Featured Storyteller

NIGERIA: I Stood Up to My Father’s Tyranny

QueenVirtuous
Posted March 23, 2017 from Nigeria

A moment of courage led to a lifelong commitment to speak out for women and girls.

“I reached deeper into my little heart and spoke from there.

I was barely a teenager when I first stood up to my father. It was a typical Sunday afternoon for our family. We were in our house with the doors to the outside locked and the keys in a "safe place" known only by my father. We had come to accept being locked up and isolated from family, friends, visitors, and neighbors as ‘normal'.

I was having lunch with my elder sister and my kid brother… or maybe it was dinner. It was the last meal we ate that day. Luckily, our meal had been prepared before the argument began. On days like this when our parents were having a disagreement, no one would dare enter the kitchen to prepare a meal.

We always knew what the outcome of a disagreement was in our house. Dad always won. And we knew what he did to make his opponents succumb to him, so the food in our mouths was mixed with that bitter taste of fear. We weren’t sure whether it was the food or the fear that made our little stomachs churn painfully. We ate in silence. We couldn’t bear to look up from our plates; we wouldn’t dare.

Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of Dad from the corner of my eye as he sprang across the sitting room headed in Mum's direction. She raised her arms in self-defense as she let out a helpless whimper. But he ignored it. As usual, he ignored it.

A prisoner in her marriage

My mother’s parents married her off because they couldn’t afford to send her to college. It was common for parents in this situation to marry their daughter to the first person who promised to send her to school and send money back to the family from time to time. Mum was more than 20 years younger than Dad.

Parents were always on the lookout for the most educated males. If they found one they liked, they would give their consent for him to marry their daughter without checking out his character or considering their daughter's feelings for the man. It brought honor to a girl’s family if other villagers knew that the daughter married a man who went to school.

Mum was quickly married off to my highly intelligent father who turned out to be a monster. She moved with him to the city, where he sent her to school not because he believed in the empowerment of women but as payment of her bride price. He always swore to her that he was only keeping his promise because it was expected of him. He told her that she would never be allowed to work, or pursue a career, or go out, or have friends. Dad was the only one in our family who worked, and his income was nothing close to what we needed to do well in life.

No Longer Silent

The bone of contention on that Sunday afternoon when I stood up to my father was that he had lost his job again, as he often did due to his violent temper. This time, he was dishonorably dismissed without any benefits.

At that time Dad was around 60 years of age with deteriorating health. We three kids were still too young to work. This meant that we would starve unless Mum were allowed to go out and work.

When my father had had enough of Mum’s reasoning, he sprang across the room and grabbed her head. I heard a loud thud as he bashed her head against the wall and proceeded to drag her by the hair to their bedroom.

And that was it for me.

"Let her go already!" I screamed as I rose to my feet, tears rolling down my face.

In the piercing silence that followed, all eyes were on me. Our culture forbade a woman from interrupting a man, let alone raising her voice in a reprimanding tone. Traditionally, a woman is expected to give the man room to vent in whatever manner he chooses, and then later to present her case (if she must) on her knees after she has fed him well and catered to his ego. This imbibed modesty in a woman, the elders taught.

My father was a man feared even by men, so I understood the shock in the eyes staring back at me. But it wasn't a thirst for heroism that had made me stand up to him for the first time in both our lives that afternoon. It was the need to stand up for equality of rights for the more vulnerable sex.

"You must never do it again; he's your father!" Mum said.

Father?! Sincerely, though, what did the word even mean?

It is up to us

I was scared that day, but the suppressed feelings in that room needed a plurality of voices to speak against injustice. It was up to us.

My father's lips quivered with rage as he slowly walked towards me, fixing me with a piercing gaze that tore at the roots of my courage.

"You're a fool!" he breathed, clenching his fists.

My voice shook, and I felt my bladder release in fear. But I reached deeper into my little heart and spoke from there.

"An ally. That's all she is trying to be. That's all that every woman is trying to be. To save us. And you! This family! Why can't you just accept that she is just as intelligent and creative? What are you teaching your son by doing this? How can he be a leader like this? We don't want your pedestal, and we don't want to fight with you. We are not strong enough. We just want to be nurturers. The least you can do is respect that ability that was put in us by nature and empower us to perform our function as mothers, caregivers. She doesn't deserve this. This has to stop, we can't take it anymore! Dad, just stop this, please! Don't beat us and lock us up anymore!"

"You've been reading, I see!" my father mused. Then he barked, "Lie on the floor, face down, now! And wait for me."

He charged into the backyard of our house to cut canes from the aged Dogon Yaro tree. He loved his canes fresh. He would strip the canes bare so that as he slashed my body with it, the moist pieces would burn through my skin and bury themselves in my flesh. It's how we were often punished back then. I still have scars from such beatings.

I obeyed and lay face down where I was standing. No one lay with me; no one stood with me; no one spoke up for me; neighbors kept their distance. I shook as I wept. I felt lonely, but the point had to be made. I was ready to take the beating and never apologize.

I did not apologize on that day, nor will I ever apologize again for standing up to those who make violent moves against a woman or child.

A turning point

In the weeks that followed, our house was like a graveyard, and it seemed I had failed my mother. Within the month, though, Mum announced to us that Dad had released her to look for a teaching job in the schools in our vicinity. She got the job, and we kids were also pulled from school to work.

Although we were working outside our home, Dad imposed a curfew on our movements and ordered that all our salaries be remitted to him. He gave us 10% of our salaries as pocket money, and he gave Mum money to buy some food. He didn't care whether the money he gave was enough or not. We had to obey.

For the rest of his life, my father hated me. For the rest of his life, he punished me for speaking out like I did that Sunday afternoon.

While my father never changed, we did. That day became a turning point for me.

We were at the early stages of winning our fight for survival, equality, and empowerment. Inside the house, Dad made sure we were isolated one from the other to "prevent a mobilization." So when we were outside the house or on the way to work, we encouraged one another, mother and children. We mobilized, not for a coup, but to empower ourselves and plan for the family. We began to get creative, though it was all hush-hush.

Mum’s salary was obviously not enough to get us through the month. So we kids had to do other manual jobs (which we kept secret from our dad, of course) to earn some more money for food, medication, and the upkeep of the house. Because we had little education, we kids couldn’t get well-paying jobs. So we had to do a lot of little jobs here and there to make money. It was exhausting, but we were glad that we could support Mum.

Mum secretly taught us how to save so that we could enroll for evening lessons before our curfew timeso we could sit for the high school leaving certificate exams. It was a very difficult period of our lives. It grieved us to see our peers move on to enjoy better lives and fulfill their dreams while we watched our dreams die (even with all our hard work). But we couldn’t just fold our hands and die.

Since the day I stood up to my father, I have never kept silent about domestic violence anywhere I have come across it. From that singular experience, I learned courage in the face of fear. I learned sacrifice. I learned that to stop violence against women and children, we must stop the silence. And yes, this may require putting our lives on the line.

If you think this is too much to risk, I understand your reluctance. But then, you have to ask yourself: Would you rather share the suffering of the oppressed or the crime of the oppressor?


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Comments 36

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Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

Woooow you are truly a queen. You stood up for your mother, siblings and every woman  in your mum's same position all over the world. I know it hurts knowing that your father hated you for standing up to him but I know for sure that deep down in his heart he was proud to have you as his daughter, a daughter who can stand up and speak for herself and fight for her family. Well done my dear sister. You are a heroine in the eyes of many women and girls. I stand with you in the fight  against domestic violence. Stay blessed and thank you for sharing.

#saynotodomesticviolence  

QueenVirtuous
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

Anita, my love.

Thank you so much for all your kind words. Something just comes to life in me when I see women being marginalized or deprived. How can they be who they were made to be if they are not given a chance to enjoy the same opportunities and rights that are available to the males? In the end, the men would have been supporting themselves if they lent a helping hand to the women instead of treating them like beasts of burden.

One thing, Mrs. Anita. I can't stand down.

Jill Langhus
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

Bravo:) So good. You're so fierce! Love, love:-) I love the additional details and courage that were either added from the original or that I just noticed. What's next????

QueenVirtuous
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

There you are, my sweet!

You are ever supportive! Thank you kindly, darling. The details you speak of were added. This is the edited version, not the original. Wanna know what's next? Hop in the front seat with me and fasten your seat belt.....lol!

I've got so much more up my sleeves to do in the cause for women and children.

Jill Langhus
Mar 25, 2017
Mar 25, 2017

Always:) You're welcome. Cool... I'm there... I can't wait to see what's next:)

Rahmana Karuna
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

hey, can i jump on board also? do i have to put the seat belt on though?

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Lol.....of course, Rahmana! You are most welcome. You can leave the seatbelt unbuckled if you don't mind the bumps....lol.

I'll keep you posted in your inbox, then. Love ya!

Malee
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

WOW, Thank you so much for posting your story! I know it takes courage. You have been through so much. I would say that I am sorry but I know that you and your mother and siblings got through it and you all are so strong. I actually feel sorry for your father and men like him because they must be pretty miserable inside to act that way to those they supposedly "love".

I don't understand why in different societies they think that being totally dominating to women is a good thing. It's so backwards. Women just want to take care of their children and families. They want to help the world and get involved with whats going on. For the most part, we all want to learn and better ourselves.

Those that seek to put us down must be oppressed to because why would that come into their mind in heart if it was not already there. It's the patriarchy... so many hundreds of millions of women have been put down. I think of the women I have been helping in Pakistan and I think about how their lives sometimes can be worse than death-

Reading your story gives me hope for humanity- I always wander to myself if there are people like you in the world. Unfortunately stories like yours and people like you don't always make the news for your courage but you should! It would be amazing to meet you. You seem like such a wonderful person!

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Darling Malee,

Thank you for reading my story. Yes, it took courage, even to share it here.

I think you're right, Malee. The males who do this have a pretty messed up psyche. This is why my work involves not just teaching and empowering women, but also educating the males (both boys and men) and getting to the root of the psychological problems. I think some men (maybe all of the men who abuse women?) are struggling with some form of insecurity within themselves. I try as much as possible in my work not to let the males think that I'm their enemy. I try to get them to open up. Some of them do open up. But some of them are too arrogant to admit that they need help. The world would have gotten where it was going much faster if men would have agreed just to see how useful and gracefully endowed women are. You agree?

I am so encouraged by your words. Many people would rather not get involved in "people's affairs", but I think of the women and children suffering, and I can't ignore. I would love to read about your work in Pakistan too. You remind me of my Pakistani childhood friend, Iman Chaudhry. She loved to help women, even as a child. It was the bond we shared. I am proud of you, Malee. It would be amazing to meet you too. Maybe someday.

Emily Shekinah Atia
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

That was a great move.

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Dear Emily,

Thanks for taking the time to read through my story. And thanks so much for the encouragement. I pray to always find a strength to say "no" to domestic violence wherever I may come across it and never to look away.

maggie farquhar
Mar 26, 2017
Mar 26, 2017

Dear Queen Virtous, when I read your story it was like a movie playing in my "minds eye" I was there with you and your mother feeling helpless and defenceless against this mans rage and anger.How I wanted to protect you and all the women in this world from this kind of violence,even here in Canada domestic abuse is endemic. As a child I never had an angry word from anyone in my family, I had to wait until I was married to feel a mans wrath.I don't know how we are going to stop this kind of violence, because sometimes these are the people who say they love us. Eleoquent stories like yours will remind all of us to speak out. Thank you for your commitment, with much love from Granny Maggie x

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Oh, Granny Maggie, I feel like crawling into your laps to hear you speak this way to me every day and to hear your stories. Won't you share your stories with me? I'd love to hear them.

I've known the wrath of the male my whole life, believe me. On each occasion, I had to stand up for myself if I ever wanted it to stop. It's more painful to bear when the male who is assaulting you and oppressing you and marginalizing you is someone who claims to love you. Those claims confuse you a bit and hold you spell bound. Without a proper understanding of what love is, we females will not be able to recognize "love" that is diluted and polluted with possession and oppression. We allow what we allow because we think it is right. It is easier to fight evil when we know why evil is evil. I want to live my life helping women and girls understand what their entitlements are in life, and to encourage them never to berate themselves or allow any male to berate them. Know what I mean?

I'm proud of you, Granny Maggie. And I love you very much.

Rahmana Karuna
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Dearest Queen Virtuous,

the brain is really interesting. i read quite a bit about neurophysiology a few years ago. Joe Dispenza has amazing information regarding the brain, and how we think. he describes it as: our neurons are like railroad tracks, most of the thoughts in our brain were planted there when it was first said to us, then each retelling be ourselves or others, the tracks get stronger. and most of our waking hours we are on autopilot, not controlling our thoughts, but our thoughts controlling us, planted their by caretakers, siblings, teachers. to change those thoughts we need to create new thoughts and new "tracks". 

i find it very interesting, hope this helps some. it certainly has me. 

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

It certainly does help, dear Rahmana. I had to re-read it a couple times over. Very interesting. But we weren't designed to be on autopilot, were we Rahmana? What do you think? Like, why are we so inclined not to pay deliberate attention to those "tracks"?

Soumeya Lerari
Mar 27, 2017
Mar 27, 2017

You are a true inspiration ! 

QueenVirtuous
Mar 27, 2017
Mar 27, 2017

Dear Soumeya1,

Oh, my! Your comment was short and crisp, but it touches me. Thank you. And now I must live up to expectation, for I must not douse the very flames I have kindled in hope. Once again, thank you.

Rahmana Karuna
Mar 27, 2017
Mar 27, 2017

Thank you Queen Virtuous,

sharing our stories is important. this is well written, it pulled me in and i was there with you. blessings on your path, stand tall and proud. may you have the ability to create enough nurturance to crack open the meanies hearts.

QueenVirtuous
Mar 28, 2017
Mar 28, 2017

Darling Rahmana,

Thank you so much for your blessings and prayers, and for taking the time to read my story. I really do need them. The task is not for the faint-hearted, and even I do grow faint sometimes. It is people like you that make strength available when others (even the strong ones) run out of it. I appreciate you. And I love you.

Ujeneza Fabrise
Mar 29, 2017
Mar 29, 2017

Waaaouuuu! i felt crying while reading your story love!

You are such a strong woman who can stand on her mother's side! remember that few can. Maybe here in Rwanda such violence is no longer there but i can recall some years back,it was beyond our understanding. we thank God that today, you are helping many to understand their roles and the respect between one another! keep strengthning those hearts, God will bless you.

courage dear!

QueenVirtuous
Mar 31, 2017
Mar 31, 2017

Sweet Fabrise,

How I long for the day when my country will be free of these kinds of incidences, just like is becoming the case in Rwanda. May God strengthen me to continue speaking out for women and children. I want to see people rise up to push back the evil perpetrated against women and children daily, so I always seek to instill courage into them. I love your signature quote. I love you.

Christiana Abba
Mar 30, 2017
Mar 30, 2017

wow! I admire courage.

QueenVirtuous
Mar 31, 2017
Mar 31, 2017

Thanks, darling Christiana! I hope people can learn from my story and join the fight for freedom and equality of rights. I admire you too.

bridggyella
Mar 30, 2017
Mar 30, 2017

I must say this is one of the most interesting read i have read in years. You truly are BRAVE!

Standing up to an African father in the way you did calls for an applaud because it takes one with a wire woven guts to try it. You are indeed a hero.

Keep up the good work.

I look forward to reading more from you.

Cheers.

Bridggyella

QueenVirtuous
Mar 31, 2017
Mar 31, 2017

Oh, my! Thanks, dear Bridggyella!

You really do know how it is! But that tradition needs to be disposed of. We must be the generation that enforces change for the generations to come. Love ya!

Yussif Khadijatu Iddi
Apr 07, 2017
Apr 07, 2017
  1. I am strongly with you and im ready to give u my suppy when the needs arises, our women and young girls rights have been suppresed for long. And its high time we all stand on your feet to fight this together, may God bless u and keep for focus for it is keen
QueenVirtuous
Apr 13, 2017
Apr 13, 2017

Dear Yussif,

Thank you so much for your support and your prayers. Stay with us here on World Pulse.

Tupem
Apr 16, 2017
Apr 16, 2017

It is so sad, this wickedness being perpetuated against women all over the world, especially Africa! Weldone Queen! Very few trode on the path you went and came out unscathed! They are usually squashed in spirit and physically! Weldone again! to the fearful who reads this there is hope that you can speak out even though afraid.

QueenVirtuous
Apr 24, 2017
Apr 24, 2017

Darling Tupem,

Speaking out even though afraid is something we must learn to do, seeing that the assailant often takes advantage of the fact that we give our fear the upper hand. And we have a lot to stand up against in Africa for our women, don't we? Thank you for reading my story and for your kind words.

panoral
May 11, 2017
May 11, 2017

Your story is so touching. We all need to overcome our fears and stand for what is right, no matter the consequences!  Great courage. Thanks for standing up for Women (and the vulnerable). Bravo! 

QueenVirtuous
May 13, 2017
May 13, 2017

Thank you so much, dear Panoral. Keeping our eyes on the goal, the reason, is key to finishing whatever cause we endeavour to fight for, in spite of our fears. Thanks for your kind words!

michr
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

You stood up and made a change - you should be proud of the fight you had and continue to have in you!

QueenVirtuous
Jun 11, 2017
Jun 11, 2017

Dear Michr,

I'm so honoured that you took the time to read my story and to leave such a wonderful compliment. I'm encouraged. Thank you, and I will continue to fight for women's rights wherever I may find myself.

Cathy Goodman
May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

I cannot begin to imagine what your childhood must have been like and am completely in awe of the strength you showed in standing up to your father.  Knowing what the right thing to do is and actually having the courage to do it are very different and it would have been so easy and forgivable to have stayed quiet.  You are a very special soul - stay strong and true, the rest of the world needs more people like you. 

QueenVirtuous
Jun 11, 2017
Jun 11, 2017

Dearest Cathy,

You are so right. Many know the right thing to do in such situations but they always allow their fear to dominate and overwhelm them completely. I know I felt the impulse to remain silent and so to protext myself. But watching another human suffer endlesslly? Survival may be a strong motivator, but so is the truth. Thank you so much for thinking so highly of me. I promise to continue to stay strong and true for the sake of the rest of the world that needs to hear my voice.

Samiha Zubair
Sep 21, 2018
Sep 21, 2018

Sometimes what we dream about the consequences of our actions shape our actions in the first place but in certain needs actions should preceed