It’s Thursday, 26th June 2008 and I just had my afternoon shower after returning from my community development service (CDS) where I and a few others went around the rural community in Gombe, Gombe State, North-East Nigeria raising HIV awareness. I belonged to the HIV Awareness Group while I was undergoing the one year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and my group went around educating the villagers of the cause and prevention of HIV-Aids.
As I start to dress up after a luxuriating shower, I heard a knock on my door and drew the curtain slightly to see who was knocking. She stood wearing a black jalabiya and a matching hood over her head. Her face was covered but from her eyes, I could see she was sickly thin but pretty.
‘Ina zuwa’ (I am coming) I responded in the Hausa dialect which I was just beginning to learn as the locals neither heard nor spoke English and started to dress up. Communication was an uphill task. I quickly wore an over sized T-shirt on top of my knee length shorts (To wear anything shorter outside your compound or home that exposes any of your body parts, outside your face and arms is asking for stones to be thrown at you by the kids) and without bothering to use body cream, I opened the door.
‘Sannu’ (Well done) she greeted darting her eyes sideways as if scared to be seen standing in front of my room. ‘Sannu’ I responded smiling hoping to douse her tension. She gestured she wanted to come inside the house. I was skeptical a bit- I have never seen any of the women of the community come around to the Corper’s lodge (Were youths undergoing the NYSC program lived). What could be the problem I wondered? As I closed the door and led her inside, she began to speak quickly in Hausa language and broke down into tears. I couldn’t understand a word. Next, she took up her ‘jalabiya’ to illustrate further and that was when I saw it. She had been fiercely beaten by her husband and the marks showed it was a good beating!
I felt anger and blood rush to my head and tears filled my eyes. She needed help. She wanted to speak out. She needed me to direct her. I couldn’t; I didn’t.
Rekiya left after a while and the last word she said to me after ‘San anjima’ (See you later) was ‘Taimaka’ (Help!).
I couldn’t help Rekiya and though we became friends till I left Gombe in March 2009, I knew I had failed her. I decided that I was going to lend my voice to women like Rekiya who cannot speak for themselves. I will start small but sure my little feet patters shall be heard!
P.S Aisha, Rekiya’s daughter was born on 9th of October 2008. Rekiya had been pregnant all the while her husband beat her mercilessly.