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“Is being a girl a curse?”
I have witnessed, heard and been a victim of the most bizarre questions the human ear can tolerate. However, never in all my 23 years on earth have I paused as a target to this gravelly concerned question. To think that a surprise visit to my grandmother’s home on her 77th birthday would introduce me to this question, was an open invitation for a cold shiver running with little electric feet all over my body.
The trees glittered in the early morning sun as I stepped out of the congested matatu. The long stretched path to my grandmother’s house greeted me. The air was faintly humid and warm, promising a baking hot day later on. I shivered with pleasure, feeling enthusiasm and energy surge through me as an assurance that nothing could dent my day.
At the foot of my grandmother’s gate, I clumsily searched for my phone and hurriedly dialled her number. But just before I pressed the call button, the gate was opened by a young shabby and shy girl. I hang up as my full attention was now captured by the girl. “Hello. My name is Wamuyu. I am Mrs Baru’s grandchild.” My efforts in building a conversation were cut short by a brisk nod from the girl. She hesitantly pulled open the gate as a gesture for me to get in. Slowly getting in, I couldn’t help but notice her humble presence which was masked with rigid tension. There was something about her posture that showed she was going through a storm of pain and suffering. Everything about her screamed for help.
I was aching with the need to know more about that girl, when my grandmother’s ear deafening scream interrupted my thoughts. “Is that you Wamuyu? I ran to her with open arms wishing her happy birthday. As I lay my head to rest, I was determined to talk to the young girl come morning.
“Good morning. This should warm you up.” As she embraced herself for a hot sip of the tea, I managed to sit, asking her name. “Wambui.” She mumbled. “Well Wambui, my name is Wamuyu. Are you not meant to be in school today?” This question miraculously made a fragile Wambui open up.
“Unfortunately I can’t go to school because it is that time of the month for me. Owning Sanitary towels is my farfetched fantasy. I use…tissue. My mother passed away last year and left me with my father and younger brother. My brother is in school as we speak. If there was an award for an avid drunkard, my father would happily be crowned the winner. He consumes too much alcohol such that I’m afraid his blood has been replaced with pure ethanol. I can fail to see him for a week, leaving my brother and I starved and weak.” Her father’s insensitivity felt like a kick to the stomach.
“My brother is heading to class six and I am meant to be joining class eight next year. However, I hardly see myself ever stepping foot into a class room.” “Why do you say that?” I asked my voice thick with sadness gathering at the back of my throat. Wambui proceeded bitterly as her eyes brimmed. “One night my father told me he could not continue paying school fess for a grown woman. I should be looking for a husband. A large tear rolled down her cheek, and then another. Turning to face me, a pale and heartbroken Wambui asked,” Please tell me why my brother is being educated instead of me?” I went cold. My heart felt as if some sadist was performing open heart surgery without an anaesthetic. Stuck in a dilemma of struggling to find the best words to comfort Wambui and at the same time trying to hold back my tears, the sad girl unceremoniously went on. Recently our government increased tax on some commodities, alcohol being one of them. My generous father doesn’t mind gobbling down a crate or two of beer with his fellow drunkard mates, but finds a giant of a problem in educating me. Or better yet, buying me a pack of sanitary pads. Is that too much to ask Wamuyu? Is it?
“Do you think – Wambui faltered – is being a girl a curse?” I felt her pain as if it were a great stone, physically blocking my breath and a waterfall of tears. In a manner to compose myself, I swallowed a bitter lump of grief, trying to sound as confident as I looked. “Being a girl is the best thing that has ever happened to you. Girls give life to a nation and watch it grow based on our efforts.
Girls feel most empowered when they trust the adults in their lives to lead them to discover that their potential is limitless and reinforce that their accomplishments will always be celebrated. In an ideal world, we would all have gender equality. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but that our rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether we are born male or female. As gender is all around us in our every-day life and society in general, MDG 3 also plays a role in the achievement of the other MDGs. For our societies to improve, we simply cannot leave behind half of the population.
To every girl in the world who may be denied that chance of pursuing education, this is for you. “Touch your heart. Do you feel that? That beating? That’s called purpose. You are in this world for a purpose. Don’t give up.”