that young girls were being forced into marriage mostly in the North, that women I know who are victims of rape get blamed for their rape, that women I know, who are the breadwinners are still being abused by their husbands (the supposed head of the homes) and the fact that any of these women could have been me.


Feminists are constantly fighting for and speaking out against injustices done against women, but I have witnessed people reprimand us about the type of causes we choose to fight for...if it does not fit into their idea of what they think a woman should be angry about. When cases of rape and abuse are in the news, we often hear that these are the types cases we should only be fighting for, which is basically deflecting from the real problem, and instead putting women in the center of this conversation.


I wonder, if it is not all connected.


Perhaps the people from Becheve are only comfortable with selling these 'money women' because the men feel entitled to them, to their bodies and existence, enough to sell, and enough to buy. Is it not the same thing we are fighting against, seeing women as nothing but chattels, as something to be owned, to be disrespected, to be disposed of as others see fit? Isn’t it the same as fighting for girls who end up being raped, being violated by boys who grow up to be men with that same sense of entitlement? Isn’t it connected to us screaming that boys should be raised as men, not gods, not monsters that can get away with anything?


I have so many questions...


Why do women only have to fight for their rights, why can’t more men stand up with us and say it is enough? Why do many men feel threatened by us fighting against the oppressive systems that they benefit from? Why do they demand that we should fight in a way that will not make them feel bad about themselves when they watch what happens to us and never attempt to fight? Why is it only us that will have to fight in order to reclaim our bodies and our lives?


Why do some fathers feel comfortable selling their daughters? Why do some men find it normal to buy women? And why do some brothers watch their sisters being sold and do nothing about it? Why does change have to come only from us and why is it that we fight everyday only to fall back to the place where we began?


Why is change only a concept that is only effective on paper in the 21st century? Why do I have to still be scared of walking home alone? Of giving birth to a girl child who will grow up in a world such as this and a boy who I constantly have to protect from learning from society? I mean the type of society where women are being sentenced to death for defending themselves against their rapists; where three year old girls are being raped by their fathers, by their brothers, by their uncles and family friends.


Why is it more shameful to be raped than be a rapist?


Why would a guy bash the wife of a man who chose to leave him after he was accused of assaulting and raping numerous women, without calling out the rapist. As if it is normal to be a rapist, but terrible for a wife to leave her husband?


Sometimes, I ask myself if things are even changing at all or maybe I am sitting in my ivory tower, closed off from the real world and writing articles like this one, hoping and praying for change. Screaming about injustice, while women are out there rotting away, backs broken from hard work only to be glorified as the ideal woman by society, bones battered from being hit constantly, hearts numbed from being raped over and over again, minds accepting they are inferior and deserving of everything that comes their way.


It is tough trying to fight oppressive societies- against men and even women that think you are saying nothing but nonsense, and men that think the reputation of another man is worth more than the rights of his neighbor’s daughter.


Today I woke up again to the sweet scent of change assaulting my nose, hanging on the tips of my lips, wondering if I will ever savor its taste before I breathe my last, wondering, how many lives we have to lose again before we finally swallow this ‘change.’


By Hauwa Saleh Abubakar

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