Advice from big sister to the girl child and their mothers.

Tunde Legha
Posted November 3, 2018 from Cameroon

If there is anything i have learnt, it is that wherever we find ourselves in life, we should look for ways to contribute our qouater instead of complaining and that it doesnt matter if you are a girl, boy, man or woman. 

   When i look back now at the time i was growing up, i realise all the difficult moments i faced was shapping me to become who i am today and anything less would have not been adequate. Only i didnt know that at the time.

   I had to learn a lot not by obedience but by purnishment and so i have something to say to the girls growing up now.

Before we go to the handbook of the do's and donts, here is my story. 

    I was born thesame year my father got blind and he was at his good old age. He had been a missionary and retired with nothing set aside for rainy days. So, my mother was left to her own means for the survival of her familly. She had not been to school or learned how to read or write. So we depended on farming. 

I was the last of seven children. My mother did not believe in the girl child acquiring education. 

    As a missionary, my father had a chance to send his children to the mission school for free. He choosed to send only the boys but a missionary friend of his adviced him to also try the girls. My two elder sisters enrolled and soon, they were doing better than the boys. The boys later droped out from school and my father shifted his hope to the girls. 

He was dissappointed when my eldest sister ran away with a man. My mother just concluded it was not a good idea to send girl children to school because for her, that is where she picked up bad ideas. My mother soon persuaded my father to give those who had reached maturity into marriage inorder to avoid embarrassment. They tried resisting but my mother saw to it that it happenned. 

 My father was still secretly impressed the way my sisters had done well in school.

He proposed my mother should allow us, my sister and i follow the remaining brother to school because there was no one to take care of us while she went to the farm. 

Whenever we came back and my mother was in the house, she would help my brother change and would serve him food but would just motion us to sought out ourselves. When food was served, the girls who had slaved to see that we had what to eat, the girls had theirs the last and their meat was always smaller than my father's and that of the boys. For some reason i started believing boys were more important and smarter than girls especially when it comes to acquiring education. 

I became passive concerning school. When i closed from school, i will follow my mother to the farm while my brothers will go and play with friends. When we came back from the farm, we would still be the ones to prepare food while my mother would tell the boys to go read their books. Whenever we did not have enough food to go round the whole familly, she would give the small we had to my father and the boys and we would sleep hungry. One day, i asked her why and she said girls can always find their way around on their own. I was so annoyed by this but there was nothing i could do to change the situation. At times i would wish i was a boy or that the boys would just all go away. 

    I became especially envious of my brothers when my father would call them to read his bible for him. My mother would'nt allow me to go and sit with them and listen. She would say its a man's world and that i should busy myself learning how to run a home. A time came when my brothers started refusing to read for my father. He would send me to call them and they would refuse to come. I would take the book and try to but would not succeed. My father would try to verbally teach me alphaberth but i would not understand a thing. At the end, he will give up and i will cry seing his frustration. Financially, my mother didnt see why she should use part of her hard earned money to send a girl to school. I would go to the bush, cut wood and go and sell as firewood during hollidays. At times i would borrow eggs from a lady who took care of the poultry of the ex-prime minister of Southern Cameroon, to boil and sell at the mottor park. Most times, the lady would add a tray and say the money from its sales was to buy my school shoe. May God bless her wherever she is. She practically help me finish primary school.

    My mother adviced us to give up school and join her in farming because age was beginning to take a toll on her. So i went to school one day to tell my teacher i would no more continue school but that i wish he would teach me just how to read. He asked me why and i said "my father was blind and needed someone to read his bible for him". He said he did'nt have time. I told him i will help him with house chores in exchange of time. He encouraged me not to leave school yet untill i could read. So after school i would go and clean at his house then he would teach me for 30 minutes. My mother was not happy about it but consoled herself i would give up shortly and leave.

My sister went to stay with a friend of the familly and she decided to continue sending her to school.

Within a few months i learned how to read and write while still in primary 3. Soon, the teachers discovered my reading abillities and often used me to shame the bigger pupils of higher classes who did not know how to read or write. I then told my father what i had achieved. He did not believe at first. Then he gave me a passage he knew at heart to read. I still remember the book of the bible. It was Psalms 119. When i lifted my head to look at him when i had finish reading, there were tears in his eyes. Then i asked. "papa was it so bad that you are crying?" Then he smiled between tears and said the sweetest words that would get me onto the road to achievement. He said " you read better than anyone i have ever heard read. And i know people dont think much of women now, but there will come a time in the near future when women will excell and some will become great leaders. I would be so proud wherever i am if one of these leaders is my own daughter". That is one of my happiest moments right there. It was an awakenning moment for me. It was the moment i conceived the idea that women can do better and it gave me the zeal to work harder because now i knew girls had what it takes. So i finished primary school and passed the common entrance examination in list A to go to secondary school.

    Then came the most difficult time. My father no longer worked with the mission so i had no chance to go to a mission school. He was a handicarp and my mother did not care much about girl children going to school. I knew then that was the end of the road for me. 

My father and i felt very bad about it but there was nothing we could do. We were almost getting used to the fact when an old friend of my father came to see him. When he arrived our house, i was reading to my father. He asked which school i was attending because i read so well, my father told him i was not going to go to a secondary school because we could not afford. He said he would have loved to help but he did not have money. When leaving, he said i could apply for government support  to go to a government school through social welfare as the child of a handicarp person. We took that very seriously and quickly put my doccuments together. The process was a tale of its own. I would get up as early as 5 am to walk two hours to go to the house of the delegate of handicarped persons in my province. He was a cripple and used an old local wheel chair that was very difficult to move. I would push him accross town to submit doccuments to various offices. At times we would hang around the office the whole day without eating anything and i would still push him back to his house before coming back to our house. There were days we will go to an office, they will insult us and send us out and i would push the wheel chair sometimes under the rain to go and leave him back at his home. When my father heard of this, he would get upset and cry. Then i decided to start sparing him the details. My mother would get angry at me for pursuing such an unfruitful venture. 

   We endured that for close to three months and when my application was finally approved, there came another problem. The school i was sent to was not the one i applied for. They had sent my name to a school more than six miles from our house. My father refused but i insisted i will go because it was the only way. My sister who was married offerred to help me rent a house near the school if i could find someone to share rents with because she could not afford full payment. I paired with a girl who after few months said she could not endure hard ship anylonger.

 I had to move back to our house and walk the distance on foot each day. The first day i walked back home, my feet was swollen for two days. But as soon as i got better, i continued. At times some car owner or bike rider will take pity on me and give me a ride. I managed to finish forms one with good results to go to the next class and i was only 11 years. 

My elder sister's husband came to learn of what i went through just to go to school and decided i come to Douala and stay with them to help in the house and then they would see me through school.  While i was there i came out with 8 papers in ordinary level out of 8 i registered and 3 advance level with good grades out of the 3 i registered. 

I wish young girls or mothers of girl children will read this. I wished so many times during my struggle that my mother would just encourage or support me. I even felt hatred for her at times in those days but later sorry because i realised she was only acting out of the conception handed down to her by the setting she grew up in. I particularly want girls to know that if you are determined, you can achieve whatever you set your mind on and it doesnt matter that you are a girl. You have what it takes. 

Dont let the society and other people determine what you are, can do or cannot do. Identify what you want to be and work towards it. If i had given up at the first site of an obstacle or because other people especially my mother thought because i was a girl, i will not make it, i would probably be married now to an old man with 7 children that i would not even know how to bring up properly. And in a situation that even if they wrote my name on one wall i would not be able to know its my name. The thought of that gives me the chills.

When i look at the life of young girls today, my heart bleeds because they have too many oppurtunities but a good part of them dont take advantage meanwhile the era where the girl child was religated to the social background has long pass. It also breaks my heart that they use internet and technology for negatve purpose. A good number dont have goals and continiously pass over oppurtunities. 

I think mentorship is an essential part to girls these days and i salute the sisters out there who take it as a priority to orientate girls towards better thinking.

I think there should be special programs run by mentors to guide the girl child in life as early in their lives.

   My father gave me the push, my teacher encouraged me and the lady at the poultry greatly helped me.

   In order to give back, I always consider myself as big sister to every young girl or mother of a girl child i encounter. I make sure i insist to the women of the groups i coordinate that they should particularly be involved in the lives and prioritize the education of the girl child . I encourage even fathers to see their children in thesame light irrespective of gender.

    It is in our program as a group concerned with the well being of the woman especially the rural woman and girl child to identify teen girls of handicarp parents or parent, apply to government to intervene and give them access to secondary education.

     As a big sister, this is what i have to say to the girls especially those at their teens:

- find your pulse early in life and deliberately work towards it.

- nurture yourself to become  what you want to become because you have the ability.

-guide your mind, body and dreams closely jealousely and fearfully. Do not sell yourself cheap.

- no matter the situation you find yourself in, you can change it.

- venture, knock, seek and you shall find.

- read the papers, listen to news, join clubs, engage in things you feel its meant only for boys, explore new horizones and you will be supprised at what you will learn.

- slow down with the excitement especially for those who will soon be going to university. Be responsible and decide what is important.

- get a mentor, aim for the moon for you might just fall on the stars.

- dont rush into  a relationship, ponder the effects on your dreams, linger around being single and enjoy your single hood while it last. If possible, keep your virginity for as long as possible and why not till you get married. Some people might think i am old fashion here but at the long run, it pays.

- finally dont ever doubt because it is the force by which we realise great things.

This story was submitted in response to #DayOfTheGirl.

Comments 4

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Jill Langhus
Nov 04, 2018
Nov 04, 2018

Hi Tunde,

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story of true tenacity. It's great to hear that your father finally supported you and gave your very encouraging and supportive advice when you most needed it. I love your advice, too, and I agree that it's a good idea to keep your virginity for the one you love. I'm old fashioned, too, and I think it's a sacred thing/experience to share with the one you love.

I hope you're doing well, and having a great day. Good luck with your story submission.

Tunde Legha
Nov 06, 2018
Nov 06, 2018

Thank you very much for reading my story and for commenting

Beth Lacey
Apr 13
Apr 13

You are a very strong woman

Lisbeth
May 19
May 19

Oh this is a very sad but amazing story. Its was not easy with you growing up as a girl child. However, I encourage you that you are never alone.
A lot have been through and have broke the silence, so will you. Amen!
Thanks for sharing.

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