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Battering the women of my community

I grew up in a police barracks in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In my community then, wife battering and the abuse of women were rife. Men/boys had little or no regard for women and girls. Religious tolerance as in the case of many other parts of the country was great. Both Christians and Muslims lived in harmony, but the women also shared the common pain of physical, emotional and psychological abuse by their husbands, partners and fathers. My mum lost few of her friends who died from internal bleeding sustained from some of the physical abuse by their husbands.

The women in my community worked really hard to make ends meet for their families. Most were house wives who indulged in petty trading and sometimes illegal businesses just to make their families happy. Some had what we called ‘pepe markit’; selling pepper, onion, fish, garri, and other vegetables, others sold bread and butter or bread and mayonnaise, some involved in the illegal sale of smuggled fuel or smuggled cigarettes from neighbouring Guinea. Some sold fresh vegetable from their back gardens while others do fresh fish from the nearby Congo town wharf. They were also responsible for taking the children to and from school, making sure children had clean uniform, attend parents and teachers association meetings. They also had the onus of making sure our community is clean as they championed the every Saturday cleaning exercise. They were in charge of making sure that the ‘sunakati’ (food for breaking fast in Ramadan) was also available every day of Ramadan and on time. They were also responsible for cleaning the church and making sure that activities of the church are well organized and came out as planned.

The men in my community did not recognize the virtues of the mummies and grannies in my community. They were not allowed in meetings that decide the fate of people in the community. They were meant to obey orders made by the men even though some of these decisions did not in any way favoured the progress of the community. Oftentimes, women and young girls are beaten and dragged naked in the eyes of the public. It was common for a husband to beat his wife and strip her naked in front of her children and neighbours. Nobody dare stood to challenge these nefarious acts. In most cases people will trivialize the issue by saying ‘it’s a Misses and Master matter; they will soon resolve it.’ This was a show of manliness, power and control over women. Neither the Reverend nor the Imam thought it necessary to intervene on behalf of these suffering women and girls. It was just a norm.

Amidst all this, poverty was rife and as a result some women had to prostitute themselves or send their daughters to prostitute in order for them to gather money to cater for their families. Some girls became breadwinners of their families at the early stage of adolescent. Some dropped out of school for the sole purpose of becoming a bread winner. Some families were so poor that some parents will warn their children not to have any business with children from very poor families. I remember a woman came to my mother one day and asked her to warn me not to walk with or make friend with a certain girl. Her statement was ‘she will not finish school. Have you seen any child from that family finishing school?’ she had asked and indeed the girl got pregnant while in JSS3. But was it her fault that she was born in an excruciatingly poor family and an abusive community wherein she had to use her body to help her family? No, but so was the plight of many other girls including those we attended primary and secondary schools together with.

Women had no control over the number of children they had; when to have kids or whether at all it was necessary to have kids was a solely male decision and which women got severe punishments for in the form of beating if they dare question family planning or if the man noticed his wife had been secretly using birth control pills. Apparently, the husband would return the wife to her parents for disobedience of using a pill and then asked the parents for a return of the bride price. Parents on their parts will return their daughter to the ‘camp death’ called marital home wherein she will be flogged as a warning to never try it again. Boys grew feeling the same absurd manliness and it was common to see young boys beating their girlfriends in public too.

Most husbands preferred to share the little salary they earned with their girlfriends rather than their families. It was also common for husbands to bring their girlfriends home to meet their wives knowing very well that the other woman was having an affair with their husbands.

I know a few families wherein husbands left their wives and stayed with girlfriends whom they felt are of better class and status than their wives. Occasionally, some of these girlfriends would send gifts to the poor wives and kids who would accept the gifts with smiles on their faces. Polygamy was also a widespread phenomenon among both Christian and Muslim families.

The emotional and psychological torture some women went through in that barracks lead to some running mad, others die and a few walked away but there were lots who stayed and endured for the sake of their children. Because families fell apart after the mothers left the marriage. Fathers brought in new wives who sent the children of the previous wife away. These children got out of school and were left to fend for themselves at the mercy of other men. Did these women deserve the treatments meted out to them? No, they don’t. And as I write this I know somewhere in the four corners of this world some women are going through similar abuse. It is the responsibility of us all to keep talking about these issues. Only words backed by action can make the change.

Comments

Greengirl's picture

Your voice...... Mkandeh!

I am so glad that I read your post. You aptly captured the sad realities of what women go through and put up with in patriarchal societies. No woman or girl deserves to be mistreated; there is just no basis! Thank you for sharing such highly revealing accounts of gender based violence in your country, which undoubtedly reflects the situation in other parts of the World; Nigeria for one.

Your piece is illuminating and your voice counts a great deal, Mkandeh! Yes, we all have a responsibility to keep talking about these issues until change happens.

Blessings,
Greengirl

Mkandeh's picture

Our voices

Thanks a lot Greengirl. I am pleased to have shared this with other women. Our voices really do counts.
Thanks

MS Kandeh

Greengirl's picture

Hugs to you!

I observed that in replying to my comment, you posted it as another comment. I have made similar mistakes over time, and when that happens, it means that the person you are sending the message to may likely not get alerted. What to do whenever someone leaves a comment on your post- just click the 'reply' word directly below the comment instead of posting your response as a new comment. I hope you get the drift, if not, please kindly reach out and I will do my best to provide further guidance.

Yes, our voices really does count! I want you to know that I really appreciate your words of appreciation.

Keep speaking!
Greengirl

Mkandeh's picture

Thanks Again. Got the

Thanks Again.
Got the drift.
cheers

MS Kandeh

kellyannaustin's picture

Women Weave the Web Campaign

MS Kandeh

I love your voice! And it does count.

I wonder if you would be willing to compose a piece about digital issues for our Women Weave the Web Campaign? We'd be so grateful. Perhaps you could talk about how the internet might be a source of empowerment or resistance to gender based violence? Has your access to the internet shaped some of your ideas about what you experienced? What do you think the wider impact of being able to publish on the internet is for honoring the "mummies and grannies" who weren't honored properly in your community? You certainly have a voice that rings loud for them! I'd love to hear your thoughts about how technology affects your life and the lives of women around you. After all it is through technology that you've shared your thoughts already! You can find out more information about the campaign here, http://worldpulse.com/campaigns/www/how-to-participate It would be fabulous to have your voice join others as we think through issues around digital access in all its complexity. Especially since you are such an incredible writer.

As you may know, there is also a prize that will be awarded to an outstanding grassroots woman and visionary voice using digital tools to effect change and advance her community work. The prize will include the 2014 Lynn Syms Prize title, a $20,000 monetary prize to be paid out over two years to support her community based work, a feature profile on WorldPulse.com, and an all-expense paid trip to speak her message in New York City. You can find more on the website, http://worldpulse.com/campaigns/www/www-women-weave-the-web-campaign-prizes

The deadline is March 31st!

Wishing you peace,

Kelly

Mkandeh's picture

Women Weave the Web Campaign

Thanks Kelly,
I will try to work on something for the campaign before the deadline.
Cheers

MS Kandeh

SSD's picture

Your voice !

Oh dear one, this article surely is relevant and your voice extends quite amazingly ! Such an encouraging theme resonating in your post - one that I am sure shall inspire many women to commence a change where needed in their lives and in the lives of others. Keep penning...keep voice-ing !

Cheers,
Shaheen

Mkandeh's picture

Voice

Thanks Shaheen. i feel encouraged.
Cheers

MS Kandeh

Keating's picture

This is why I am here

I wish I had something to say that would ease the pain ..

This is happening in many places all around the world and it sickens e to the core. You are a very strong woman and thank the universe that there are women like you speaking out.

Unless the Governments are prepared to come together and put laws in place that state that this ABUSE is breaking the law, it is left up to people like yourself to keep exposing this and trying to find solutions in the communities to stop this.

It is dehumanizing to say the least.

I am honored to be here and hopefully somehow be a part of helping to stop this.

We all need each other.

With Love

Robby

Greengirl's picture

Nodding in Agreement!!!!!

I could not help but nod in agreement that "Governments need to come together and establish laws that regard and count ABUSE as breaking the law". I say YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We will keep speaking until this happens!

Hugs,
Greengirl

Keating's picture

Yes

Hi Greengirl

I also feel that any woman that has been traumatized by abuse and in many cases extreme abuse, needs to recognize that they are SHELL SHOCKED from the abuse- so that they can start from there and look at the things that trigger them back into traumatic states- and then they can start to heal.

A LONG road on the healing path for so many women and young girls and it brings me feelings of angst in regard to wanting a solution to stopping abuse.

Thank you for your reply

Love

Robb

Mkandeh's picture

This is why I am here

Thanks Robby,
With the case of Sierra Leone, the laws are there but implementation is almost none existence. The Police and the Judiciary are the worse institutions in the country. The cost of victory is so expensive that the poor cant afford it.
Indeed, it is very dehumanizing but we will not keep a sealed lip. We will speak out.
Thanks again

MS Kandeh

Keating's picture

Thanks for reply

Yes, I hear you Ms Kandeh ... Keep speaking out ..

Thank you

Robby

E'KA's picture

Nos voies

Dear Mkandeh,
I am touched by reading the situation you made ​​of the situation of women in your Cantry. All faith, I do not i hop. I know that our voices are as strong as the situation in question. So courage and speaks speaks more for so it changes.

warmly

E'ka.

Mkandeh's picture

Voice

Thanks E'ka for the encouragement.
warm regards

MS Kandeh

Jennifer Faith's picture

We can make a difference

Dear MS Kandeh,

Thank you so much for sharing this gut wrenching true story of what is happening in your country. Remaining silent is a sure way to allow this violence against women to continue and I applaud you for speaking out. I agree whole heartedly with your assertion that Christian women and Muslim women alike are being bound in violence in the name of God and religion. I myself endured over two decades of abuse in my "Christian" marriage and finally got the courage to leave after I received a death threat from my religious husband. Interestingly, it was the power of God that led me out of violence and into safety and healing. He did not forsake me because I broke religious laws. He wooed me to himself and loved me and showed me that there is a better way. It is my prayer that all women - regardless of religion - will be free from abuse and that no one will ever hurt another person in the name of God. I produced a short video addressing women of faith who are living in abuse and I have included the link below. I pray that it will encourage you.

God Bless,

Jennifer

https://vimeo.com/89447484

Mkandeh's picture

We can make a difference

Thanks for this Jennifer,
I am touched by your story. You are a strong woman. I am inspired. Thumbs up for the courage to quit. I really do admire you.
Thanks again

MS Kandeh

Precious M's picture

Cultural Stereotypes

Here you are challenging stereotypes with your beautifully woven words!

The part that saddens me is where you mentioned fathers deflowering their own daughters, wanting to taste the 'soup' before any other. Lord! The world is an evil place!

Thanks for raising your voice!

Precious

My pen speaks

Mkandeh's picture

it saddens me too

Thanks precious,
That particular issue also saddens me greatly and the worse part was that people just pretended the issue was not there; ignoring the reality of it. no one wanted to the topic for fear of bringing trouble into another man's life oblivious of the many impacts the act was having on victims.
I am grateful for all your supports
regards

MS Kandeh

Susan K.A.'s picture

Thank you for writing this

Dear MS Kandeh,

Thank you for writing this piece. It is so hard to understand how people can treat one another with such cruelty and hatred. I am amazed at the resilience of those rare women and children who are able to not only survive the violence against them but go on to lead rich and meaningful lives, committed to seeing to it that others don't suffer a similar fate. As you say, no woman deserves cruel treatment and we must find ways to stop the abuse.

Thank you for speaking out. It is SO great to have this forum where we can listen to each others' stories and spread the truth about what is happening and feel our connection and support for one another.

With love,

Susan

______________________________________________________________________________

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."
-Hafiz

Mkandeh's picture

Its an obligation

Thanks Susan for your comments.
I am very grateful for this forum and the opportunity to share the stories of these women. I feel abliged to speak out on this issues and several others that people just sweep under the carpet.
Thanks and blessings

MS Kandeh

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