(The Menace Called Child Marriage).
Mama, one day you will teach me how to cook Miyan Kuka' Rashidat said as she watched closely as mama transformed what first seemed like an unpleasant combination of water and pumpkin leaves into a delicious and mouth watering delicacy. Mama was like one of those magicians but instead of a wand, she used a spoon.
Rashidat, a young twelve year old girl, still trying to understand the whole concept of life and didn't even understand her own body yet. 'Mama when will I finally start to wear a Bra??' she said as she was carried away in the moment while watching mama get dressed, mama now having a grin on her face and a little bit confused about why she was in a hurry to get a bra said, 'don't worry my dear, when you become a big girl, I would buy for you'.
Rashidat who was now happy knowing that getting one would make her feel even more than a big girl but like a woman, went further to say, 'Mama I can't wait to be a woman and have children of my own, when I grow up I pray I be more like you', mama still smiling, looked at her cute little angel, she saw the innocence in her eyes and ignorance covered her face like a painting on the wall, her daughter had no idea what she was praying for, she knew so little about marriage and all the baggage that comes with it and the scary reality of it all was that her prayers would soon be answer.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, papa came out to welcome his visitor, it was Musa his long time friend. Musa, a man probably in his late 30's known for his love for women, he had 5 wives already, all less than 20 years when he married them but that still is not enough to quench his lust. The fact that Musa is one of the few persons who actually went to school and being a rich farmer made most parents more than willing to sell their daughters to him in the form of marriage. 'Kia my pwend my pwend, this one you came to visit me today so, opff all is well?' papa said with his conspicuous Hausa accent.
'Wahlia can't a friend visit another friend again, you know soon we would be in-laws and it's only right I check on my future wife, my iyanriyan and her family' Musa said with a wide grin on his face exposing what used to be a white teeth. 'My pwend don't worry, you know that a woman is not ready for marriage until she starts to experience her monthly woman thing, once Rashidat starts experiencing such, I would personally come to inform you, trust me' papa said and they continued their discussion laughing and sharing a bottle of dry gin.
Although mama knew within herself that Rashidat wasn't ready and she wasn't going to be anytime soon, 'what does a twelve year old girl know about marriage??' mama screamed in her mind as she tried to wrap her brain around this maze called tradition and since that was the best she could do as she knew better than to say it out loud, knowing fully well that everyone believed that a woman's place is in the kitchen and the labour room, she had no business in making decisions.
Mama did the best she could to prepare Rashidat for marriage, just last week she was teaching her on how to bathe and take proper care of her body, ' Rashidat, if you don't learn to wash your body properly with the sponge, especially that part I showed you, you would have a smelly body and no man want a woman with body odour, do you understand??' mama told Rashidat.
Mama sat down one day remembering her experience, tears rolled down her eyes as she remember how she was taken prematurely from her mother's arms and given to a total stranger old enough to be her father. The horrors of the first few years of their marriage and how sex which she had imagined would be a beautiful thing turned out to be a scary movie.
She dreaded dusk because whenever it was dark the monster came and her body had to bear the consequences. Her tender womb forced to birth three children even before she was twenty. She tried to console herself with the thought that 'maybe my daughter would learn to accept him like I did, she may never get to experience love, but maybe she may just learn to accept him'. She hated her father for giving her up so easily and her mother even more for letting him do so without a fight, but thinking about it now, it would seem like she is doing the exact same thing. She closed her eyes tightly together, rubbing her hands against her cheek, trying to wipe the uncontrollable warm tears that fell like rain drops from her eyes.
Mama worst fear came to pass when Rashidat screamed her name one unfaithful morning, 'Mama mama!!!help' mama who was preparing breakfast, quickly threw down the spoon and ran as fast as her legs could carry her to Rashidat's room, 'Oh No!!! no no' she exclaimed as she saw her daughter's white bed sheet stained with blood.
Written by Omoyibo Kelvin Akpobome.