STORY FOR EVAW CAMPAIN
(Names here have been changed because I’m afraid the man in the story will kidnap my son in revenge)
I am a blind woman.
In year 2000, I went to visit my younger sister in her rented one-room apartment from a town in Nigeria where I’ve lived for about 17 years.
During my short visit, my sister introduced me to a young co-tenant, Jekyl.
Some time later, my sister and her family had to move in with me for a while and Jekyl, in company of two other former neighbours—women, came to visit her in November of that year.
In may, 2001, I had to undergo surgery to remove fabroids from my womb at a hospital in the town from where my sister had just moved and she stayed with me there. She suggested that we let Jekyl know that we were in town because he was very honest, responsible, and kind-hearted. She thought he would be able to help us if we needed to make any purchases, etc.
He helped us find a hotel room where we stayed until I could move into the ward and it was he who drove us to the hospital when the time came. When the hospital receptionist was helping to complete my forms at the admisions desk, she asked if he was my husband and my sister said “no” but he chided her afterwards, asking if he was not good enough to be my husband.
Each morning, Jekyl came to see me before resuming his duties as a taxi driver. When he took a break at midday, he came to see me and at the end of each day’s business, he was back by my hospital bed till his late bedtime. Having not received such kind attention in a long, long time, I began to fall in love with a man who is 6 years younger than I am.
I discussed my feelings with my sister and she thought the wise thing for me to do was tell Jekyl how I felt but how?
In one of our earlier discussions, he had told me that our birthdays were only 4 days apart. On his supposed birthday, I bought a greeting card and directed my sister to draw a heart inside which she should carefully write my name. This I presented to Jekyl, insisting that he opened it only when he got home.
The next day, he came to see me as usual
But said nothing about my card. Anyway, he had always been loving; he kissed women indiscriminately, including me, so it was hard to tell how he felt. He brought a young cousin who lived with him to stay with my sister and I at the hospital so that my sister could get some rest and the boy has been very dear to me ever since (he is now married and has a daughter of his own).
By the time I was released from hospital, Jekyl and I had become cozy with each other but nothing had been said about a relationship. He said the birthday thing was a mix-up, the gap was a month and 4 days. He said I should not tell my brother-in-law to come take us home, he, Jekyl would drive us all the way home in his taxi.
It was the day after my return home that we discussed our relationship but I do not remember how it was introduced. He had just gained admission to study Business Administration at the University so we agreed to get married and begin to have children while he went to school because “age is not on “your (my) side””.
But there was a problem that had to be solved first. His family is muslim and his parents, especially his father, would never let him marry a christian and a blind and older woman at that. I was a very strong christian and leader of my church choir but I had begun to fornicate with Jekyl and was enjoying every minute that I spent with him. My family told me to be careful and my younger sister said I was foolish for falling in love with and initiating a relationship with a younger man. When I told him that I didn’t feel too comfortable any longer for this reason, he said:
“Do you think there is anything you could do to make me touch you if I didn’t love you? Was the prophet Mohamed not fifteen years younger than one of his wives?”
For two years we fell out and in again, My partner said the only way he could make his family accept me was him getting me pregnant but I wanted to be married first. After two years I became pregnant. As soon as this was confirmed, I phoned to let him know and he promised to see me in two days but did not show up until after three weeks!
When he came, it was to tell me that another woman was 5-months pregnant with his baby and so, I should go have an abbortion straightaway. I bluntly refused but after he had left, I tried to take his advice but the timely intervention of a friend in whom I had confided stopped me.
He later called to apologise for his rashness and told me to keep the pregnancy. Four months later, he took me to see his father and stepmother and then we visited one of his brothers. They said I was accepted and welcome because they wouldn’t reject the baby in my womb, it was part of their family.
When I was 6 months in, the other woman was delivered of a baby girl who died within two weeks and my partner only went short of accusing me of murdering the child with magical powers. A month later, he came visiting and we made love during the night. After he had left next morning with a promise to return in the evening, I had an unusual discharge and went straight to a kind gynaecologist who had looked after me since my first trimester. He said I had bled and immediately referred me to the University College Hospital (UCH). I telephoned my partner and he did return that evening but couldn’t visit me at the hospital where I had been admitted till next day. He stayed in town for about two more days and left for school while I was still on the hospital bed.
One afternoon in October 2003, he came to my house on a hired bike and I wondered why the bike wouldn’t leave as soon as he got off it. I did not have to wait long for an explanation. He spent precisely 3 minutes in my house, wouldn’t take a seat, and warded me off with “don’t touch me” when I tried to welcome him with an embrace as I always did before. He said he only wanted to check on me and the expected baby and as he had seen that we were fine, he was leaving for school!
I didn’t hear from or see him again until our son was 7 days old and that was after my sister who had been told by the doctors that I had become hypertensive phoned his Landlord (Hers formerly) to tell him of my condition and threatened to raise hell if I died.
My partner’s mother arrived on Friday, 6 days after my baby was born with the cousin who had stayed with me at the hospital two years before, begging me to take things easy, her son would marry and take care of my child and me; then he came a day after demanding to know why I wanted to kill myself when I knew that he had not visited often enough because he had to concentrate on his studies.
My son was named in absential on the 8th day by his father/family and when we were finally released from hospital (I had the baby through a Caesarean session) after three weeks, my baby’s paternal grandmother stayed with us for a while. On the 31st of December, 2003, she said she had to attend a night vigil with her muslim brethren somewhere in town and all my neighbours had gone to church for the new-year eve service. As it looked like my baby and I would be the sole occupants of our neighbourhood that night, I strapped him to my back and took the two minutes walk to a nearby church. My son’s father arrived just before midnight to drag us out, accusing me of taking his muslim son to a christian gathering as if I could have left the 6-week old baby alone at home while I went to church.
My hospital bill had been settled with some money that my twin had sent for the expansion of our sisters’ small businesses. After I had presumably appeased my son’s father enough on the church-going issue, I told him of the need to return the money to its rightful owners. He pleaded with me to cut corners and pay back the loan myself because he was still a student and may not be able to afford to do so just yet. I agreed but then we discussed the matter further to the effect that he wanted to know why the bill was that high. Well, he concluded by saying that he would tell my twin to send what ever money she wanted to give me into his bank account so that my affairs could be better managed. I do not know what transpired between them but the discussion led to a quarrel that Jekyl has refused to end till date. He wouldn’t hear of marrying me because he said he couldn’t bear to have my sisters as in-laws. He bought our son a tricycle on his first birthday and, apart from a rubber truck which he once brought him and outings to an eatry as well as a few confectionaries on his very very few visits, the boy can boast of no manifestations of fatherly attention or responsibility. The last time we heard from him was early in 2011 when he quarreled with me over the telephone for taking his son to visit his own father on the old man’s request in 2010 and that telephone call was initiated by me to find out how he was.
I have decided to share my experience with other women because I know that stories of emotional violence like the one from which I have suffered these many years are common but not taken seriously. I also wish to use this medium to advise women against sugar-coated tongues and oil-smooth caresses of young handsome wooers, a ferocious tiger may be behind that mask!
\\In April, 2011, I met a 22-year-old young woman who was trying to gain admision in to the first year of Junior secondary school.
The interesting thing was that her church pastor had managed to raise very little money to buy a bucket, some dresses, and a pair of sandals for her use in the boarding-housebut the tuition and boarding fees were not available!
A talk with Anifa, the young woman, revealed that she had lost her mother at a tender age and become blind at age 13. She had been taken to various churches and traditional healers for a remedy but when nothing could be done to restore the lost sight, her father decided that she was a self-tormenting witch and ensured that her eyes were subjected to all sorts of unspeakable treatment, to help her remain permanently blind as she had chosen to be!
With the help of some members of the local chapter of the Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), Anifa was admitted to the school and has proved to be a talent in hiding which would have been wasted but for my timely intervention as the National Women Committee Leader of the NAB.
Her father has been counceled and he now accepts her for whom she is.
Cases like that of Anifa are many in developing countries, one of which Nigeria is. Professionals are badly needed to preach, promote, and effect change in the age-long negative societal attitude towards persons, especially women and girls with disability(s). Our culture has to be tuned for adaptation to modern day realities because the world in which we presently live is a rapidly changing one. Globalisation has created a large, technologically advanced, well-informed and enlightened community that would be difficult, if not impossible for any one not prepared for change to operate and achieve self-actualisation, a basic tool for recognition, acceptance, and effecting change in the macro environment, especially with the relatively new concepts of integration, inclusivity and, latest of all, infiltration. If, in the 21st century, individuals like Anifa are left to suffer so much humiliation and torment just because they have to live with one kind of disability or the other, Nigeria would belong to the savage, babaric past. There is dire need for change and the time to effect it is now.
There is need for continuous access and ability to utilise information in order for every woman to remain a relevant and functional agent of change in the larger society.
In view of the foregoing, I urgently suggest, among other things:
1. Acquisition of relevant skills in formulation of Projects and designing of programs that will initiate and effect positive change in an inclusive global society.
2. Acquisition of badly needed relevant skills for organizational development, as well as effective monitoring and evaluation.
3. Acquisition of advocacy and group leadership/motivational skills.
4. Acquisition of counseling skills for the promotion of gender appreciation, equity, and equality.
5. Acquisition of relevant skills for self-defense/advocacy.
6. TALK women, be LOUD, PROUD, AND PASSIONATE!—Moto of MIUSA’s Women Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD)