Features: The Agony of my Sister
By Ebrima Janneh (EB)
The Agony of my Sister
My sister is probably more bright, imaginative, gifted and agog to learn as her brother. But her parents refused to send her to school.
And/or, she was sent to school but since day one, they 'her parents' drummed in her ears that as a woman, her priority should be to find a husband for marriage.
Because, it should be her husband's duty to take care of her and her needs.Therefore,her education was not a priority compared to her brother's.
Thus, in preparing her for marriage life, she was not spared of household chores – cooking, fetching water, minding children, gardening, farming etc with less regard to her studies.
Inevitably, fatigue, by the end of the day weighed on her to the extent that she would collapse into uncontrollable sleep in her attempts to study.
Before she was out of her teens, she was betrothed to the son of her father’s friend. She protested that marriage was too soon for her because she wanted to finish her education.
That plea, though, warranted her to be scolded like a pariah and in some instances, beaten. This, unfortunately, is mostly normal in the eagle eyes of the public opinion.
The burdens of her marriage wilted her down to the extent that there was no chance for revival to achieve her dreams of education and/or furthering education. A dream she had once held dear.
She was conditioned to sheepishly accept whatever her man does or say - good or bad. Her confidence in her own ability was quenched. Her defence mechanisms weakened because there is no support if she rebelled against her provisos.
She could be beaten by her husband like a punch bag, insulted, disgraced, denigrated and discarded without an iota of shock caused to public opinion.
She is checked in her corner like a prisoner because scholars in her religion told her that her suffering is the price to pay for her children to be good and prosperous. Thus, the betterment of her offsprings and/or her key to entering Paradise lies firmly under the feet of her husband.
The psychological grip on her that girls’ education was not a priority impacted on her to the extent that she believed that there was no need to be serious with education.
Few years into marriage life, she still wanted to rekindle her education dreams but the husband and the social settings stopped her. With these insurmountable social hurdles erected all around, she relented and gave in.
She was left with no education, no relevant skills, no property to cope with the demands of modern economical requirements to carve out a better living like her male counterparts.
Being married for over two decades, she was divorced and discarded by her Prince Charming. And also ejected out of their compound or house they built together. Alas, even after two decades of marriage, she had no stake at all in whatever they built together as couples.
She was remorselessly jettisoned out of their compound with no eyebrow raised again from the society and of course no compensation. Divorced, ejected, burdened with children, she is forced to return to her father's compound.
The parents inadvertently ruined her life by plunging her into forced marriage at that tender age and denied her education. Unfortunately, they are no longer alive to support her or reflect on the mistake they made.
She was pushed out empty handed – no wealth, no education, no relevant skills, and no property. But she is imbued with regrets, anger and fear that probably, she may not get married again. But only if she had family members financially supporting her, of course.
In such an environment, it will be impossible for my sister to gel in academia like her brother.
Women in our societies are not destitute of wit. They 'women' have reputations of ability, industry and unsurpassed intelligence. Why are they then languishing below the bottom of the social, economic and political ladders of our society?
The sad plight of women in our societies has to be addressed if there will be any glimpse of meaningful progress. If you have more than half of your population severely under educated, under skilled and under employed, with majority no property rights other than their physical prowess, then there is a huge problem in that society.
Our people need to change and lower the social barriers that are fettering our women from fully participating into the socio-economic and political developments of our societies.
We are forcing our women into material, political and economical privation by our own societal and political structures. The widening sexism schism no matter it flavours is an act of self-harm. After all,together we suffer, together we exist, and forever we recreate each other.
The depressing silence on unequal treatments, opportunity, illiteracy and poverty of our women cannot be accepted any longer. We cannot ignore the misery into which so many of the Gambian women are falling.
It should be a collective call therefore, to demand that our society creates an environment to help change the appalling condition of our women.
We must harness public sentiment to elevate the conditions of our women. Laws should be formulated to challenge the societal bias and lift artificial weights from the shoulder of our women.
So that we can afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life. We cannot afford to be complicit by doing nothing in the face injustices condemning our own mothers, sisters, wives, children, aunts in to perpetual dependency and penury.