THE MISTAKE I EVER MADE WAS “BEING A WOMAN”
I am a Cameroonian by birth. It all started when I was born: for as far as I could remember, as a child in Primary school, my mom would always take care of me and make sure I was happy. But my dad would say plaiting my hair made me stubborn, so he would shave it. That past and in all that, I would always try to see a good reason why it happened; “perhaps he may be right, he loves me! Afterall parents are always right!” At an early childhood, my parents started argueing and fighting everyday that I could remember, at home and even in public. For any reason. And all I would do is cry and pray. And I would think “perhaps marriage is not a good thing”. So I hated to get married. At the age of 9, my parents divorced. I always try to make things seem ok. Then I would see happy families and I would wonder why mine had to be that way. “perhaps life is teaching me a lesson”. Two years latter, when I was in form 2, my father sent me to a boarding school. And because my mom visited me at school, I was removed from the school where I had excellent results and brought back home after form 3. My father had remarried so I felt everything would be alright. But I asked myself, why would my father remove me from a boarding school even though I excelled well? “perhaps, he knew wat was best for me” In form 5, my step mom was intergrated by the government and had to relocate to a village to teach. She would only come on weekends. Now, I became the mother of the house. I had to do the laundry, shopping, cooking and had to read to prepare for the GCE Examinations. Though I was not given transport or feeing money to go to school, all my father would complaint is that he hears men are talking to me on the way and would call me a prostitute like my mother. With all the stress, I managed to pass my exams with just pass grades, then my dad would compare me with my cousin who in her comfort had ‘A’ grades. "Perhaps he was right, I should have done better”. I had the same experience with my ‘A’ Level Examinations. My father and step mom also went into arguments. But I would still see other families, poorer or richer than ours living in harmony and sacrificing for the future of their children. Then I thought, “perhaps I have to make a difference. My own family does not have to go through what I went through” or not to marry at all than to marry the wrong person. Now I had to go to the university. I enrolled in the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicines and was sent to live with my uncle. Even at this time, I was not allowed to plait my hair. I remember one night that my father left Kumba for Buea just to shave my hair. Living with my uncle too, I was given half of my transport fare every day and was expected to manage. “they used to walk through that distance”, they said. When I was in the second year, my mom relocated to Buea. Things became easier, she would assist me with my feeding and even money for my transportation. Then she would advice me to come live with her. I always told my dad that putting me in the school hotel would ease my stress and better my grades, but he wouldn’t accept. “perhaps leaving to stay with my mom would make my father understand”. Afterall my mom promises to give me all the time to concentrate on my studies. In my third year, I devised a way for my father to send me to go live with my mom. And it worked. Did my dad understand? Maybe. But now I saw the reality of it all. My mom would prefer me at times to sell at her market place than to go for classes. She would say, ‘we have to raise money for my future after graduation’. “perhaps she was right”. So I rolled with it. The task was so exhausting that I couldn’t complete all my courses to graduate on my 4th year. ‘you would have made me proud like other mothers’, was the only thing she would tell me. She never bothered to remember my sacrifice sand would instead compare me with my friends. Then, I decided to ‘take the bird by its neck’. My studies comes first after anything. Then I made it. Did I get any money to further my studies? No. ‘I used the money to send your aunty overseas. Why did you not graduate last year? Now we have to work another year to safe money for my future’. Of course it got me annoyed but, I decided to take the next offer. It still didn’t work because at one point she had to reinvest the money we were saving back to the business. I gave up! Then I applied to volunteer in an NGO. I worked there for a year and latter got a job to manage a farm. Then the journey began. I was the only girl and all my workers were boys and men. At first it was ok because I had some level of respect and confidence from my boss and workers. Then my boss employed another guy to play the same role as mine but from experience, not academics. Then I saw that full trust was not given to me because we both had different points of view and his voice was louder. Even though my one (1) 'campaign’ yielded far more than his many campaigns, my boss would not still listen to my advice. After all, he was working on the field too. It became worst when due to lack of finance to pay workers, most of the workers left. Now, this other guy had to bring in a new worker from his village. Now, three workers(men) from the same village against me. They would not take orders from a woman, who am I to give them instructions? After all when he was employed, he was not told that he was coming to be under anyone. So, they did what they wanted, how they wanted despite my red alerts to the boss. After lots of losses, my boss finally decided to take to my heed. I was now in charge of giving the instructions on how to manage the farm. But the damage had already been caused. Anytime I remind them on what they had to do, it was war. I had either asked them arrogantly or was not supposed to tell them at all. So, they decided to make life a living hell for me. There I realized “the mistake I ever made was being a woman” Because;
- While I was denied of the right of plaiting, my brothers could feel free.
- While I was denied from living at the school hostel, my brother was rented a room even out of the school campus.
- While I was denied allowances even at the university level, my brother was given whatever he asked.
- While I was rejected from working by my father as a farm manager, saying that it was a man’s job, my father would not mind anywhere my brothers went to work.
- While my advices were looked down upon by my boss, a man’s advice was taken even when it yielded nothing.
“The mistake I ever made was being a woman”