By Adekunle Adedoyin
COME WITH ME HE SAID, FOR I MUST SHOW YOU SOMETHING
SO I CAME, AND LO WHAT A SIGHT….
She wakes up earliest in her household, steps quietly away so as not to disturb her snoring husband
Saying her prayers as she begins the day’s chores – cleaning, cooking and preparing the needs of the children all at the same time; she has known for far too long that she didn’t have the luxury of doing things one after the other and so her multitasking sensor is always on.
Turning hot bathing water for her husband to bathe – He must not be late- as she washes her little one right beside the cooking pot so she can push a log of wood into the fireplace with her foot if need be. Her eldest child goes to bath as her husband comes out, getting dressed and loudly asking for his food flask already. She must get it ready in time to avoid another unpleasant experience this morning. The hurt of yesterday still ran deep –in her psyche and her body. Thankfully, food is ready – Her Son is ready for school too. Her baby is still sleeping sound on the bed. That was a first in a few days; the baby was actually the reason for the last unpleasant episode, but she can’t blame an innocent child –the person to blame is a father who birthed a child he couldn’t calm from crying in the morning.
So she hurries and has her bath, and the baby’s too. Strapped to her back, the bike rider is here to help mount her wares – first drop the little one midway and pick up frozen sachets of water –marginal profit it brought plus her income from the sale of Rice and beans –neatly compartmentalized in her large cooler – helped make the ends meet. On site, she must endure, even participate in the rude flirtations of customers who felt they owned her because they could afford a plate of food. It is all part of the process, she always told herself. Things were getting better and indeed they were. Her Son –The light of her world- was now regular in school, incidents of being sent out of the school for not paying fees on time are a thing of the past, soon the little one would be able to start school when it was her turn to ‘pack’ from the contribution, she watches the baby beside her and declares a solemn vow “your way will be easier, my child”. Before close of work, she must get home, haggling with bus conductors on whether she would pay extra for ‘load’, a reference to the cooler in the boot. Alighting at her bus stop carefully so the baby on her back doesn’t hit her head against the iron of the bus, making sure her purse is very intact, she mounts the cooler on her head, walks to the care taker to pick the little one and making payment that was always demanded by an old, sometimes angry looking but kind hearted old woman, and walks home forming happy conversation with him as he jabbers on about the activities of his day. Quickly she must begin to prepare food, for her Son and her husband and the little one who has unequivocally expressed his profound hunger. Food is ready as her son arrives and he, bless him, starts playing with his siblings as he takes care of chores. A few hours of rest as she watches him do his homework while smiling wistfully- she unfortunately cannot help him. She is uneducated. A tragedy of her time, she wasn’t going to be “trained for another man” so the best she could hope for was that “her children would help her read the book”. She would have been a great student, She was sharp, and illustrious and all that stood in her way was a culture that elevated her brothers over her –It was one of the reasons she was determined to have a daughter- her baby- and this baby would, by God, school to the highest levels, even if it would cost her life.
Her husband knocks on the door, his countenance is not good –one of those difficult days at work, she guessed- she hurried to get his food ready else she’d be the one to bear the brunt of a transferred aggression plus, it is her role to help him calm and please him, after all, “husband is god”. Well she still was, at night. He demanded-and she yielded, afraid to deny him- as he slaked his lust and expended his rage on her aching body. He turns to his side to begin a snore filled sleep till morning as usual as she coils to heal and have a few hours rest before the routine that her life has become.
Years pass, things change, but the more things change, the more they remain the same. The same angry man, more demanding children, more stress, more endurance. Jumping buses, riding bikes, chasing help, sweating in the hot sun, and yes, musing on what her life could have been had she been given equal opportunity with her kin of the other gender
SO HE SHOWED ME HER ALTERNATIVE LIFE
***She is in school, easily the best. She proceeds to the regional boarding school. In University she earns the best grades but is hindered by the demands of a randy lecturer. Still she chins up, passed for many a position because “madam, this is a man’s work, we would be transferring you and it’s not good for family” so she settled for teaching- that way she can “take care of the home”. And a fine teacher she turns out to be, so she gets another degree and another until she joins her husband in retirement, but rather than sit and read newspaper, she gets a business up and opens a shop***
She still runs her shop, oh yea, she finally was able to get a shop. It didn’t come without its own bitter challenges. Numerous demolitions, shop closed, fire accidents but thankfully her children all grown up- her husband retired with meager pension and no skill or interest to make a good business. But she has a reason to be grateful. This is perhaps the first time in her life that she has not had so much pressure…it was time to finally rest. As though a cruel joke, her husband starts to fall sick; the effect years of unhealthy habits, drinking, womanizing -he once infected her with a disease, though he tried to deny it- begin to materialize despite the fact that he had given up those habits for a while now. This is so much stress and again fate deals her a bad hand – He dies. She is distraught, despite the trouble this man had given her all her life caring for him with little or no expressed appreciation, she still loved him with all her soul. It is as though a cover had been removed from her –she had been stripped naked.
Again, she pushes on, now a darling of her children who are too busy to be home with her. They go to work for long days and have a brief perfunctorily conversation with her before switching on to CNN. The grandkids are too busy on their gadgets and so while she is in the midst of family, she is still alone. Her daughter who would have her time is in Canada- too cold for her aged bones and one night, her heart gives out. She doesn’t wake
The tears flow freely, testimonials from all and sundry, snuffles as she is committed to mother earth. All of her years here was in labor. Labor before marriage, labor in marriage, labor in childbirth, labor to raise children, labor to please husband, labor of family support, labor of widowhood. Labor. Labor. Labor
HE LOOKED TO ME AND SAID…
HERE LIES THE AFRICAN WOMAN, LET NO EVIL EVER BE SAID OF HER – FOR SHE IS GOD’S BEST CREATION!
THIS IS A TRIBUTE TO THE AFRICAN WOMAN.
THE BEAUTIFUL, ENDURING, STRONG, LOVING AFRICAN WOMAN
We see you; we love you; we SALUTE YOU, Our Sheroes.