MEMOIR OF ASIBI – ESCAPING EARLY CHILD MARRIAGE
By: Araba Patricia Annan (Guest Blogger)
While they design rough and ready buildings for our desired education, they craft our undesired marriage. Indeed, while they plan for us to go to school, they arrange for our marriage as well. Truly, I have fallen ‘madly’ in love with school; but yet, when the farming season comes, they forcefully take me out of school to the farm. How I wish I’d always be in class… How I missed school when I am on the farm… And oh, my countless reveries of Miss Ocansey’s lessons…
At school, Miss Ocansey─ a vivacious and open-minded woman─ encourages us to make the most of our lives; to ‘learn hard’ and ‘dream big,’ and to aspire to be writers, doctors, lawyers, actresses, and so on.
Just so, and in this way, we would be able to come back to help those underprivileged, potentially talented, young girls in the village.
Yes, I get lost in my wonders and fantasies on how I want to learn hard, look good, be girlie, celebrate myself as a woman, be an achiever, and above all, be the writer I’ve always dreamt of becoming: whose impact will not only be felt by women but the whole of humanity. At age 12, they begin making plans for me to be married off. I looked around me to find solace, but it was all about the same drama─ the young and promising girls had already been taken away into forced marriages; Sheitu, Anowa, Akasi, Efia, Lamisi, are no less a better picture to cast my eyes to, yet they were barely teenagers. It makes me cringe any time I reflect upon it!
And this, I ask my mother and aunties the big questions: Why were the girls not allowed to stay in school, even after being married off? They say they wouldn’t have time to care for their husbands and tender after their babies, hmmm, children caring for adults! Children tendering after children! I asked further: Why were Shetu, Akasi and Anowa‘s dreams shattered and not allowed to complete school to become the writers, doctors, actresses that they always dreamed of?
In my own realms, I feel so pained and ‘mad’ at times as to why I don’t find any voice, either loudly from a woman or somehow quietly from a man, in the village to speak for those of us in the wilderness to compel such men─ who are old to be our fathers─ from paying paltry bridal price to marry defenseless pre teenagers and teenagers.
I don’t want to end in the same way as my unfortunate girlfriends; I don’t want to be married off as a child. I want to be educated, make my decisions, be flamboyant, wear my makeups with a sexy red lipstick, be girlie and inspires other girls.
I turned 12 today. I see my family having meetings upon meetings with the leader of the village cattle herdsman─ an affluent man in the village. I see him bringing some herds into my uncle’s compound; I hear whisperings around whenever I am in the compound and among my uncles and aunties. I see the village herdsman smiling sheepishly at me anytime he sees me pass by. I am sensing what they did to my unfortunate girlfriends.
I must run for my life, for my dreams and for my destiny. My fate lies in my hands, if no one cares! I cannot allow this to happen to me. I pray to get like-minded women to end this menace! I only have one life to live, and I want to live in style designed by myself. I must fulfill my dreams. I must survive I must thrive, I must live to inspire other girls!
Araba Patricia Annan holds a bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of Ghana. She works with a women’s rights organization called Gender studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Center) as a project officer. She loves dancing, cooking and enjoys watching a good football match.
Twitter handle @araba99love