“I’m sure Jummai will be a good wife.” With Jummai sitting beside Habibah, her sister and her veil covering her face, she could hear her mother greeting the man whom she was to call her husband in the future. Danjuma who used to be their neighbor had come to visit Jummai’s parents with his family to reveal their interest and intention to marry her. They said they wanted to come and take her when it was time for her to leave home. She was just turning thirteen and Danjuma who was to be her husband was about forty years old and already had two wives, both who had four children each for him. She had been devastated when she heard he liked her and wanted her to be his wife because she knew just like her older sister and cousins, she would be married off at a very young age. After their visit, her mother came to ask if she had started seeing it and by that she meant if she had started seeing her period. She shook her head and told her mother that she didn’t want to marry Danjuma because she was still so young and he was an old man. Jummai’s mother got angry on hearing that and told her that they had offered a lot for her hand in marriage and so should be grateful. Jummai didn’t want to upset her mother any more than she did so she nodded but then burst into tears when she couldn’t hold it back anymore. When her mother saw this, she held her close and told her that it would be alright. Deep down she knew this wasn’t the path she had wanted to take but she couldn’t stop anything. As long as she was Jummai their child, she didn’t have a say. Three years back just when she was ten years old, she had had to watch her older sister cry as well when she was told she would soon be married off. She didn’t really understand how her sister felt until the day it was her turn. Now her sister had two children for her husband and seemed happy but Jummai didn’t care, she just didn’t want to marry at that age. According to the tradition of their village, once a girl starts to see her period, she was regarded as ripe and ready for marriage. The average age of menarche was about twelve years old so If you were older than fifteen and hadn’t moved into your husband’s home, people would question you and think there was something wrong. Jummai’s family never thought for once to ever go against these traditions.
After her mother left her room, she continued crying and couldn’t fall asleep. She had wished that she wouldn’t get to see her period until she was ready for marriage if it was what it would take but she thought about how everyone including her family would see her as abnormal if that happened. She just didn’t know what to do other than hope for the best. After a month, what she dreaded happened. She had just woken up and was about getting up when she realized that her sheets were stained with blood. She stood up in shock and quickly removed them, cleaning up and pretending like nothing happened. Jummai made up her mind to keep it a secret ensuring that no one found out that she just started seeing her period not even her sister knew about it. She had already learned about periods so It was no problem trying to adjust to the new phase. She hid this from everyone for about three months, even when she suffered menstrual cramps, she tried as much as she could to hide her pain. Her mother always asked her about it but she continued to lie that she hadn’t seen it yet until one day, the truth came out. That very day, she had been sitting down and helping her mother in the kitchen when she asked Jummai to pass something for her. She immediately stood up and went over to get the things but not too long after, she heard her mother exclaim happily. She turned around and looked at her mother wondering why she was looking excited. Her mother didn’t say anything, she only walked up to her, lifted her gown to see the sharp blood stain on her cream colored gown. She swallowed hard and fear took over her. At that moment, she knew that was it. She was going to move out sooner than she expected.
Jummai’s mother didn’t waste time in going to tell her father. After she had told her to go clean up, she ran to tell Jummai’s father the news. That evening, he called and spoke to her about their plans on informing her ‘husband to be’ about the news. There was excitement in the voices of her parents except hers. She begged them that she wasn’t ready and didn’t want to marry him but they refused to listen. Finally, the day arrived, the day when Jummai was going with her husband to her new home. Danjuma had come with his family and gifts for Jummai’s family. He had previously visited them to pay Jummai’s bride price so that day was supposed to be Jummai’s send off and both families’ celebration.
Jummai was decorated with various jewelry including the ones gifted to her by her new husband. Her mother dressed her up in the finest garment she possessed and made sure that she looked well dressed for the celebration even though it was the same day she would be leaving her father’s house. When Jummai was fully dressed, she looked very calm and hopeful but before that, she had been crying to her mother that she didn’t want to leave just yet. She even asked her younger brother to help in begging their father but every plea and tear did no good. She finally accepted it when her mother spoke to and tried encouraging her.
Danjuma finally carried his new wife home and Jummai said her goodbyes to her family. Her new home wasn’t far from her father’s but because she wouldn’t be able to see them like she used to, it made her really sad. The night of the celebration after Jummai arrived Danjuma’s home, Danjuma called his other wives to speak to them concerning the new addition to the family, Jummai. He warned them about fighting and giving Jummai troubles as he needed them to be very welcoming to her. He said some other things before dismissing them, leaving Jummai with him. He spoke to Jummai and tried to let her know that she could be free with him and others as he was her husband and his house was hers as well. After Danjuma spoke to Jummai for a while, she was shown her hut. It was just like the ones of her co-wives. That night, Jummai couldn’t help but cry. It was her first night sleeping in a place that wasn’t her father’s. She thought of her younger brother and how much she already missed him. So many things crossed her mind but they were just thoughts and nothing more.
Two days later, when Jummai had been sleeping, she was woken up by Danjuma who said he wanted to show her around like some places she may have to be going and some things she could be doing to keep herself busy. Danjuma was very nice to Jummai even though he noticed that she still wasn’t comfortable around him. After a whole day of Jummai spending time outside with her husband, she went to clean up and tried preparing food for him. Her co-wives had taught her some of the things she needed to know or do as a wife to Danjuma so she tried to assume her role and responsibility immediately. Cooking was something each wife shared amongst themselves so for the very first time she made food for Danjuma who really liked it. Danjuma had commented on her cooking, making her smile and pleased with herself. He had even made some jokes concerning his other wives while they were absent causing Jummai to burst out laughing.
Later that night, Danjuma went to Jummai’s hut in the intention of making love to her but she showed how uncomfortable she was so he told her he understood, didn’t force her and left her hut. After he had gone, Jummai beat herself and hoped that she hadn’t done something regrettable as her co-wives had told her that she wasn’t to refuse him anytime he approached her. The same thing happened the next night where she was scared and turned him down again until the third night. She finally let him do to her what he pleased as she thought he had been kind enough to give her some space the previous nights. She cried throughout the time he was with her because she was in pain but he assured her that it was only that way because it was her first time. When Danjuma had seen the blood that stained the sheets, he was pleased with himself because he knew he was the first to touch her. He was also happy because he believed she would soon be having a baby for him.
The next day, Jummai took permission from Danjuma to go see her mother. It had just been one week since she left her father’s home but she missed her family so much that she couldn’t wait to see them. Danjuma who was still in a happy mood let her go and told her to be back before sunset. On getting to her father’s house, Jummai’s mother who saw Jummai ran towards her and hugged her with a wide smile on her face. They were both so excited to see each other. Not long after they hugged and was walking towards the bench under the tree, Gaddo, Jummai’s younger brother came out of nowhere and ran to hug Jummai when he saw her. Jummai’s brother cried and said that he had missed her so much and didn’t see her to play with. Jummai couldn’t help but cry with him because she knew things had changed not only for her but for her brother as well. Their mother who watched them had pity on them and watched as they spent time together. When Gaddo left, Jummai finally got a chance to speak to her mother. She told her mother about the night before when her husband had come to make love to her and how painful it had been even though she was very embarrassed speaking about it. Her mother only told her that it was normal but Jummai could hear the excitement in her voice. She asked her mother why she sounded excited and her mother pointed at her belly saying that she couldn’t wait to see her grandchildren. Jummai who had been feeling horrible after the night with her husband became even more worried knowing that she may soon conceive.
It was getting dark and Jummai had to return home even though she hadn’t gotten a chance to see her father. She had to be back before sunset like her husband had told her so she hugged her mother and crying Gaddo one last time before leaving for her husband’s home. When Jummai got home, she had seen Danjuma sitting outside his hut so she went up to greet him and Danjuma who smiled upon seeing her asked her to take a seat on his lap as he hugged her. Jummai was still very uncomfortable with him so she did not respond as he would have expected his wife to respond. She only tried to form a fake smile. Danjuma stood up from where he sat and told her to wait for him outside as he went into his hut to get something for Jummai. He returned with a new and nicely folded scarf along with a necklace that he handed to Jummai. He told Jummai that it was for keeping herself for him and no one else. Jummai didn’t fully understand what he meant but she believed it may have been because of the previous night with him. She sat quietly with her husband for a while before it got dark and she had to leave for her hut.
Two months later, Jummai realized she was with child, she had fallen really sick that her mother had to come visit often so she could take care of her. Jummai couldn’t understand why she was feeling so weak and sick even though she knew she was pregnant. She managed to endure the pain and everything she was going through even when all she wanted to do was lay still. Her mother had mixed some herbs and given her the recipe so she could take it every morning to ease her pain. Jummai suffered this pain till eight months later when her baby was due to arrive. Her water had broken when she was about taking a bath so she screamed for help as her two co-wives came rushing to help her. Luckily for Jummai, the village’s midwife was on her way to check up on her so she arrived at the moment when one of Jummai’s co-wives was on her way to get her. After she had been carried to a room to deliver and after an hour of crying and pushing, Jummai finally gave up the ghost with her baby born dead as well. The hands of the women who witnessed this went straight to their mouths in pity. A child had left the world trying to bring a child into the world. Jummai’s husband came rushing home to the bad news and so did her family as well who heard the news. Both families especially Jummai’s were left in trauma to suffer the implication of their actions.
The Girl Child….
Why put a child into marriage to suffer in silence and live in depression? Why strip a child of her childhood, what becomes of her when she turns into an adult? Why allow a child go through what many older women would find hard overcoming? Child labor, mental problems, diseases, infections and even DEATH…….why expose her to such? Have people forgotten the reason why a child is called a child and likewise an adult? Expressions are all ignored and conscience is invisible. The sadness written boldly on her face………left for all who ignore. The tears that remain tears with nothing like hope left. As a young woman, I am still yet to learn a lot about life and even marriage itself but children are thrown into marriage like it is nothing but sweets. When one decides to have a child, the child becomes their number 1, not 2, not 3 and definitely not last. Let’s educate all and try to reach out to the lost so that they know the implications of their actions. Traditions are traditions and religion is religion but when a child is left to suffer or put to death for no reason, it becomes murder and not order. If we have mouths, then let us speak and if we have a conscience, then let us act. We can try something and give others who are at risk the ‘hope’ that they look for. Be a helper today, spread the word and act the word.
If we can intervene, why not help out? Let’s try to prevent more young women from suffering in silence, being diagnosed and dying in marriage all because of a parent’s/guardian’s incapability or ignorance. We need to open our ears to hear the cries of the innocent. Enough is enough!
I stand against Child Marriage. These girls are #TooYoungTooWed
You may not be able to directly help but spreading the word can create more awareness and help in some way.
Do you have a similar/true life story that you would like to share with us? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This story is part of the bridal series introduced on the blog.
Read about the bridal series here The Bridal Series (Child Marriage)
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