My mother’s first marriage was contracted when she was in her teens. I don’t know her exact age at the time. Back then, there were no voices for the girl-child. There were no social programs advocating for equality of the sexes. It was Africa in the forties. Where genital mutilation of the girl child was done in the cusp of her teens, or at birth…depending on your cultural leanings. My mother’s husband was a boy in a man’s body. He was raised to expect to be attended to by his wife. She was not to have a voice, a possession…an appendage. She had three children in quick successions; kept home and farmed his plot…a gift from his father as he attained ‘manhood’. I don’t know exactly when she decided she wanted to leave him. Her days were hard. The narrative, however, was not peculiar to her. She was surrounded by women who were doing the same thing.Her mother lived the same life, spurned forth nine children, farmed her fathers plot with her children while still fanning the flames of his ego. So, when she decided she wanted more from her existence, you can imagine the machinery that was unleashed to put her in her place.
She told me, she would have stayed married to her first husband if he allowed their children to have an education. The produce from the farm, she sold herself. She saw the economic empowerment she was giving a man who pissed it down the drain without investing in his seeds. Now, even though she could not read or write, she desired it for her children. She desired her son to do more than his father. She wanted her son’s perspectives not limited by the darkness of a lack of understanding and she desired for her daughters to have a future where they would not have to be sold into slavery on the platter of marriage. She knew better than to discuss her plans with her mother, or relatives for that matter. During the course of her farming his plots and selling the proceeds, she was able to amass a significant amount of money she used to liberate herself. She filed for a divorce in the traditional courts of their time. Did I mention she was the first woman to ever do such a thing in her village at that time? She did not care. I think it’s when a woman gets to a place where she stops concerning herself about what societal expectations are, what will people say, blah blah and blah will she truly be liberated. No one will liberate you. You must liberate yourself.
Her family ostracized her. Her mother was convinced her liberation was not self sustaining, after all, she had no money. Eye, which was what I called my mother was able to get a plot through a male cousin. Back then, she couldn’t even procure property on her own because she was a woman. She was hard working and her products were excellent. She enrolled my three older siblings in school and continued her trade. Now, older and wiser she knew whoever she decided to marry must be a man who would enrich her, not demean her progress. It took a a bit but he did come along. My father was an unusual man. He was confident. He didn’t pay attention to the side talks their relationship brought. He had kissed his own share of frogs masquerading as princesses. I was their first child together. Their relationship was not without it’s trials but they loved each other. They were 100% committed to not only themselves but their children. She spared no expense when it came to our education. When I climbed the podium on my graduation from college, she was besides herself in excitement.
When my oldest sister became a victim of domestic abuse, my mother was the first to encourage her to leave her marriage. She always advocates for strength in women.
It takes a strong man to marry a strong woman. It takes a wise man to recognize wisdom in his woman. She lived an exemplary life.