MY JOURNEY

JANEKALU
Posted September 15, 2015 from Nigeria

MY JOURNEY

I ,Jane Kalu Okereke born Jane Kalu Mba hail from the ancient city of Ohafia in Abia State, Nigeria.

I was born into a polygamous family of four wives. My mother being the last wife has to shoulder the enormous responsibility of taking care of my dad and the twenty children. Being my mum first child and a daughter, I equally have to share in these responsivities. This helped to shape and moulds me into the woman I am today.

Life in the village comes with the harsh reality of economic difficulties. Catering for four wives and twenty children in such situation is not an easy task.

My dad being a shrewd business man and a disciplinarian tried his best to keep us comfortable; his plan was for us to live well and to remain within the tenets of societal norms and values. It was impossible for my dad to adequately take care of such a gigantic family. The was need for all the wives to contribute financially towards the family upkeep.

My mum had to resort to selling corn pap. To make her business thrive, my younger ones and I had to resort to street hawking to support her. Street hawking is the worst pain you can subject a child to. I remember those days in one or two occasions that I was almost abused buy acclaim customer.it was a bad experience that the memory will never go off me. While my dad took care of school fees, buying of books and all other expenses was taken care off by my mum from her meagre income.

My community, Ohafia, being a complex society that practices the matrilineal system of relationship did not help matters. My father was at the forefront of matrilineality. In this system, it is generally belief that training a child that is not from your mother’s side is tantamount to waste of money. One who practices this system must bequeath his assets to the matrilineal family.

Coming from such a background, I was prematurely exposed to rudiment of entrepreneurial procedures. My love and care for the less privilege steams from such a humble background. Amidst such trouble I was opportune to finish my secondary school and subsequently gain admission into a higher institution.

Having relocated from the Northern parts of Nigeria, my father’s business in the village was basically agricultural sector. Being in the agricultural sector in the village, my father NEVER visited any of the farms where he invested and have interest in .He relied on the wives and children to cultivate, harvest and ensure all other agricultural procedures in his vast farms. His maternal sisters and brothers cashed in on the existing societal practice.They dictates the affairs of the family and subjected the wives and children to harrowing experience.

It was painful and challenging for one to survive and excel in such a hostile environment. The death of my father made matters worst .The painful realization that all my father’s property were traditionally willed to his maternal brothers, sisters and their children was hard to bear.

Even at death, the wives were expected to prove their innocence of not being connected to their husband death. In extreme cases, some wives are expected to swear their innocence by drinking from the water use in washing their death husband corpse.

The mourning process sometimes entails the woman keeping wake with the husband corpse for seven days without changing of cloths or bathing

Coming from such a background informs my decision of floating a nongovernmental organization towards curbing all vice against the girl child and woman. My organization has the vision of liberating the girl child and woman from the societal dogma and ills that subject them into becoming second fiddle.

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Liz Poulsen
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Dear Jane - 

Thank you so much for sharing this story. You have endured so much hardship in your life; it almost seems like you were forced to be an adult from the very moment of your birth. My heart goes out to you. It is so disheartening for me to learn that many of the things that have made your life so difficult are entrenched in cultural traditions, which by definition will be very hard to change. In other words, it's not that your dad is necessarily a "bad person" for having so many wives and children, for not leaving them his property upon his death, etc.--this is how society works and is the norm for many, many people (if I am understanding your story correctly). How discouraging.

I think your idea of creating an NGO is absolutely wonderful. I admire your confidence to try to tackle the huge societal inequalities that women face--this will surely be a difficult battle! I don't know if this would be helpful to you but here is a link to a curriculum that I have used in teaching middle school students about gender and human rights, you might find it useful if you would like to do any educational activities: http://www.popcouncil.org/research/its-all-one-curriculum-guidelines-and-activities-for-a-unified-approach-to-

Please continue to share with us, I would love to learn more about you and to know whether you decide to create an NGO!

In solidarity,

Liz

Maya Muñoz-Tobón
Sep 15, 2015
Sep 15, 2015

Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for sharing your story in such an honest manner. You are introducing us to a world that not too many people know about, and to hardships that women face everyday but do not have a way to let the world know.

I appreciate the way you describe how the hardships you've endured make the person who you are, and that you want to focus your energy in helping other women in your community and possible create change in community practices.

I hope this online community brings you tools, skills and support to achieve your vision.

Maya

JANEKALU
Sep 16, 2015
Sep 16, 2015

Dearest Liz

                   Thanks for your concern.  As i write, i have an on going Ngo which  some group of girls are under going training .

                     The vision is breaking the gene of poverty.

Thanks

JANE kALU

JANEKALU
Sep 16, 2015
Sep 16, 2015

Hi

   Maya, i really appreciate your words of encouragement .You are an inspiration

Big Hug

Jane kalu

het
Sep 16, 2015
Sep 16, 2015

Am inspired by how far you have come regardless of the challenges you have been through

JANEKALU
Sep 16, 2015
Sep 16, 2015

Dearest Het,

                   life is full with up and down  but the most important thing is determination.

thanks

Janke

champagne
Sep 16, 2015
Sep 16, 2015

Dearest Jane,

I really inspired by your story.I can figure out what hardship u been through in your life.The most important is what happened in the past make you a better person than you couldn't imagine before.God bless you Jane.

regards,champagne

JANEKALU
Sep 17, 2015
Sep 17, 2015

Hi Champagne

    thanks for making out your time to read my post.I really appreciate.

Jane Kalu

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Sep 17, 2015
Sep 17, 2015

Dear Jane,

This is a real sad story. It is very sad that the community still has such horrible practices. Its very sad that the property of your father was given to his siters children. 

I remember in Ghana when Rawlings was president he changed that same practice of the Ashanti tribe becasue it was unfair for the children for the deceased.This practice was outlawed.

I would suggest that you partner with other ngos in your country and petition the government to have these practises outlawed. People in these communities need to be educated that these practises are a violation of human rights and they need to be abolished.

I am glad you have opened up and told us this story and this is very huge step towards change in your country. Encourage women to come out and tell their stories because that is the only way that change can be effected.

Please keep us posted on the progress of the situtaion in your country. God bless you and continue to be strong as we are here for you. 

Stay blessed. 

JANEKALU
Sep 17, 2015
Sep 17, 2015

Hi Anita

   Thanks for making out your time to read my post. I appreciate how you feel concerning the situation. we are  taking  measures to make sure that such harmful cultural practices are abolished.

Regards

Jane Kalu  

Nakinti
Sep 18, 2015
Sep 18, 2015

Hello Jane,

I can relate fully to something you said. My community also practice matrilineality and that sick culture is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, as lawyers will say. Presently, my paternal cousins are anxiously waiting for the death of my father, who is 87 and frail -- but unfortunately for them, death has refused to take him. Believe me, they will encounter the biggest resistance because I know that tradition is sick and discriminatory. What do they want my mother, who produced 9 children in that union to do after the death of their husband. However, such traditions made you and me to become the strong women that we are today, because growing up, we were well aware that our father's property was not going to be ours and so we worked hard to be our own bosses.

Dear Jane, thank you so much for shedding light on this topic in a very nice and clear manner. Thank God you decided to set up an NGO to fight for our kind, you are blessing. I wanted to ask you one question, can you please tell me the name of your NGO? Can you share the link of your NGOs website/blog/facebook page with me and others here? This will help me and others understand and appreciate the work you are doing. We are going to learn from you as well.

Jane, you are a model of your society. Way to go!!!

Sending you love from Cameroon

Nakinti

Olanike
Sep 19, 2015
Sep 19, 2015

Dear Jane,

Your story is such a moving one. I am happy that you have since movf beyond the challenges that you had to put up with, and now working to ensure that other people have a better life.

It's exciting to know that you have successfully launched the NGO you mentioned to me sometime ago. Congrwtulations! Kindly accept my apologies for not checking in with you on that afterwards.

You are a strong and determined change maker, and I am hopeful that you would find the resources you need to expand the impact of your work, as you press on. There is never a time to give up on a good cause. You will surely attain the height you aspire to reach!

Best wishes, Olanike

vrclark
Sep 20, 2015
Sep 20, 2015

Jane Kalu,

 A voice in response to your post far over here in the USA in the state of Wisconsin; middle of this country. I grew up in the East, studied in the West, lived in Europe and now have been the longest in the MidWest of North America.

Your last words were: "My organization has the vision of liberating the girl child and woman from the societal dogma and ills that subject them into becoming second fiddle."  You, Jane, are the change coming to your culture that will encourage and support the evolution away from abusive, cultural, accepted expectations... such as you mentioned... practicing of the matrilineal system, a widow drinking the liquid that washed her dead husband's body to prove her innocence in his death, and sitting in wake for a week with the husband's corpse.  These are extemely poignant and CLEAR representations of what women from your culture endure.  

You ARE the change, Jane Kalu, and voicing your concern on this global platform will bring more awareness to us all in supporting your effort to improve treatment of women and girls in your culture.  You ARE "heard" Jane. The world hears and "sees you" and we stand beside you in the difference you already are making!  You've reached so many of us, we're listening. Keep going.  You ARE making a difference for women and girls in your community, but across the globe as well!

Heartfelt, deep thanks!

Veronica

JANEKALU
Sep 21, 2015
Sep 21, 2015

Dear Olanike,

                     I really appreciate all  your  efforts earlier on,though thereafter  we had lost in communication. God is really helping me.  

JANEKALU
Sep 21, 2015
Sep 21, 2015

Hi Veeronica, 

                        Thanks for making out your time to read my post. Realizing the fact that the women are strongly behind me gives me the strength to carry on.

Regards

Jane Kalu  

BarbaraP
Sep 21, 2015
Sep 21, 2015

Dear Jane,

I read your story twice.  It was powerful.  Not only have you had to endure hardships in your lifetime, but instead of being resentful and angry, to want to help make changes.  You see that there is a way to help others to not go through what you did.  In the future your NGO will spread hope to women and children that there is another way to live.  I am inspired by your bravery and courage, and your determination to make a difference.  You will do this Jane, I am sure of it. 

I have visited Kenya twice, but I've never been to Nigeria.  I presume that the situation of women's rights is different in the two countries, and is much harsher in Nigeria.  I hope that your country can learn from other people and countries about how women's rights and basic needs should be protected. Perhaps you will be that voice.

Keep up the good work.  I will be watching you and cheering you on!

Your sister,

Barbara

Emily V
Sep 21, 2015
Sep 21, 2015

Hi Jane, thanks very much for sharing your story.  It is so inspiring to hear how you have been motivated you to help others who are less privileged.  It must be so difficult to have faced the injustices of society, especially at such a young age, but it is a beautiful result that you have decided to put your time and energy into starting an organization that will help women and girls!

Before reading your post, I had not heard a personal story about the effects of matrilineal society on the families economically, especially for the daughters and wives of the men.  It is an important issue to address, and your personal account is a very powerful way to advocate for change.  I believe that by letting your voice be heard on the matter, you are helping change your society for the better. Thanks for your efforts! -Emily

JANEKALU
Sep 22, 2015
Sep 22, 2015

Hi Barbara,thanks for your words of encouragement.somethimes what we see in your tender age mould you to what you will become in the future.In no distance time with the way women are speaking out the must be a change.

Regards

Jane Kalu

JANEKALU
Sep 22, 2015
Sep 22, 2015

Dear Emily,

            Thanks for making out your  time to read my post. i know with the support of women like you the world is a better place.

Remain Blessed

Jane Kalu

FUNMI AKERELE
Sep 24, 2015
Sep 24, 2015

Dear Jane,

I read your inspiring story and salute your courage. Your determination is inspiring. Finding oneself in life after traumatic experiences can be really hard but the best consolation is the path we take to see the negativity of our circumstances as a positive light to teach, inspire, and educate others.

JANEKALU
Sep 28, 2015
Sep 28, 2015

Hi Funke,

I appreciate every little words of yours.People like you gives me reasons to continue.

Regards

Jane kalu

Rachel Oleson
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Dear Jane,

Thank you for exposing such a raw account of how your childhood responsibilities gave you the strength to be the powerful voice you are today. Reading about how you took on huge responsibilities for the sake of your family's wellbeing was truly saddening, but I am hopeful that by you sharing what you've endured, change will come. You've shown such strength your entire life, carrying the burdens placed upon you, and now you are not shying away from the truths that need to be told. You are very courageous and inspiring. Your kindness and willingness to help others shines through in everything you do, I can tell. The fact that you've taken the time to respond to each person who has read and commented on your story is a true testament to your character and the determination you have moving forward with the dream for your NGO. I feel so very honored to witness the work that you are doing, which will positively affect generations to come. We are all behind you, Jane!

With admiration,

Rachel