AGAINST ALL ODDS

             Alicia stared beyond the valley the canopy below them. How she wished she had wings to fly with the winged and feathered creatures. She could see monkeys swing from tree to tree. She concluded that the ones holding their babies were female,   whereas, the big fat one that always seemed reluctant to move until, all the others had left, was the Father- figure.

            “Ali!” Her mother’s  voice interrupted her thought. The shriek in the voice alarmed her .She tiptoed cautiously towards the hut wondering what had happened. At the entrance she remembered to pull the  hijab   over her face as the cultural norm required.

“Is father drunken again? Have the extremists attacked the village…………” Several questions crossed her  mind.

           Mzee   Ayubu, her father sat on his three-legged stool. Her mother spread her printed cotton African shawl {popularly known as  kitenge} on the earthen floor looking remorseful. She was in fact fighting  tears   which were seemingly victorious as  she wiped her eyes using the edge of her shawl. Sitting beside her on her mat was a well –known traditional  surgeon 

 :  Mariamu .  Alicia’s heart skipped   a beat. She could make a correct hypothesis on setting her eyes on the cold –eyed lady. She thought of the horrifying tales shed heard from girls who had passed through her blade. Some   of her unlucky victims had bled to death. Even though it was a taboo even to  think of those who had met their demise on or after the  ‘operating table’ Alicia couldn’t  

 help , but regret losing such youthful lives.

             She greeted the woman as a formality, then she found her place next to her mum whose now reddening eyes remained half open or perhaps half closed.

             “ It‘s   obvious that you are mature enough for tohara”  You are of age and you may overgrow the ritual . I  wouldn’t  like to be a centre of ridicule amongst the elders. After making his decision   known   he stuffed dried  crushed tobacco leaves into his large nostrils and waited to see if anyone would dare oppose his authority. His wife watched helplessly.  Mariamu   looked at Alicia like an eagle that had cornered its already confused prey.

           Alicia was devastated. Her dreams were shattered .She had hoped to  join  high  school thereafter  , pursue a course in Law.

          “  I  have come to ask for help,” said a tearful Alicia to the Local village administrator. She was aware that the Female Genital   Mutilation [ locally  known as  ‘ tohara’ ]is outlawed and against the rights of women. She explained to him her predicament amid sobs and sneezes. He was indeed empathetic and promised to help her.

  She  heaved a sigh of relief as she jogged back home since she was expecting her fate to change.

           “Come here you pig!” Mzee   Ayubu   ordered his daughter. “How  dare  you report me? Do you think you can out-wit me? After going through  this  important rite ,  you’ll  heal at your grandmother’s hut then you’ll marry Issa ;who will compensate the camel I gifted the leader not to interrupt the activities involving my family.

       The six girls were taken to  Mariamu ;  the Traditional Surgeon at dusk. The strong  men   who  escorted and guarded them were not supposed to enter the compound. Each of them was fearful of both the outcome and the activity. None of them slept a wink. Whenever they dozed, they had bad  dreams.   They  could hear the strange voices from the mysterious  world of the dead. Perhaps, they could be imagined voices warning them against the impending danger.

           The room was lit using a blue, paraffin lantern . The cocks were crowing. Some cockerels could be heard competing the cocks. Alicia lay on the mat she lay on her back. Her feet were spread apart. Each foot tied by a strong newly woven palm leaves. She recited a poem to calm her spirit

             I know I live through moments of despair,

            I know I live through moments of pain’

             I  know   I’ll   emerge triumphant over

             Stereo – types,

           It doesn’t matter when,

           I’ll   reach my destiny.

She was aroused by a sharp pain in a genitalia. Some warm liquid was filled the decorated mat she was lying on. She let Sharp scream then passed out.

                      In   her   grandmother’s   hut   she   listened   carefully as the elderly woman gave her the   ‘ Do   And Don’ts of   the housewife’ . Most of them made her flashback History lessons on slave trade, colonization of Africa and the dread ADOLF HITLER  during the Jewish massacre. She felt helpless.  She regretted having lost part   of   her  body  .  “That part   was cut-off  to  make  you  submissive  to your husband and to prevent you from   having extra-marital affairs”  Her grandmother explained. She could see that her grandmother was deeply rooted in the tradition and wouldn’t   accept any different opinion  so, she   decided to zip her lips.

      Her wedding was attended   by   the   ‘Who   is    Who’   members of   the   society.   Issa  was overjoyed.  He was going to break the hymen of yet another virgin. Alicia remained unresponsive even when she was presented gifts by her father for   passing   the ‘Virginity Test’  “My value to you is the mortal livestock that you receive from our suitors” she thought angrily. 

            After ten months Alicia was rushed to the referral hospital after the village birth attendant failed to assist in the  delivery. She ended up having a still birth through  C- section

                 For her second delivery, she went to the hospital early enough. “You cannot have the natural vaginal birth since, the   natural contractions was interfered with after  your clitoris was cut off , the doctor explained “Further you are expecting a multiple birth which makes it complicated and more dangerous for a natural  vaginal birth.  The clitoris is a sensitive part because it has several nerves, but its importance is not limited to sexual satisfaction or orgasm as our people believe”

                The triplets lying in the nursery at the hospital attracted  media.   Issa   had no option but to cool down and plan on how he would take care of his bundles  of joy. He gave overly attention to the boys but rarely noticed the girl.

            Lyn, Leo and Leon were   Alicia’s    adorable  triplets.   Each of them had something they liked.

Lyn made friends with her   books, while her brothers always concentrated on outdoor activities. They were either searching for wild animals, hunting or escorting girls who were to have ‘the cut’.

“Lyn join your mother. You should be preparing meals for your brothers.”

“I am doing my homework”

“Girls should learn from their mothers”        

“Mum also reads”

Startled, Issa  frowned   and   left in a huff.

                Alicia was not able to hide her books on time.

They  clashed  and quarrelled over this reading habit. Finally, Issa had to take her to her parents to lodge a complaint.

    “ Alicia ! , You have to make a choice between your books and your marriage” said Mzee AYUBU.

“I’ll go for the books”

“Don’t think of coming back here. There’s no room for harlotry”

“I have enough children from my wives, I don’t need a harlot’s  offspring!” interjected    Issa.

“I’ll take them with me”

       Issa   hurled insults as Alicia left with her children. The boys complained bitterly. Lyn remained indifferent but was bold enough to snatch her beloved books from her father lest he make good his threat of converting them to ashes.

 Life changed for Lee and Leo. They had to share in the household chores, study their books and be part of Alicia’s routine. They   tried   to   go  back   to   Issa .  He ordered them out using crude language. Alicia had to use security forces to get them back before they joined the infamous terrorist group

            HARVAD LAW SCHOOL mailed Alicia’s papers. A  Non –Governmental Organization; advocating; for the rights of girls and  women   hired her to  look into  their  legal issues. She escaped narrowly, when some goons attempted to lynch her for being an advocate against: forced marriage, gender bias and female genital mutilation.

                 “ Every citizen  must be respected, and protected against all unrealistic traditions” Alicia the Member of parliament for Tunu   constituency reasoned with her male counterparts.

           After a period Alicia vied for the top-most seat. She sold her policies enthusiastically. The youth and women proved to be her most viable customers.

            Today, the tallying of the Presidential results is almost over. There is great fear of the results being manipulated. It is too   obvious  who will carry the day.  Her campaign team has all gathered at  her premises. Lee and Leo are taking turns   wheeling   Issa   whenever and   wherever need required. He hasn’t mastered using the prosthesis;   he had received after surviving a terror attack which wiped his entire family and blessed him with a bullet in his leg. Journalists aren’t vacating the place soon. The once zipped -mouthed women can be heard singing .Some presidential contenders have already conceded defeat and congratulated Alicia.

       Lyn listens intently as Alicia answers a  news reporter on the secret to success.

           “Well, the road is never always plain, nor the sea always calm.” But,” she paused. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” She concluded and smiled hopefully.

July 03, 2020 10:55

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