LOUD WHISPERS: Saratu’s Wish

Saratu could not stop staring at the lady who was speaking. She was not sure what her name was, because people kept calling her different things. Some called her ‘Her Excellency’, some addressed her as ‘Madam’ and some called her ‘Dr’ or ‘Hajia’. She thought she heard the name ‘Amina’ but she was not sure. Madam’s hands looked very smooth, just like her beautiful face. She wondered if Madam ever washed dirty pots with her smooth hands. Madam was speaking in English, she spoke very fast and Saratu only understood half of what she was saying because she spoke like an English woman. Then Saratu was startled as Madam switched from speaking fast English to Hausa. Madam was saying that it is criminal for young girls to be abused and treated badly. She promised to do whatever she could to help them. Saratu nodded and clapped. She was mesmerized. She had never seen anyone like this Madam.

There had been other speeches before that of Big Madam. There were a number of other Madams on the high table. They had come from the ‘United Nations’ to visit Nigeria and talk to Nigerian women. Saratu was with a group of girls who were living in a shelter for those who had been rescued or who had run away from the Boko Haram people. Saratu and her friends were not part of the group of girls from Chibok who were kidnapped three years ago. She and most of her friends had been taken long before the whole world knew what was going on. All the important women on the high table spoke about different things.The lady who spoke first said that Nigeria had many great women who had paved the way for others. She mentioned Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Laila Dongoyaro and Gambo Sawaba. Saratu had heard of these women, and she wondered why some men spoke as if there had never been women who had done great things in the past. The Boko Haram men had told them that their education was ‘Haram’ and useless. If it was useless, how come we have all these Madams, Saratu thought to herself.

The second woman who spoke talked about conflict in other parts of Nigeria. The whole world knew about Boko Haram and what they did to women and girls. Yet women and girls were being targeted in other parts of Nigeria such as the Niger-Delta, there were also many kidnappings and there was something called ‘Badoo’ in Lagos. Saratu shuddered. There is evil everywhere, she thought. Then there was the Indian looking lady who said she was from a country called ‘Mauritius’. She spoke about violence against women and girls and how she would make sure that they had better protection. Saratu liked what she said but she wondered how it would make a difference. The  lady worked in New York. How would she protect girls in Nigeria? The Madam who wore a colourful Senegalese Boubou spoke, she  was the one from the African Union. She told the meeting how the African Union wanted more women in power so that wars in Africa could end. Saratu shifted in her seat. ‘I don’t think we will ever have a woman as President in Nigeria. Women cannot have that kind of power here. Can a woman stop men from going to war and doing what they did to us’? Tears welled in Saratu’s eyes. The lady who spoke after the Senegalese woman was from South Africa. If Saratu understood correctly, this was the Madam responsible for women in the United Nations. When Saratu heard that she used to be Vice-President of South Africa, her craned her neck so that she could have a good look at her. If a woman can be Vice-President, she can be President, she thought to herself. She knew that there were some countries in Africa where women were President, but they sounded so far away and the idea sounded so unreal that they might as well be just myths.  And here, right before her eyes, there was a woman who used to rule a country!

After the Big Madam spoke, it was the turn of Saratu and her friends. Khadija spoke first. She tried to talk about how she was abducted five years ago and held for three years before she escaped. She paused and started to cry. One of the ladies on the high table beckoned to the lady who was the MC and whispered something to her. Then the MC went up to the girls and told them that they did not need to talk about their experiences. They should just tell the important women what they wanted. Saratu was surprised. All the people they had spoken to before wanted every detail. When were you taken? How long were you there for? What did you do there? Were you forced to marry? Where are the other girls?

Saratu was not listening to her colleagues as they spoke. Her mind was far away, in a time and place when she was helpless and hopeless. A time when she had nothing to live for or look forward to, except a life of drudgery, hunger and abuse. The microphone was pushed into her hands. It was her turn to speak. She looked at all the ladies on the high table. One of the people who had been counselling them had told them that 1 out of every 4 women suffers from one form of violence or the other. Education and status does not matter, women are abused all over the world.  Saratu found it hard to believe that any of these women could be beaten or abused by anyone. These were the women she had been told she could never become. They all wore nice clothes and spoke good English. Had any of them ever been kidnapped? Or beaten? Raped maybe? No one could tell. It did not matter.   Saratu was sure that whatever they had gone through they had won. These women were brilliant, knowledgeable and beautiful. They were survivors. I will win too, Saratu thought to herself. She spoke softly into the microphone, ‘What I want is to go back to school…….’ She began. She finished her brief speech and handed he microphone back. She glanced at Big Madam again. Madam was crying. And so were all the other Madams.

From July 19th-22nd, there was a United Nations high level delegation to Nigeria led by Her Excellency Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General to the United Nations. The delegation was in Nigeria to attend the funeral of the Executive Director of the UNFPA, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin. The visit was also a solidarity mission in support of Nigerian women. The delegation included Phumzile  Mlambo-Ngcuka Executive Director, UN Women, Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security in Africa. One of the events organized during the mission was a meeting with Nigerian women civil society leaders and young girls who had been affected by the conflict in North East Nigeria. This is a fictionalised account of the meeting, through the eyes of one of the young participants.

 

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

 

 

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16 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Saratu’s Wish

  1. Femi Diipo July 24, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Touching and impressive, I could only imagine the lives girls like Saratu have had to live. I’m glad steps are being taking to make things better for them. Perhaps, there’s hope after all

    Reply
  2. Dom Dom July 24, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    It is always sad, almost unimaginable to read about girls like Saratu, girls whose life has been filled with violence, oppression and even rape. No matter how little, it is the responsibility of the rest of us to try as much as possible to ease them of their pain and try to make this world, this nation a better place for all women.

    Reply
  3. Olakunle Olajide July 26, 2017 at 10:13 am

    This is just so touching, really finding it hard to express my feelings. But really, she wants to go back to school. What courage and strength. I just pray this violence can just end but sadly it keeps reoccurring.
    Appreciation to all the people helping these young girls.
    It is well with our nation and with our world.

    Reply
  4. Ololade Mathews July 26, 2017 at 11:33 am

    This is so emotional. If only she could go back to school, I really wish we will find a permanent solution to this thing. I heard they ambushed and kidnapped some women again, I seriously wish we can cut this insane thing off

    Reply
  5. Bisola Cole July 26, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Badoo is the in thing in Ikorodu o and they still haven’t found him, recently killed a whole family after raping the girls there. We still haven’t found something to cut this menace. In the North, Boko-Haram killing women and making small girls suicide bombers…

    We hope they will listen and change. If only the people at the top will be as passionate as these women. If only

    Reply
  6. Victor Udoh July 26, 2017 at 11:38 am

    @Bisola, you said the right thing, If only they will be as passionate. Our government are at fault, No strategy, nothing. They just go about like nothing is happening. Look at the kidnapped school boys. No trailing, Nothing! We lack good governance.

    Reply
  7. kolawole July 26, 2017 at 11:42 am

    God bless the UN for always moving towards affecting the society positively, especially the UN Women and God bless Abovewhispers too. If only passion can be translated into positive thinking like this? We would have a sane society.

    Reply
  8. Yvonne Olayiwola July 26, 2017 at 11:43 am

    To Saratu and all other saratu’s out there, You will go back to school and be of good influence in this generation.

    Reply
  9. Bisi Alawode July 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Hmmmm… I am speechless. This is what should be focused on, the way forward and not sharing bitter experiences. When they share, they won’t seek after what can be done to curb it o, they will listen for listening sake. I like the turn of this event.. seeking the way forward. We have dwelled on the problems for too long.

    Reply
  10. Vivian. July 26, 2017 at 11:46 am

    The way forward… I must say that some people derive plenty in the menace that is happening and that is way it looks like we are walking in circles.

    Reply
  11. Oluwatosino July 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Saratu’s wish. I pray that for Saratu and many other saratu’s out there, that your wish of going back to school and becoming great in life be fulfilled ijn.
    What a life we live… What a world of pain and sorrow. Violence and abuse, kidnapping, killing, rape……
    GOD bless faithful leaders fighting for the women and children. We want solution not sharing the experience. We want way forward not how did it happen.

    Reply
  12. Branny July 26, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    This write up is very touching. Saratu’s wish is quite an achievable one if everyone can stand for what is wright.

    Reply
  13. Princess July 26, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    May every saratu’s wish be fulfilled in our lives in Jesus name. Amen

    Reply
  14. Julie July 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    This issue of insecurity is becoming alarming and should be attended to with immediate alacrity. Folks in ikorodu no longer sleep because of badoo, it’s watch night all day way. 2days ago they did what is called ORO just to chase those badoo and his cohort away! Please let’s continue praying for Nigeria .

    Reply
  15. Akpes July 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    This period is really a period of trail for Nigerians and it will pass in Jesus name.

    Reply
  16. DSEED July 30, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    The only thing I think we need now is the solution to all these predicament. World can’t continue like these, women can continue to undergo or witness these. Its so painful.

    Reply

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