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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.


Nezed's picture

Would have loved to post a

Would have loved to post a pix of Aisha and Rekiya, but am not sure if that exposure is necessary 'yet'.. Aisha is one of the prettiest baby i have ever seen!

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Stella Paul's picture

There are many Rakiya

You may feel that you failed one Rakya. But there are so many others like her and you can always reach out and help bring their stories. And your voice says you are already trying. All the best!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Carlotta's picture

Very moving story. i hope

Very moving story. i hope your friend is alright now. You cant always be helpful all the time, sometimes you can only listen but here you are. You can make some form of difference by just sharing what happens in your world.

usha kc's picture

Nezed,, this tiype of

Nezed,, this tiype of violence is common also in Nepal. I can feel your words,,, please keep raising voice!!

YAOtieno's picture


Hi Usha,

what you are saying is true. I have seen it happen in Nepal and in my home country Kenya. I wonder, where do women go for help in Nepal? I get the feeling that some women have resigned themselves to being punching bags and that t just disturbs me.


A candle looses nothing my lighting another

usha kc's picture

Yup,, its' true Yao, I have

Yup,, its' true Yao, I have seen so much of biasness betweeen girs and boy, with in falily,society, within office, even in governments practice..

that's much to bear,, now crossing the boundry... we should not be silent..

MaDube's picture

You did not fail her

Here you are, telling the story. We have heard you. Many other people will hear you, some of them- policy makers and politicians, women's rights movements in your country. You have profiled domestic violence in your country through this piece and someday someone will take action to change this. So yes, you might not have been able to take immediate action to help Rekiya but you have done so now. Well done for that.

Nezed's picture

MaDee, Thanks a lot! Yes, its

MaDee, Thanks a lot! Yes, its time to come outta the closet... I speak for myself!

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Adepeju's picture

Nezed is back in the house!

I served in Nasarrawa state and i know that women suffer a great deal of operession in northern Nigeria unlike in the south.(not that it doesnt happen in the south but on a lower scale). Laguage barriers and even safety for your own life is what i see as the major impediment to "help" rekiaya... but we can do something about it! We can talk about it, blog about it, keep the chain moving until finally someone hears us and does something!! You have not failed rekiya. Rekiya has planted in you a seed that will save not one rekiya but thousands of rekiyas who are waiting to be saved!!!
All the best sis

Nezed's picture

Peju! How are you dear? Yes,

Peju! How are you dear? Yes, I am back!... Its so terrible and inhumane what these women undergo in the North. At times, i just feel I should go and extract all women from that geographic region and give them a 'Breath of Fresh Air'! If only Wishes were horses. Lol..

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Greengirl's picture

Hello Nezed

You are a courageous young lady. As I started to read your story, I felt uneasy sensations within me. As I read through I could visualize the whole scenario. It felt as if I was present with you in the room and we both heard the knock. I understand the risks that characterize the setting where the incidence took place. Your little feet patters is loud, and quite resounding. You have just stirred up an echo that will reach the ends of the globe.


Nezed's picture

Nike, Thanks for your

Nike, Thanks for your comment... Honestly speaking, i did not want to depict how graphic Rekiya's beating was. Her husband had actually beating her with a stick that had razor blade in it... I cried when i saw those marks.. Rekiya was only 19years old. Am actually thinking of visiting her sometime this year...

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Greengirl's picture


Nezed, you are a rare gem. I look forward to meeting you someday.

Nezed's picture

Hi Nike, you studied Urban

Hi Nike, you studied Urban and regional planning? Wow.. Me too! I finished from the University of Nigeria... Look forward to meeting you too and possibly working with you! Great job on your NGO!

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

YAOtieno's picture

My heart bleeds

Thanks for sharing the story. It is the first step to helping.My heart bleeds every time i hear of such crule treatment for women. Are there any women networks that help support such women in Nigeria?

I feel sorry for her and I understand what you mean by feeling that you have failed her.

I hope someone can give us advice here.



A candle looses nothing my lighting another

Nezed's picture

Sure... we shall continue to

Sure... we shall continue to strive and make little landmarks until it becomes a landscape! Thanks for your kind comment...

I do not aim for Perfection; Just excellence!

Okeny-Lucia's picture


Hello Nazeed,I think you did the right thing at the right time.The most brave thing is that you let her in as a fellow and shared with the strengths you both carried.I have known the story and I can use it to educate other women in violence situation.Keep on writing.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Kadidia's picture

Little Partners

Dear Nezed,

By being her friend you gave this woman the support she needed. This is the story of a young woman who found herself in a forced marriage in which maybe the husband had to give a lot of money to her parents. This is the story of african women who are considered low-level citizens who are to accept any kind of mistreatment because they will not have their family's support. Nobody divorces because the family won't be able to give the money back and it will be very embarrassing.
Your story is another example of women rights violation and it is a known fact that governments don't deal with at all.
Structures and information should be given to women. It is time for them to know their rights. Please don't give up on your friend. She was brave enough to come to speak to you.

Kadidia Doumbia

CourtneyWilson's picture

Thank you

Thank you for sharing your story. I can't imagine how hard it is to do nothing when you know someone is suffering, but by her story and your ensuing friendship you can help many more.

Good work!

JudyR's picture

Thank you for sharing

Your story was moving without being overly graphic. You are helping your friend just by telling her story. Thank you for leaving the safety of Denmark to work with women in Nigeria.

Judy R
Portland, OR

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