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"If only your grandma gave me school books" My mother sighs

"Mamma" started school during early 1960s with her brother who is a year older. She has two older siblings who never went to school. There was no school for the ordinary citizens at that time.

After a few years in school, Mamma’s education was sacrificed. Affording books for two was impossible.

He succeeded over the years.

She stayed home, roamed around with friends, a tomboy she was! In her teens she fell in love; parents did not consent. She married the first person they consented, out of spite she says. She never took it seriously and married five people in succession. Luckily no kids before me!

Not surprisingly, she got divorced; before I saw the light of day and ended up marrying someone else within the year. This time she stayed for my sake & continued with the marriage for the sake of six children who followed. She was working day and night as a seamstress. For him it was a waste of money to educate us. Her discontent was evident.

I was doing well in school until 5th grade. There on, things went downhill. Chores, rebuke, loss of self-confidence, and being blamed for everything that went wrong. Food was scarce, basic necessities barely met. Add to that, abuse! I was a burden, and I was to be trampled on! I withdrew within me not knowing where to turn.

I almost failed in 9th grade. Mamma took serious notice. Her dreams she narrated. Her anguish she reiterated. “I did not get the education and see the difference it made! Your uncle has a secure job while I’m in debt!” She pleaded; I also saw guilt in her eyes. She made drastic changes ensuring I had space and time for study. She gave me freedom to go out to study groups. That trust made me soar.

That was not good enough though. I was weak in English and did not get selected for government high school. Competition was tough with limited seats.

I was shattered. Mamma was already in debt having paid for my secondary examination fees. Private school was not an option. God showed me a path though. A friend guided me to an evening class and I was lucky enough to get a job. Long days at work and then going straight to class! I succeeded though.

I did not stop. I had dreams. I waited for government scholarships and years passed with no luck. I did not sit idle. I was dedicated to my work and impressed my employee. A break came through after five years. A program in India!

I was married, had a kid. Mamma was very supportive, husband wasn't! Emotionally I was drained. But I decided to go forward.

Another lucky break came through just two years after that. An Australian scholarship to study for a Degree! I was ecstatic. Husband said “you can't go! Choose between your son and your career”. It was so unfair. He knew to what extend I was ready to stick together for the sake of my son. After much thought I decided this was it! Mamma was there to look after my child until I could come back within a few months. I was scared but bold. He stayed; made my life hell though. It was an emotional warfare. I came back after four agonizing months and took my child with me almost battling for divorce. He later followed.

It wasn't easy. Living on the scholarship stipend! Household chores, studying & strained relationship, never a moment to relax! But I did it. Returned home and assumed a responsible position. It was demanding. This created more stress; looking after a toddler while I was busy at work helping the place prosper. Life went on. Had another child, also took on more work responsibilities. I never stopped even if the going was tough.

I am the breadwinner, I am the housewife, I help with the homework, I do the chores; so why do I tolerate it all?

This makes me think and wonder; about my role; women's role. I had lost hope had been despaired many a times. Yet never gave up. I have tried to be an inspiration to others. I believe it was all worth it as a leader. I have a niche over others. But as a mother, as a wife, I have my doubts.

My mother did not get the chance to complete primary education. I almost did not complete high school. I would not have had the opportunity for tertiary education had I not taken agonizing risks.

We should not have to take such risks, to gamble with our lives. These are the barriers, the challenges for women’s education.

Will my sons turn out any differently? Will they support their wives?

Men! Hear us out!

Local terms :
Mamma = Mother in our local language, Dhivehi

Image source:

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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pelamutunzi's picture


its good to know you managed to rise above the difficulties. people nevr really understand the emotional battles we fight even though educated leaving a marriage is never easy. funny how your stories echo mine. my mother ha a chance to go abroad but because of my father she did not even though it was obvious she was unhappy. this has had an effect on our own lives and I wish she had reconsidered
you are strong and should be applauded. my question is this does education change our state as women based on your own experiences. can women be empowered whilst still married

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Aminah's picture

We need gender sensitized men

Quite right Pelamutunzi,

Although educated, although liberated and emancipated - leaving a marriage is never easy.
especially one with such mind games. Esp myself being from a broken family and having witnessed the atrocities that can happen at the hand of step parents, I am ready to sacrifice myself and my happiness to ensure my kids are safe.

We make our decisions based on what is good for the time. But it never is a good decision when that decision does not make us happy. As you said you mother sacrificed her chance to go abroad. It was her decision but it was not what she wanted. She HAD to choose that. That is never good.

I am told that I am strong. The few who have heard my story says that - I haven't shared with many.
Outside I am confident, strong and invincible. Inside, I break into pieces and am coming out from a depression. World Pulse has helped. I hope this energy keep me afloat.

Women can be empowered even whilst married. But for that we need gender sensitized me.



Rebecca R's picture

Such strength!

"I am the breadwinner, I am the housewife, I help with the homework, I do the chores." I am not sure "tolerate" would be a word I would associate with the strength I read in this piece. The strength (and stubbornness) of your mother and the determination of your own story.

You are an amazing woman and your children are lucky to have a mother like you. They will be like you, remembering the strengths of their mother and standing in awe of everything you have been able to do.


Thanks for that comment Becky.
I guess I will edit that "tolerate" bit to something more appropriate. You are right :)

I only hope my sons turn out to be better human beings than my father, my step father, and my husband. I have no hard feelings towards any one them. I only feel sorry for them.

I wouldn't want my sons to be considered that way. I want my sons to turn out to be the best human beings anyone can ask for. My teenage son is already showing very good qualities. Little one is just too young to make much sense out of our emotional turmoils.

Thanks for the support dear. We all need it :)



Stacey Rozen's picture

Amazing Aminah, brave risk

Amazing Aminah, brave risk taker and determined scholar. With a mom like you I'm sure your sons will grow to be men who respect their wives. There's so much hope.


Aminah's picture

I hope you are right Stacey

I have my doubts at times. I doubt whether I have been a mother to them in true sense.

I have been very career oriented and have spent long hours at work. But I did my best to be everywhere for the kids too. Sports meet, parent meetings, outings, contribution to class parties, etc etc. But I always felt I was lacking. My heart yearned for work and many a times I wish my children would grow faster so that I can concentrate on work more.

Right now I am taking a hiatus from work trying to figure out who I am, where I want to go, what my priorities are.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Really needed.



Nakinti's picture

Great woman!

Dear Aminah,
This is a very important and inspiring story to tell.
I could tell from reading your piece that "the story is long but the time is short" as a popular Cameroon saying goes.
You are a very strong woman to have braved all those odds...marriage+child upbringing+education+uncompromising husband+so many other obstacles, girl you are wonderful. I have just dedicated a Beijing clap for you just now in my bedroom (my son thinks I am going mad...he wouldn't understand).
Don't worry about your sons, they are going to make you proud and respect your wishes.
Kudos! Keep up the good work.

Nakinti B. Nofuru
2013 VOF Correspondent
Reporter for Global Press Institute
Bamenda - Cameroon

You got it right Nakinti,
I just wanted to tell it all :)
I have been able to achieve a lot compared to many other people. And yet, the journey has not been easy at all.
Every little I achieved has been a struggle, a battle.
But I like to believe, it should not be like this. We shouldn't have to fight for for basic rights.

Thanks for the words of support. You are an inspiration to many women - may you have much more success.



Greengirl's picture

Beautifully written!

This is a beautifully written story from a beautiful and resilient woman. Aminah, that is who you are! I admire your courage to make a very difficult choice and I am sure that when your boys grow up, they will understand that you did it for them.

There is so much to your story such that working within the word limit will not take it's message, essence and shine off it. You have done it before and I know you can do it again and again!

All the best,


Aminah's picture

thank you again and again :D

I just hope they turn out to be wonderful men who respects women for who they are instead of asking them to bend backward to confirm to social construction of gender differences.

And I hope that I have not failed them in any way. Trying to be a mother and trying to be a change agent in the society in one's chosen profession - doing both at the same time is demanding and requires us to be able to multitask.

If men and women can work together, this should not be such a difficult journey. In fact it would be a wonderful journey to sing this song together.

I just wish good things for the rest of the women folk out there.



bhavna's picture


My dear i m speechless! How could i not understand ur strugle as i myself know how near to Impossible it is to study after marriage. I am on cell vl again read it again

Dear Bhavna

Thank you for taking the effort to leave feedback even from your cell. It is very encouraging.
In many places education is accessible to women as much as to men. Yet, because of the social construct of our mindset we have to fight a fight that we should not have to fight.



bhavna's picture

Role Sterotype is unjust!

Dear Aminah,
Indeed we are fashioned in such a way as you rightly said, social consturct of our mindset, that at time we start doubting ourselves. It is never easy to blend ourselves in so many roles and the typically sterotype ones. They are demanding and gives no freedom to explore them in our own individualistic way! I personally feel they are unjust! Though we women are a resilent gender, keeping our indiviaduality we still perfectly mould ourselves in different roles expected from us by the society. You are an excellect example of this, never doubt you credibility as a mother. I am very much convinced you are an excellent mother, an inspiration to your kid as well as others in the community!
Kudos to your bravery and determination!
Much love and warm regards

Aminah's picture

you are awesome Bhavna

Thank you for coming back with that insightful comment.

Yes, our individuality is most often lost in all the roles that we play as women.
We can only try our best and hope it all will end up good.



Sharontina's picture

Seeing mysef

I am seeing myself somewhere again in your story. We have so much in common dear Sister. Common pain and pressure, challenges and struggles. But at last coming out triumphant is also what we have in common. What a wonderful feeling it is , we have met here at WP.

Love and hugs

Merlin Sharontina

Dear Sharontina,

As the saying goes, if there is a will there is a way.

But my heart cries in angst. Why do we have to go through this agony, these pains?
We should not have to fight for these basic rights. But I guess we have to continue fighting so as to make the future for women better.

Thanks for your continued support dear. I need that. It's lonely road to walk when you have to try to be strong all the time.

Much love


Maya Norton's picture

Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise"

Aminah, do you know of Maya Angelou, a famous American poet? Her poem "Still I Rise" is one of my favorites and fits very closely with what you've written here. You can also easily find a video of her recitation of the poem online. She has a deep spirtual manner that comes through in her voice.

~ Maya

"Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise."

Dear Maya.

Thanks for sharing that awesome poem.
Very inspiring. very uplifting. and totally liberating.

I often times go under gloom of depression having had to struggle so very much.
But this poem drives home an important point. That there is always hope. that we have to stay strong in the face of adversities. We are our power. We are not broken until we let us be broken.

Thanks again.


libudsuroy's picture

Hi, Aminah, You have a

Hi, Aminah,
You have a complete story here but considering the word limit, you must need to "slay your darlings", those felicitous portions that you might have to let go so painfully in order to retain the central core.
You have so much within, a motherlode of memories, experiences full of wisdom and grace. Keep going!

libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Thanks for the encouraging feedback. It always helps.

I have finally managed to take out some words.



Tash's picture

aww, what a story!! You

aww, what a story!! You really are exceptional Aminah!

Kind Regards,

Aminah's picture


We just keep trying and rising as the poem shared above by Maya says.

thanks for the support.


Sangita Thapa's picture


Dear Aminah, once again i cant help being impressed by your writing. Whether its your personal account or any other tale, it always has that intense feeling, that tinge of vigour and true inspiration that i cant really help praising. I appreciate your valour and the risk that a mother took! Keep writing and keep inspiring.

Aminah's picture

your support is awesome

What a lovely compliment Sangita.
I never thought of myself of as a writer. But having started my blogging journey, and the positive feedback I am getting, I have started to believe in myself. I guess gaining self-confidence is a process in itself.

Thanks again.


Taha Mirani's picture


They will, insha'Allah. I'm in tears after reading the post. Your journey is very inspiring. Allah bless you with a long, healthy life and all your dreams come true. Aameen.


Taha Mirani

Aminah's picture

In sha Allah

Thank you for that lovely wish Taha.
I pray for that too.


I like your flow of writing, your inspiring story, your courage, your hopes Aminah you are simply outstanding.

Thanks for sharing your story it’s not easy to pour out your heart, it needs a great courage. You are brave and very influential your words have magic of grabbing hearts. Keep writing

And I hope your son will never disappoint you because you are an adorable Mamma

It indeed is not easy. But I am trying.

Thanks for those lovely words about my writing. I hope I am able to keep up to that standard in my future writings too.


Precious M's picture

You are an overcomer

Aminah, I believe you when you say you will surely empty yourself at the end of this program. You have so much inside you. One thing I want you to be sure of is that when you tell your stories you make a positive impact in the lives of others like me. I admire your courage in getting an education. Teach your sons and they will be exemplar men. Keep soaring dear.

My pen speaks

Aminah's picture

Creating exemplar men

That's just it Precious.
I want to my sons to be exemplar men.
I want all men to be such.
That way, no mother or no father will wish for a son instead of a daughter.

People will be happy with a son or a daughter when they believe the world is fair and equal for both genders.

I really do hope my emptying myself out helps someone else (also helping me in the process even if little by little)


Veronique_S's picture


Aminah your personal encounter with the restriction that is imposed in your country thus decreasing access to education was very enthralling.

You have found the light at the end of the tunnel and you followed it, which I am glad you did. Your triumph will act as a motivator for many in your community.


Aminah's picture

I hope I can motivate

On the contrary Veronique,

In my generation, we see no restrictions on either gender. Yes, it was present when my parents were of school age as that was the time when formal schooling was introduced in our country.

The Maldives has progressed quite rapidly over the years and I am thankful for all the opportunities we have.
The one thing that hinders women progress is the social construction of gender roles. If we can overcome that, then things would look really promising.

Thanks for your support.
And I take this opportunity to welcome you to World Pulse. It would be lovely to read more from you. I did check out your space.


Veronique_S's picture


I appreciate the insight given.

I am glad you shared your story and you are right because education for girl children will be adopted at a fast rate when men support it. But as a mother what you can do for your sons is to raise them in a way that they will respect women and view them as equals in development not just mothers or home keepers.

Catherine Sakala
Entomologist and Parasitologist- Zambia

Aminah's picture

both genders in harmony

I hope to instil love and respect in my sons for women in general.
Certainly my elder one is growing up to be a beautiful human being with a lovely heart. The little one is still a bit too young I guess.

But yes. I hope my sons understand that women are not servants, not dishwashers, not just housekeepers.
I hope they see and realize the important role we, women, play alongside men in the development of our nation, our community, our people and our family.


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