Salma El-Wardany tells of the things she is tired of — that is, the patriarchy.
ften, we African women find that we live in societies where there seems to be a collective ownership of our lives. Our bodies. Our futures. From young ages, our bodies (and minds) are policed, whether through words designed to mold us into meekness, or through physical acts that are often harmful. In Nigeria, for example, 25 percent of women1 between the ages of 15 and 49 are victims of Female Genital Mutilation.
That is only one example of how, from early years, force, coercion, and pressure dog the female life. Another, more prevalent, is the pressure to get married. To submit our lives over to the control and protection of a man, as it is believed that women need to. Because of this, early marriages are quite common, with 43 percent of Nigerian women married by age 18, and 17 percent2 by age 15.
While education may have significantly reduced the number of women forced into marriage overtly, it has not stopped the covert questions asked once a girl hits the turn of her 20s. Uncles, aunties, parents, even peers, wrap the pressure in words crafted to sound like well-meaning concern. No one asks what we want — if we even want marriage, or want it yet.
The Labour of Love Landscaping, a poem by Assumpta Victu, gives a voice to the women who are at the receiving end of this pressure to be meek; to give more while receiving less; to enter into matrimony or other ideas of what society thinks we should be. The poet speaks about the familiar feeling of bearing the burdens of loss and what is broken, yet none of the glory of what is good. Yet, in all of that, her voice and message are steady to those women: stand firm.
Assumpta is a writer, poet, blogger and storyteller born in Nigeria, and raised in London where she now lives with her husband. She received her LLM in Law from Coventry University and her MA in Creative and Professional Writing from Brunel University. Assumpta's work centers on love, loss and deracination. This poem was written and performed by her. All rights reserved.
Image: Inès Longevial.
onversations about rape and abuse are often one-dimensional and focused on women. Perhaps for the fact that, statistically, there is a higher rate of reported cases of female abuse than of male abuse. The danger in this, however, is the culture of silence that continues to omit men from the 'abuse' narrative, and support structures available for abuse survivors.
This, in addition to the expectation to preserve 'masculinity' in a highly patriarchal society like Nigeria, continuously and ironically builds broken, burdened and silenced men. At the least, men grapple with the very same mental health issues women go through. In certain instances, especially when abused at a young age, an exchange is made: sexuality for innocence.
This short feature titled 'Peter' from BeingBola's Monologues tells of a man who was raped as a child by his uncle. One walks through Peter's emotions, thoughts and mental struggle from the experience. Through writing and this film, 'Bola shows the cyclical effect of (male) abuse. This emotive piece starts a much-needed conversation on the other end of the table. No one is alone.
Meet Peter below.
'Bola is the creative director of Being Bola. Peter is Episode 3 of 'The Monologues' - a speech by a singular person to express their mental thoughts and feelings. The series features topics that are extremely personal yet need to be heard. All rights reserved.
Image: Karin Jurick - "200 Faces, No. 122."