Sunday 20 August 2017


      Safinatu is not the girl next door. She doesn't have a door,  doesn't have a window,  doesn't have anything, not a pin in this world. But she does have a father,  a father in debt,  and a womb which can breed babies. Her father is with some visitors, familiar faces,  a discussion is going on and it is intense,  there are no laughters for a stretch of time. The men arise from their meeting , a decision has been reached and Safinatu would be Malam Gambo's bride, and in exchange her father's debt is written off. Safinatu does not have a say, however, she does have a right,  a right to remain silent or to shed some tears while the older girls and women customarily ululate in sounds like a horse's neigh. She is led away by an entourage of her father's entire purdah. 
      Safinatu is fourteen, she has barely bled but soon she will start breeding. She joins Baba's harem- already comprising five older females,  four women and a girl three years Safinatu's senior.  Baba will soon play the game,  he is quite prolific a scorer for a man his age. The end result will be that Safinatu will carry Baba's baby. But is that really the end? Not at all.  The cervix is still narrow,  Safinatu will push so hard when the time does come. She will push with all her strength, might even find herself at the border of life and death. There is sure to be much bleeding on that bloody day,  and at the end something might give way to usher in another bundle of Baba's joy. Joy at the price of sorrows,  joy at the price of suppressed dissent,  joy at the price of 'No' never said,  and joy at the price of Safinatu's broken body. 
    A few days after Safinatu will begin to reek. The smell of urine will be so pungent especially when concentrated in a certain place. Safinatu's little room will have that odour too,  we cannot tell which it will be: urine or rotten fish. Versicovaginal fistula is a complicated choice of words to explain Safinatu's condition to her people. Soon Baba and anyone who would want to remain in Baba's good books wouldn't go near dear Safinatu. She will be all alone,  busying herself with chasing away houseflies and thinking about the home she left behind. 
          Her baby girl will grow into a woman someday,  and Safinatu will sit in silence,  without rights, without say,  she would wish that her daughter would not grow to become, like her, a baby's little mama. 

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