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EVEN GREAT GREATGRANDMAS ARE NOT SPARED!

Sometime in February this year, I had gone to a senior friend’s house on a visit and learnt that mama, her mother in-law had been around for over three weeks. Mama still looked physically fit even though; she was already a great grandmother and well advanced in age (in her late nineties). Considering her age and agility, it was therefore not unusual for me to think that mama had only come around for either a jolly holiday, or was brought over to the city for a routine medical checkup. My assumptions were, however, way out of it as was later revealed.

Having observed my curiosity and heightened interest, my senior friend took me into confidence by obliging me with details of why mama had been brought over. I was shocked to my wits when she told me that mama suffered ruthless beatings in the hands of one of her sons. I couldn’t fathom what she told me and I her told that I didn’t understand what she had just said. She responded, “Mama’s second son who happened to be the immediate younger of my late husband assaulted mama and threw her out of the family house in the village”.

Of course I was alarmed that anyone in his right senses would raise a finger against such a delicate old woman. What in the world could justify such insensitivity against a defenseless woman? According to my friend, one of mama’s grand children was sent to the village to spend some time with her. The young boy, an adolescent as mama was soon to discover had some delinquent tendencies. Complaints from victims of her grandson’s illicit behaviors became one too many; just as he disregarded mama’s scolding and often resorted to threatening her.

Mama had kept his parents abreast of his misdemeanors and gotten wary of their all too familiar reply that she should be patient with him, as he was only exhibiting youthful exuberance. Short of what else to do to make her grandson penitent and fearing for her own safety after another of his aggressive threats, mama reported him to the community police. Upon learning of the episode, the boy’s father stormed the village bailed his son and took him back to their family house which mama occupied.

In his feat of rage and with his son cheering him on, he descended on mama and beat her blue black. All pleas from those who had by the time gathered fell on deaf ears. Many of the villagers were scared to come too close to stop him considering the fact that he could very well turn his aggression on anyone else. He was however not done, as he threw mama’s things out of her long dead husband’s house; ranting that as the most senior surviving son, all his late father owned apparently belonged to him. He did not mince words in telling his aged mother that she was at his mercy. He even threatened to strangle her should she ever attempt to come back to the house.

Notwithstanding the fact that mama had never been the best of mother in-laws to my senior friend, she did not waste any time in travelling over to the village on learning of the incident. Of course her persona as a grassroots women’s leader and activist of many years, and genuine passion for supporting women took the better a part of her. She understood what had happened for what it was; nothing but another dimension and unjustified case of ‘Violence Against Women’.

Mama’s condition was cause for concern as she complained of body aches. Hence, my friend felt it was necessary for the aged woman to get good medical attention and extra home care. She decided to take mama back with her, and so began mama’s relocation to the City. My friend did not rest her oars as she made extra effort to mediate and broker peace between mama and her brother in-law. Eventually she succeeded in convincing her in-laws to organize a peace meeting.

In spite of the harm mama’s egocentric and prejudicial son had caused his aged mother, he still had the guts to lay down rules about who should attend the family reconciliatory meeting that was convened. He sent word to my friend that her position as a daughter in-law and wife to a late son in the family traditionally disqualified her from being present at the meeting. She was once again reminded of the patriarchic cultural practices that carved a niche for women as second class citizens. People who should not be seen nor heard! She was once again reminded that amongst her in-laws, her voice died when her husband died.

My friend’s predicament with her in-laws, mama’s case and the many pathetic stories of assault experienced by women the world over clearly indicates that prejudice and violence against women knows no bound, age, creed, race, ethnicity and family ties. Looks like all these binding issues mean little or nothing to perpetrators. For all they care, their victims deserve the harm they cause them; and sadly perpetrators hardly ever get punished. Little wonder then why violence against women continues unabated, even in the face of so many laudable laws, policies and treaties designed to eliminate the problem.

For much of history and throughout the world, traditions and laws have failed to adequately protect women, and this to a very large extent, has contributed to widespread violence against women. Social and legal traditions have tolerated, and even promoted the persistent subjection and or assault of women; thereby causing victims both short-term and long-lasting effects that are very harmful and limiting.

In Nigeria, Violence against women has also been on the rise and the Nigerian authorities have failed to take it seriously as an offence. By the day, women get raped, beaten, maimed and in worst case scenarios they get killed under the name of domestic violence. Though this trend occurs across much of the world, Nigeria’s discriminatory laws and dismissive police compound its particularly high rates of domestic violence. Most potently, the prevalent culture of silence and stigma for the victims of domestic violence hinders public acknowledgement of the problem.

Stephane Mikala, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa program, said: "On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission," adding that "husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence".

All forms of abuse against women whether silent, verbal or physical must be recognized as wrong and a very serious social problem that calls for redress by all and sundry. There exists an urgent need to challenge the social prejudices and institutional structures in order to protect women, not just from danger, but also from ridicule, fear and isolation. Those who make it a past time to assault women must be made to realize that women are not in any way punch bags or rage receptors; and should not be taken for granted. Our seemingly fragile frames are not a symbol of weakness because what we lack in physical strength, we are full of inwardly. We deserve to be protected and treated with much consideration, care and affection.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Mukut's picture

Absolutely shocking

This is preposterous and shocking,Olanike. When will better sense prevail?

I hope and pray that no woman suffers in the manner poor Mama did.

She deserves better.We all do.

Thank you for sharing an incredible and thoughtful post.

Much love

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Dear Mukut

Thank you so much for your kind and very thoughtful words.

Just as you rightly put it, the incidence is preposterous and you would agree with me too, that it is quite sensitive.

I had struggled with the idea of writing about Mama's experience long before now; especially because I was being careful about giving the family's identity away. But beyond all these, the world needed to know the bizarre experiences the female gender puts up with in life.

Mama's son definitely saw her as 'just another female specie who deserved to be punished for a perceived wrong'. It is the way the world views women as being lesser than men. Of course, in her case, her age and status as his mother were just not enough to stop him from lifting a finger against her.

Hopefully when women speak out, the much desired change will surface.

Hugs and love to you my sister and friend.

cece's picture

I Admire You

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I want to give you a hug for all that you have done and will do. This is a shocking story and I had no idea of some the stuff that goes on. Keep standing up for what you feel in your heart is right and it will eventually be taken care of.

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Greengirl's picture

Much thanks too Cece!

I am really encouraged by your words. Just like a proverbial saying depicts, I believe that a problem shared is a problem half solved. It's great that World Pulse offers everyone of us a safe platform to speak, share, learn and proffer solutions to the issues that touch on the very fabric of our lives.

There comes a time in our lives when we can no longer sit back and watch things go wrong. We all must keep standing up for what we believe in.

One of the many things that World Pulse and sisters like you have taught me that is that "Our individual and collective voices remain formidable tools with which we can initiate and bring about the much desired positive changes we all want to see today and in the future".

Thank you and loads of hugs to you my sister and friend.

Olanike

KathyG's picture

Thank you for raising your voice!

It is through your brave voice that the world becomes aware of these continued cultural patterns. For me it is strange to straddle the ideas of some cultures who perceive our elders as revered, women and the mothers of the earth and other cultures where women have no value. In the United States you can find both of these attitudes as well but it is not culturally ingrained. There is no clear solution, but awareness is a start.

Bless you in your efforts.

Kathy

For long, women's voices have been silenced by baseless cultural practices. Gladly however, women are beginning to come out of their shells to challenge those practices that have long relegated us to the background. By learning from one another, we get empowered and become better positioned to change the norm for good.

I appreciate your stimulating words and very much agree with you that creating awareness about practices that are prejudicial towards women is a good way to start.

Together we will win.

Hugs,

Olanike

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hello

Hi BBG,

All of my journal, friends, inbox, profile, everything has been erased for some reason. So, I googled you on WP and came upon this story which I did not know about.

I was just going to tell you I was thinking of you but NOW with this article I must commend you for your courage. Since I hadn't heard from you for awhile i thought you were down by the Delta. I know the boys and I will call you when I am back in November. My problem with them is they lie so much about everything and i cannot correct it no matter what. It is so prevalent in Zambia hat I think it is in their genes by now.

This boy you write about in the article has me scared or at least cautious in many ways. In America, which is a great country, the young people are SO SO SO disrespectful of adults. It is so serious we adults fear what life will be like when we adults die off. Even some of the poorer schools the kids can text each other DURING the teaching class session and the teacher cannot report it or he is fired. So, I hope this is the exception rather than the rule but it doesn't sound that way.

What do you and some of your friends would be be some beginning steps to get the kids moving towards respect for the elderly, or seniors as you call them?

I lost our email AGAIN so, please could you email it to me since I know you have mine. See, when you become a senior (I am 65 yeas old), memory is the second thing to go.

Love ya,

Wendy

P.S. Love he picture. You seem to have a knack for putting the right picture with the right story.

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Great to hear from you!

About the erasures, I am curious! I dropped you a couple of messages which I presume you may have missed reading as a result. If you would still like to get the messages, I could always resend them.

On the boys you are supporting in Zambia, I think it is important you let them know the value of always being truthful and how they can work at it and even end up as role models; from whom others can always learn. Mama Wendy, it is really sad that by the day, morals and respect in particular seem to be going down the drains.

Only yesterday, a friend and I were discussing how during our undergraduate years, we had so much reverence for our lecturers, unlike what obtains today. She is now a lecturer and she explained how pathetic the situation was with upcoming youths when it comes to respecting even their lecturers. I think there is a need to introduce moral education into school curricula at all levels. That may be one way out of the pervasive moral decadence that characterize today's society.

I will endeavor to send you a personal message.

Take care of you,

Olanike (BBG)

Wendyiscalm's picture

HiBBBG

You have a good point. We notice it in America. During lectures, the kids can text each other and the teacher does not have the support of the administration so they can't do anything about it.

I have been pumping home constantly to the kids about morals, being role models, etc. But The teachers in L/stone are SO bad that they are the worst at lying and stealing. Betrayal is a biggie for me because of my former husband and chlldren. Usually I have no energy left to come back and raise money. I go there so often so I do not have to be alone on holidays, my birthday, Mother's day etc. I think I am going to focus on the new little pre-school with 3-5 year olds, 20 of them. Even the teacher changed her story. She told me she had 20 in school but there were only 12 when I was there. The second time, last week, I was bringing some South African AIDS teachers to see her and she told them she had 23, so it is very strange but everyone there does it.

Now the latest as I told you, receiving an email from Smart telling me he was off from Unviversity for a month and arrived October 11th in Livingstone. His brother Derick had told me he was in Kafue, not Livingstone. Smart said he had taken the rest of the food money from the bank account that was for all the kids food, and taken it because he was hungry, starving really. Derick knew about it but didn't tell me . I see he is torn with loyalties. BUT who knows where he really was. They are 20 years old so it seems hard to change their moral pattern although it has gotten somewhat better.

Yes, Olanike, if you would ever have to time to resend some of the last emails. I may have missed them. But only when it is convenient for you. I know you are very busy.

Have a nice day and thanks for listening.

Ubuntu

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Hugs Mama Wendy

I understand how frustrating it could be when people one is reaching out to disappoints one. Let's be hopeful that they would keep getting better.

I'll work at resending the messages!

Ubuntu,

BBG

Wendyiscalm's picture

Just re-read the Grandmother story

It's a good story, BBG. Reminded me of my own invalidation and silent abuse . Sometimes toxic people are the people we want to let go of the least. Well written and I think it will make an impact and make others realzie they may be subtlely going through the same thing ad it is not okay and they shoulnd't stay around for it.

Love,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Thanks A Great Deal!

Mama Wendy,

We all just must keep speaking up in order to bring about the positive changes we all long for. Interestingly, we can be that change. One way of being that change is by sharing and learning from ourselves.

Thank you so much for your timely words!

Blessings to your large heart!

Olanike (BBG)

melanief7's picture

Moving story

Wow Olanike! I agree with the others that such an act against Mama reveals the true cowardice and lack of dignity of the man who did this to her. It saddens my heart that we live in a world where this kind of behavior towards anyone, especially women, is not only acceptable but expected. It is even more frustrating that there is no recourse when such shameful events do occur. What do you think it will take to change such an entrenched system of oppressive patriarchy?

I think that this forum is a great way to start and by sharing your story you are already creating an awareness that may not have existed otherwise. As women, we are often controlled by fear but we must work together to gain a voice. Change can happen but it will take great strength.

I also wanted to comment on Mama Wendy's words as I think her examples of youth in America are quite true. It is also quite difficult to watch young people show a complete and utter lack of disrespect for their elders and even for their peers. I feel that they behave this way because they didn't have to fight for their freedoms and they take them granted. I wonder in this situation as well what can be done to change the ways of so many?

Thank you for sharing your story and know that we are in solidarity.

Thank you s much for stopping by memanief7! So sorry too for the delayed response which was due to the problem I had with my internet subscription. Thank God it was finally resolved today.

Over time, women have been relegated to the background by a system that has refused to accept that women are not in any way lesser than men. To change the very endemic system of oppressive patriarchy, there is need for women's rights to be protected and promoted. Even so, women need to be socially and economically empowered. Women are more inclined to speak when such loose ends are well taken care of.

Everyone (male and female) irrespective of age, sex, class........................need to work together to change the patriarchal mindset that has been entrenched across board. There is need for value orientation and re-orientation in that wise; and awareness creation, just have you have rightly pointed out is one big stride in the direction of the change we all yearn for.

I sure appreciate your comment because he got me thinking all the more of why we cannot afford the keep silent about the ills in our respective and collective societies. The world is a Global home!

In togetherness,

Olanike

vichuda's picture

Change of mindset needed...

Thanks for sharing this sad and shocking story. It is so important that you and your friend and many women and men don't close your eyes, that you don't accept the violence, but speak out, tell the stories, blame the perpetrators, render violence against women unaccaptable. Such violent way of thinking and behaving needs to be changed. Probably it will need generations to alter the partiarchic structure and mindset, yet, every step of protesting is important.

How is Mama by now? What were the results of this "peace meeting"? Did you tell Mama that you told her story, and how did she react? I was really moved by what she has suffered. Please extend my greetings and best wishes to her.

Greengirl's picture

So sorry Vichuda for the

So sorry Vichuda for the delayed response which was due to the problem I had with my internet subscription. Thank God it was finally resolved today. Guess what too, Mama's daughter in-law (my senior friend) and I had a meeting today and also had opportunity to catch up on Mama's well being. For the first time since writing that story, I was able to tell my senior friend about the post and comments received from across the world. She felt great that people cared that much, and went further by giving me an update! Mama is fine and is back to her matrimonial home in the village. Very importantly, she has found so great a support in my friend. Now, she always wants her around her which was not the case before she rescued her. I am sure she knows all too well that my friend would always be there for her in spite of the distance.

I guess the patriarchal system that prevails in our society is as a result of many years of silence and indifference on the part of almost everyone. The concerned authorities,victims and perpetrators, alike. Women have suffered for far too long, and I cannot agree with you any less that "the more we speak out in protest, the closer we will continue to get towards dismantling those patriarchal structures and also changing people's mindsets.

Your caring so much in a personal way means a lot to me and certainly my friend and Mama will feel that way too.
I would ensure that your goodwill message gets to both of them soonest.

Thoughtfully and thankfully,

Olanike

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