March is Women’s history month. We celebrate all the best and good women have accomplished so far, and encourage the next generation of girls to be more than their elders. It’s all about positivity and appreciation and recognizing all women, especially in parts of the world where their sheer existence is somewhat a problem. But are we really recognizing all these women equally? Even the worst that society has to offer?

This week, I’ve been troubled by a local story on social medias, that took a turn for the unexpected. It all started Monday night, with a missing report for a young woman, and her baby. They had been missing since Sunday afternoon, and someone posted on Facebook, asking any information on their whereabouts. Because those incidents are sadly too frequent here, commenters and especially women in some of my groups, rallied and shared the post all day long. By Tuesday, we got a terrible update: the baby was brutally murdered and the mom was sexually assaulted, but managed to escape her captives. The mother explained how she got into a gypsy cab, and was kidnapped by the driver, and other men, pretending to be passengers. They took her and the baby, on the outskirts of the town, deep in the woods, to commit those heinous acts. When her captors were not paying attention, she ran away and was taken to the hospital.

Needless to say, we were all devastated to hear what happened to her. People wanted answers as to why anybody would be so cruel. What is it a robbery gone bad? A jealous boyfriend trying to enact some sick revenge? Most speculated that it was a human sacrifice, performed by some scammers trying to get rich. We have all heard or read in the papers here, about those criminals, in pursuit of fast cash, went to some fake witchcraft practitioners who told them to kill people for so-called blood rituals, in order to become rich. Insecurity in the city, is a major issue, but no one could believe people would stoop this low.

But then, more conflicting details appeared, the next day, creating holes in the story the mom told. Her relatives didn’t know she was missing, and some users claimed to have seen her, the day she had claimed to have been kidnapped. After numerous screenshots and some serious sleuthing, it was revealed that, in fact, the mother had made it all up. On Friday, allegedly, forced by her own mother, she recorded a video with her baby, both in good health and alive, admitting to  her lies, and begging for forgiveness. She made all this commotion, to hurt the father of her child. To say that people were upset, is downplaying their anger. They were pissed, wanted her to lose custody of her child, then get thrown to jail and beat up. She had created so much sadness, and people were revolted by her lies, and the audacity to use her innocent child in her ruse.

I was upset at first, until I started feeling sorry and sad for her. I wondered what has gone so wrong in her life, for her to create this web of lies. She admitted she wanted to hurt her boyfriend and never thought it will take the magnitude it did, but all I could see was someone hurting too. Maybe I am foolish, or naive to still give her the benefit of the doubt, but I got overwhelmed with sadness looking at her video. See, it’s not easy being a woman, in Sub Saharan Africa. From the day you are born, you have to fight. You are raised to not be weak, or afraid, because our mothers, aunts, grandmothers teach you , from a very young age, that the world is not kind to our gender. You learn to preserve yourself first, and always put above anything else your family. Those wise women teach you to be strong, to work harder and even when you are married, always be vigilant, because you must remain stronger no matter what, and anticipate, before it’s too late. There is a joke that if you go into a house here, you will always find money with the women, some way, somehow.

As a child, I never understood fully what the women around were teaching, until I became a woman and went out to the world, and saw it myself. I opened my eyes and appreciated the sacrifices, the pains, the losses, but also the triumphs and joys of being a woman. I was lucky to be in environments, that allowed me to have this perspective. But imagine, for example, if you can’t go to school because it’s too expensive and have to work to help your family from a too early age. Your parents sent you to live with strangers, to work as a street vendor, with other girls just like you. You have to walk in the streets, under a blistering sun, carrying on your head, a load of food items too heavy for you. You have to fend off a daily basis, diseases, accidents, and strangers, just for the chance maybe to earn some money and learn survive. You see those little girls in the streets, losing their childhoods, for a chance at having barely decent adulthoods.Some will make it, and one, maybe, will push herself to climb the social ladder far enough, to offer her own kids, the chances that she was never allowed to have.

But for the rest of them, who won’t make it, their future is bleak. And that’s why it was hard for me to judge harshly this poor mother. I don’t know all the circumstances around her life, how she grew up, and what pushed her to lie and jeopardize her life and that of her baby. She could have had all the love and affection from loving parents, who knows. But presently, what she did, will be upsetting, and by Monday, would have been forgotten. Will there be any follow-up by the authorities, or social services checking on the welfare of the baby? Most likely no. This poor woman will not get the help she clearly needs, so God only knows what is in store, in her future and that of her child.

So for this Women’s history month, let’s celebrate and care more for those little girls selling in the streets, the mothers acting foolishly and desperately for love, and attention, and all the other women trying to survive every day,and sometimes, never get to be thanked and appreciated enough, for all that they are.

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