It was in the morning, it had not dawn yet but the ship was set to leave. I have to leave with Michael, he promised he will be here. Hauwa! Someone called out in the dark, are you running away? My eyes shot out in the dark. Someone recognizes me, my heart beats faster than normal, I must return home immediately.
I bumped into someone, raised my head and saw Michael staring into my face. “Hauwa”, he started, “sorry I’m late, we can go… ” I ran past him home, rushed into the room and locked the door.
My elder sis, Hassanat placed her hand on my shoulders, stared into my face, “it’s not that bad dear, you’ll survive, we all have.” My father barged into the room with my mother and his other wives in tow, he pulled me up, I’ve never seen him that angry, “you tried to run away?” I said he’s hurting me, my mom started pleading. “You will have to go through it today!”
I fell to the floor.
My name is Hauwa, where I come from, genital mutilation is part of our culture. They do it for various reasons, but none favors the woman. It encourages sexual purity, allows your husband to enjoy sex with you and keep you modest they say. But the screams I hear when it’s been carried out, the dirty tools used by dirty hands that does it makes me rather want to end my life than go through it.
I am 17 years of age, my mom and I have been avoiding every means of having it done to me. My sisters have gone through it, so mine should not be different. Huseinat can hardly pass out urine and Hassanat has been a shadow of herself since theirs was done 5 years ago. Michael offered me the path to freedom but alas I missed it.
By noon the ‘specialist’ was around, I am to be circumcised. I was held down while they do it, it was unbearably painful, I passed out.
I couldn’t move around for weeks, my mom took care of me. My dad hadn’t forgiven me for trying to run away, he said I should get ready for my wedding. He will marry me off before I disgrace the family further.
I cried endlessly…
Alhaji Bamako is a chief in my town, he is very influential with a large family. One evening, after a small ceremony on my mother’s insistence, I was taken to his house.
The night of my wedding was suppose to be enjoyable, but he couldn’t go through. He tried and tried, I begged him to take me to the hospital, so the process of deinfibulation can be carried out on me.
Of course, Alhaji was embarrassed, he has many wives and has never had the need to do that. But he is also very understanding, he took me to the hospital the next day, pleaded with the doctor to be discreet about it.
We went home and I discovered the process did not make it any less painful.
Three months later, my stomach was bulging, everyone was excited. I tried to be happy but my heart yearns for Michael and my long lost freedom. The only way out of this for me is death but the look on the faces of my mom and sisters kept me alive for them.
On the day of the child delivery, Alhaji was beside himself with happiness, 10 of the best midwives were present to help. It was taking longer than normal, each of the midwives proffered solutions to make it successful. I was in labour for almost two days, I can feel the life in me draining away. Out came the baby, but I didn’t hear shouts of joy from the women, only silence and shock on their faces.
I raised my head to see his hair dark like mine, but the skin has the color of Michael, that was all I saw before leaving the earth.
The writer, Mariam Haruna is a storyteller, content creator, digital marketer and a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology from Obafemi Awolowo University.