Getting my education was a challenge. My father died just before I was born. My mom was illiterate, jobless – a destitute widow with six mouths to feed besides her own. But miraculously, some people agreed to pay for my studies at a boarding school. It was difficult sometimes because I was only able to see my family during the holidays, but so worth it.
I was so fortunate because in our culture, a girl is not really a member of their family, in the “living” sense. She is property of her father’s family. Girls are like dogs who are only kept around for the service they can perform. Dogs do security for the home. Girls haul water in Gerry cans on their backs, usually several kilometers and several times a day, to and from the water supply. When mom must go to the field to work the plantation, the girls are expected to take care of the children and the entire house, making sure dinner is prepared when father and mother return home in the evening. Girls cook and clean, sew, work the plantation with their mother, and care for the needs of the men – run and get this for me, do that, go there. If a girl is in school she has great difficulty finding time for homework, and she better not complain or she will be pulled from school. If she fails it is not important; her education is not necessary anyway.
When a girl reaches puberty, the father makes a decision when and to whom he will give his daughter in marriage. Daughters mean cows for the family. The husband-to-be’s family gives cows as a dowry to the father of the bride. That is the biggest sum of a girl’s value to the home. A father can look at his daughters and count the cows he will have one day. And for those who do have a chance to go to school, as they advance through the levels and see other girls their age getting married and having the glory of their husband, culture pressures them to quit school and also get married so they are not seen as rebellious and unfit to be a bride. All of this contributes to the illiteracy and continued slavery of girls who don’t know they are slaves because of ignorance.
I have considered the great damage that our society has done to itself by keeping the women ignorant and illiterate, who whether acknowledged or not, contribute at least half of the upbringing to the children in the home. Every son loves his mother so much, and yet is taught to think of her as less than himself. It is obvious that this is so unhealthy. Their thinking is established in twisted ways from the beginning. They will experience love like they will never know it again in their lives, from their mother. They can hear quiet wisdom like they will never hear from another through the course of their lives. They can witness devotion, integrity, and resilience in the face of extreme hardship, all lived out unceremoniously and in such a manner as they will probably never witness so intimately throughout the rest of their lives. Their mother and her gender are viewed as property for the purpose of bearing children and doing menial work. But how can a son reconcile the fact that he came out of his mom? She cared for him and taught him things he can’t learn at school. It is no wonder that as Congo has set aside its women, it has set aside love for one another, peace, integrity, happiness, and a tomorrow full of hope realized.
It is my intention to contribute to a great turnaround in our society. I believe that we need to include all generations in programs that bring awareness, and opportunity to invest themselves in a new and bright future for Congo. Awareness is first, then offering support for changing each life, delivered according to their education, interests, and generation. But each person, women and men, must be made aware. Ignorance has governed for so long. Many know things are not right in their hearts, so just a little confirmation will liberate them. For others it will take time, and that is okay. The point is, a different future is possible for us, for each one of us, for all of us. Congo can come into a new destiny as this future is born in each individual. And I don’t think it will happen slowly, but very quickly. Everyone is drawn to the light of a new day – it’s just natural.Girls Transform the World 2013