“I realized that I walk briskly because I feel that if I look very busy and send the message that I have a very important reason for being in this space, perhaps men around me will think I have a right to go on my way un-harassed, untouched, and un-bothered. To be a woman in public is to be on your guard, all the time”.
A woman is many things all encompassed into one human being. She is a mother, a sister, a wife, a mentor, a guide, a friend, a housewife, an entrepreneur; she is poor, she is rich, and she is both strong and weak. Unfortunately, the one thing she isn’t is safe. I often cannot stop my brain from launching itself into a series of questions that leave my mind unhappy, sad and remorseful. And though I try to ease my heart and mind into a safe place, it is a place that I know too well doesn’t exist for me in this land.
I love my country and my countrymen. If I had to do was die for the freedom and integrity of my land, I would do it in the blink of an eye. But it doesn’t work that way. My death will change nothing and it is better that I make a conscious attempt to stay healthy and alive for as long as I can, contributing productively to the economic activities of my nation and playing my role with complete responsibility; helping it turn into the next big super power. So I solemnly make a promise to myself to live, for as long as I can, for the well-being and success of my country. But I am told, by many, that that just might not be as easy as it seems.
My aunt, the uncle down the block, my best friend’s grandmother, my father’s boss, my grandfather, my sister, my cousin, the newspaper, the news channels – all tell me only one thing, that it is immature, childish and silly of me to think that my existence carries such significance. They tell me it’s a stupid dream to dream of, that I should focus on more important things in life like getting good grades, not getting raped, not sleeping around in my twenties, not letting anyone know that I wear a bra or that I masturbate or that I have attained puberty.
They tell me I must divert all of my time into becoming just like my mother – tethered to the kitchen door, working day in and day out to keep the house clean, to cook for her family, while away afternoons watching nonsensical TV shows and then please her husband in the night, whenever he wishes, however he wishes, despite her not wishing for it each time. They try hard, very hard, to make me believe that all of these above listed tasks are far more important than my life goal of staying alive for a 100 years and contributing every bit to the betterment of my society and economy. Their dedication to the task of making me believe all of it is so strong and solid that for a few moments I lost track of my life plans, falling into their trap and considering, for a split second, to alter my goals.
But fortunately, I have been raised in a household that isn’t commonly found in my land. My parents welcomed me into this world and raised me as a happy and healthy child; neither as a healthy and happy boy nor as a healthy and happy girl. I received the best of education. I was encouraged to take up all sorts of activities, my gender never being an issue of concern. My father did not try to change me into the son he never had and my mother never tried to mold me into the woman her mother was. I was a happy, free and unburdened child. I owe all of my joyful childhood memories to my parents. But as time passed by and I began to grow and develop, my gender wasn’t something that could be ignored.
At first, I enjoyed it. The realization of gender and what it implies is a phase every growing child goes through and it is filled with both confusion and excitement. This phase of my life, and also for my sister’s for that matter, was beautiful and smooth. We soon began to play the part of the daughters of the house, and not just the children of the house. All of that was okay by me. I was proud of my transition from a kid to a child to a girl and then finally into a woman, someone who I would be for the rest of my life. But having essayed the role of a young lady and now a full grown woman since my mid teen years, I have come to realize that it is shitty to be a woman of this land. It is so bad that it sometimes makes me wish I was rather born an inanimate object, maybe an eraser. At least then I would be of some use; helping people get rid of their mistakes and giving them a chance to start afresh. But the Lord had different plans for me. It chose for me to be born into this world, as a child of this land and into an object of desire, a woman.
And it is then that my battle began, as a woman, with the people of my very land, who seek every second to bring an end to me, my ambitions, my goals and my life; with their words, their actions, their stares, their mindsets, their silence, their assumptions, their archaic beliefs, their soft-headedness, their tiny penises and large egos, their insecurities, their failures, their monstrosities and their unabashed selves. Regrettably, it is both, the men and the women of my land who are responsible for my early death and the broken promise to self.
I mourn the death of my contribution, the death of my dreams, the death of a voice, the death of an active mind and the death of a spirit more than the death of self. I mourn the implications of my death. I mourn that my death is a stark reminder to the world that my land is an inhuman, unsafe and a deplorable place to be born in. I mourn for what my death reflects of the society that I grew up in. I mourn that my death brings to light fading humanity and rising barbarity. I mourn, because my death will end up as nothing more than a government statistic. I mourn for the loss of a life that I wanted to live to the fullest. I mourn, because the loss of my life hasn’t lessened my fear. I mourn, because I fear that my death will change nothing. I mourn, because one woman not alive is one woman less in our fight for survival, in our fight to stay alive, for a 100 years, for our land, our mother.
Fear lurks at every corner of that dark road that I have to walk by to get home. Fear rides along, with every bus I take, every taxi I hire and every plane I fly. Lust seeps from the eyes of a 25-year-old vegetable vendor, a 50-year-old uncle, and an 18-year-old delivery boy. Disregard and disrespect dwells in every man to man conversation. An animal ganders at me with greedy eyes every time I cross the road with no man by my side.
For a songwriter, I am nothing more than what a man needs to make his night pleasurable. For a rich man, I am nothing more than a whore who sold her soul to the devil to earn a few bucks. For a poor man, I am a poorer being. For a child, I am a mother. For my father, I am a burden. For my husband, I am a trophy wife. For my mother-in-law, I am nothing more than a grandchild producing machine. For my director, I am an actor dead from the inside. For the media, I am on display forever; always put out to be judged and scrutinized. For my lover, I am his property. For a fellow woman, I am just another soulless creature, fighting her every day battles the best possible way I can. For my male colleague, I am nothing but an undeserving candidate. For my prospective groom, I am not his only option.
For my virtues are your sins. For you wish to cage me in a box, to let me out only when required. For I am the snowflake to your snow. For I am only one in the many you plan to conquer in your life time. For I am oppressed, suppressed, marginalized, subjugated and belittled. For I am ridiculed, raped, teased, eavesdropped, stared at, toyed with, and ostracized for being the victim. For I am a being with breasts. For I am a being with a clitoris for a penis. For I am not the breadwinner of the family. For I can bring shame in an instant.
But for none of this I apologize. Remember, you are my choice – I am not your privilege. For none of these are my shortcomings. For you are the petty one here. For your mistakes, I bear. For your respect and honesty and love I deserve. For I am a woman. For I am the universe, infinite in every direction. And for that I am proud- every day, every second, in each breath.