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Pss! Pss! I slapped a policeman today

City flea market, Harare. Stacks of second hand clothes, and unopened bales too. We can’t afford the bales; we shuffle through the heaps of old clothes to find the cheapest. We resell these at a dollar each in Epworth, a rural settlement outside Harare. We sell to get just enough profit for the following day’s budget, and remain with capital for tomorrow's order. We buy bread for children's sandwiches, veggies and tomatoes for supper, and keep coins Precious’ bus fare and pocket money. She has to buy a scone and cool drink at school like the other girls, lest she dates elderly men and get pregnant—let alone HIV/AIDS. Bang! My heart beats fast, my head aches, I’m feeling hot all over, and want to faint. There is so much fear inside me. Cry the beloved country!
The second hand clothes in the stacks smell so much.
'But why do the clothes smell this much?' Lillian, my friend, asks, shuffling.
'I don’t know and I don’t care Lillian, I just want the good ones. Somebody told me it’s a chemical that they spray to preserve the clothes.'
'Kunyepa, mapeche enyu ndiwo anonhuwa!' (You lie, it is your vaginas that smell).
Before I realise that the intruder is a policeman, I have slapped him hard, twice. His cap falls down. As he bends to pick it up someone kicks him from behind. He bites the ground and groans. Crowd, jeers!
The policeman lies tummy down. Somebody nudges me and whispers, ‘Run!! There is going to be a scene.’
I hold Lillian’s hand and we run, no looking back, through the crowds. We jump into a taxi.
‘Please take us to the main market, quick!’
‘Five dollars!’
I throw a note, the driver takes off.
We buy cheap clothes and quickly change into them, discarding our original ones.
We board a bus home, straight from the market. No city routes.
As I try to sit down someone nudges me and starts laughing. Another man!
‘But why are you laughing?’ I ask, feigning courage.
‘I was there. I kicked the policeman. I helped you get away?’
My heart kicks, I want to run!
‘Don’t be scared, well done. No more abuse of women in the city market. You are a strong woman!’
‘A strong vagina warrior!’ I shout back.
More stitches! I look at Lillian, our eyes lock and we laugh again.
397 words

Comments

Frances Faulkner's picture

playing with power

Chibairo aka vagina warrior,

Love the action! I wish being vocal and powerful could always result in such fun and playful stories for women. You made an adventure out of standing up for yourself, well worth the $5 it cost you. If all goes well, the policeman will at least hesitate before wagging his tongue in the future.

Thanks for sharing,
Frances

ana hamuka's picture

wow! this story is

wow! this story is fantastic. thanks for sharing, and that man was right: don't be scared, you truly are a strong, strong woman.

xx hannah

Myrthe's picture

You made me laugh! You did

You made me laugh! You did the right thing. Well done for standing up for yourself!

Beverly Rose's picture

Dear Chibairo, You used humor

Dear Chibairo,

You used humor in your story, but the message was clear - you stood up not only by defending yourself but also in wanting an education for girls to help empower them. Thank you for sharing your story and may you continue to speak out. Vagina warrior, I love it!

aloha,
Beverly

hanasazi's picture

I know it has been a long

I know it has been a long time since you wrote this, but I'm reading it for the first time and had to laugh out loud! What a brave thing to do! And he deserved it, too. What a horrible thing for him to say! Thank goodness for the man who kicked him from behind or you might not have gotten away. How sweet is it that you were able to meet him on the bus, even though you had been running to avoid retaliation from the policeman. Sounds like he was doing the same thing! One of those rare times when a man you don't know nudging you with a laugh on the bus is a good thing, a connection with an unknown ally and not another unwelcome advance...Well done, sister!

And well written, too. Not only did I feel your discomfort in the market, smell the clothes and share your shock when you realized you had just lapped a policeman, I'm still laughing at the way your story played out!

If only all women could be so bold and think so quickly—and know they'd have someone (or a whole crowd) backing them up whenever this kind of disrespect occurs—we could be rid of discrimination and gender based violence in no time just by collectively humiliating those who perpetrate it!

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