How do one start this story? A story so personal, thought provoking, it sends down shivers and forces out tears from my eyes.
It was about 6:15 pm on one of the days in August 1987. I was almost seventeen, full of struggle to uplift myself academically after Higher School Certificate course. I was walking home from Orlu town. I suddenly looked back and saw a funny looking van trailing me. I was afraid. I ran for about 5 minutes and stopped because I could not continue. The van moved some meters ahead of me and packed. It was entirely covered. I noticed it had a small door at the back and another at the driver’s side, from where a man came out and stood waiting for me. The van was practically a mobile prison house designed for kidnapping people and there I was: a young disabled girl alone on the road. I had only one option, which was to summon courage and face whatever situation. The man fiercely walked to me and bombarded me with questions: “Who are you? Don’t you know you are not supposed to walk about? I looked straight into his eyes and asked: why? He answered: “because you are a girl, more so you are a disabled woman, our target”. I asked him “why target, how? He grew angry and said to me “you are supposed to have been in my cage” referring to the van “but you are still standing here exchanging words with me, you small rat of a woman, so you have not been told that women with hunchback should not walk alone and you have the guts of walking about, even going to school? I muttered, Sir, is it w-w-wrong to be-e-e a woman o-o-or my fault tha-that I was disabled? Ple-e-ease take me –e-e like your sister in the house and don’t kill me, pl-e-e-ea-se! I wanted to hold his cloth while begging but I was afraid of touching him. I was looking into his eyes. He ran into his van and zoomed of, leaving me blind by so much dust raised as a result of his reckless driving on the dusty village road.
There I stood shaking and full of thought: Thought of my mother who has earlier received threats that she would soon loose her pet baby to ritual killers because the baby was disabled and has female parts.
Thought of the kind of life I could live if the situation pushed my mother into secluding me in the village hut!
Thought of future of a woman without social security or empowerment in a male dominated environment!
Thought of future life of un-empowered disabled woman without a companion not because she doesn’t desire to but because no man would want to marry her because of her disability!
Thought of appropriate words to convince my mother not to put me in seclusion if I should tell her of my encounter. That thought sent shivers to my nerves, I knew she will definitely not allow me out again.
Yes, I took a decision which was so difficult and risky especially in an insecure world like mine and my situation– I did not tell her nor anyone in the family of my experience until last year. Till now I could not tell her this story, yes she may not withstand the shock. I got home, went straight to bed (so to say) spent the horrible night, week, month all alone in thoughts and horror. Yes it happened to me, it is real!