the letter that is long overdue: to all the daughters in the world
03 December 2013
From the first day I saw you I fell in love with you. It was such a joyous occasion with your beautiful eyes which you really wanted to open every time someone entered the room (we knew you were very intelligent, and i am certain you were the only child in the world who could do that). Your father wanted a son but also fell in love with you at first sight and soon we would be calling you daddy’s baby. He would take you everywhere and in this highly patriarchal society he is one of the few men who are not ashamed to love and care for their children. He did everything for you and for that I can assure you are blessed, loved and special.
Oh, my dear you see how carried away I can become when I talk about your childhood. You are a strong girl and you stand up for yourself and I admire you for that. My daughter, you are now six and I have to write this letter to you because you are a girl. Listen to what I say for though the words may sound bleak, I want you to find strength in them. I want you to see light in them. Your ability to conquer the challenges you will face because you are a girl will leave you empowered and hopefully also empowered to help other girls and women. For a woman success is not an individual event but you must never forget other women and girls who have not had a chance. My daughter never be selfish with empowerment because you can truly enjoy its fruits when you share.
As you read put yourself in the shoes of this girl because this is the experience and reality of many girls worldwide:
Because I am a girl I have to bite my tongue because I cannot answer you even though the words you say are degrading
Because I am a girl you expect only tears from me and when I smile, you think I am too fast
When I dress up I am trying to seduce you
When I am walking I am trying to make you see me
When I eat I am greedy
“Aren’t girls supposed to be thin” you shout
When we are having chicken I cannot taste the thigh because it is yours
But I can feast freely on the intestines and feet
Because I am a girl you tell me I can’t go to school
But I also want to learn but my tears mean nothing to you because I am a girl
Because I am a girl a man old enough to be my father gives me money and then forces himself on me
He calls himself a sugar daddy, what is sweet about destroying my life? But I guess because I am a girl it is sweet to destroy me
Because I am a girl I do the feminine subjects in class and when I tell you I want to be an engineer you can’t hide your smile as you tell me it’s not a feminine profession
Because I am a girl as soon as my breasts appear you are asking for lobola whilst my brother continues with school
Because I am a girl when I am raped you welcome my abuser into your home when he asks for my hand in marriage
At least he wants to take responsibility you say
But is it not because yesterday you threatened him and told him you would report him to the police
Be thankful you say to me because who would want to marry you after what has happened
After all you must have done something to be raped. How where you dressed and why were you walking alone. And because I am a girl I must have done something to invite the action on myself
Because I am a girl I have to accept that my rapist is now my husband even though yesterday I didn’t know who he was
Because I am a girl and not even twelve yet, when I refuse to go with you after you have paid my bride price, my father shouts at my mother for raising a disobedient child, where do I think he will find the money to reimburse my husband
Because I am a girl even the laws are not in my favour
Because I am a girl am I any less human than my brother who as far as I see is also made up of flesh and blood.
Because I am a girl does that mean I am dull because if anything, though mama did not go to school she has all the answers and solutions to my problems.
Because I am a girl what is a right to my brother, is a privilege for me
Because I am a girl people try to put a ceiling to my dreams
But Tino, my daughter because you are a girl you shall overcome all these barriers and more
Because you are a girl there shall be no ceiling to what you can achieve; only the sky will be your limit
Because you are a girl you will not only overcome these challenges but help others overcome them as you become your sister’s keeper.
This is a letter my mother may not have written but definitely one she would approve of. I can’t wait to see you grow and overcoming all challenges. Together we can and we will change the world for us and for our children.
I love you.
Your loving mother