Friday used to be my favorite day of the week until it happened.
It was another Friday, the last Friday of the last month of the year I recall sadly.
I waited eagerly for my older sister Balkisu to be done with her make-up – a tad too much if you asked me – so that we could start our weekly ritual which consisted of taking our bath (we don’t do that on a daily basis), putting on the best of our clothes and making our faces up to the best of our abilities as neither of us could hardly be considered professionals in that niche. We would then take to the streets and meet with our friends, parading the streets in a somewhat ostentatious fashion parade, soliciting money from family and friends around.
After the Jumat prayers had been concluded, we skillfully ensured that we caught the eyes of those leaving for their homes and shops so that our make up and the beautiful attires we were clad in would not be ‘wasted’ in a manner of speaking.
We later drifted to the village square to meet up with friends. There, we compared the quality of our makeup, played different games and gossiped about boys. I was just a fourteen year old girl, what more could be expected of me?
We were outside talking when my younger sister of 11 years, Asma’u delivered the heart wrenching news. I silently departed from the midst of my friends and retreated to my room that I shared with my three female siblings and two half sisters from my father’s third wife. His second wife had died untimely during childbirth at the age of 16. My mother was his first wife and we all lived in a mud house – sixteen of us, father, two wives and thirteen children – that could barely hold itself together.
I don’t think Balkisu noticed that I had left. Our home wasn’t much of a distance from the village square where we were so it was a quick sprint and nobody noticed the despair on my face as I ran home. Luckily, no one else was in the room, although I suspected that Asma’u tried to keep up with me but couldn’t. I estimated that I had about 6 minutes before she would reach the room.
I was left alone with my thoughts.
I couldn’t decide whether I should be happy or sad.
The society dictated a feeling of euphoria upon such news but I couldn’t relate with that at the moment. I don’t think I ever would be able to.
It was considered a thing of pride among my people to the extent of it being a thing of luck if you were finally picked at such an age but I had heard the stories of the pain and nostalgia experienced night after night from those that had already said their vows.
I am in Junior Secondary School 3 in the only secondary school in the village but my father had found me a husband.
My now inevitable husband to be is 40 years old and my opinion concerning who I would be living with for the rest of my life was not sought. I am to be his third wife.
What am I to do?
What can I do??
I can not reject my father’s will. I would be labeled a rebel and probably be beaten back to my senses if I dared attempt to voice my opinion on the matter.
My mother on hearing the news pleaded with her husband to be patient and wait a couple more years before marrying me off but alas, all her pleas fell on deaf ears as they also did when a man came to ask for Balkisu. My mother too had been a victim of child marriage and did the best that she could in her little capacity to prevent such from happening to her daughters. All attempts made so far failed woefully.
I’ve never met him before. He is from the neighbouring village they said.
I’d like to be done with my secondary school education and further my education from there so as to become a journalist but my father won’t hear of it. Education is a waste they say, especially for the female child since my main purpose will be just to cook, clean and give birth. My husband to be won’t let me continue schooling either. He can’t have a wife that is more educated than he is.
Tears have started flowing down my cheeks. My mother can only console me.
Why this foolishness, my father’s third wife asks. You know that this is how it is done here. Cheer up and let’s start making preparations.
Who do I run to?
Where can I flee??
I have never left the village my entire life. I don’t know anyone that could help me.
These are the cards that life had dealt me.
I have decided to accept my fate since there is no way out.
I’ll marry him.
Balkisu’s marriage is in two weeks so mine has been scheduled for 6 weeks after hers. She is 16 and also unhappy. I pray that she doesn’t suffer the same fate as my father’s second wife.
I’ll be in the arms of a stranger, pretending it’s love.
I’ll be taken away from my family to another village to live with people I don’t know and give birth to babies I’ll barely be able to take good care of.
Maybe I’ll learn to love him.
Maybe I won’t.
Maybe I’ll have to pretend.
I hope I’ll be taken good care of.
I hope he won’t beat me.
I fear for Asma’u. She too may soon be whisked away.
– Nusaiba, 14.
Written by Josiah Fadugba