I am that African girl child
whom you left in the forests’ wild.
While you darling to mourn my death,
as my dreams fade, breath by breath.
Was I not born with body and soul?
That I am treated as half the whole.
Was I not to be bred with bliss and beauty?
Rather than penury, pain and cruelty.
Oh! Poor sublime soul of mine,
When shall I be free and fine?
When shall I sail away through sorrow’s deep?
Having no more cause to sob and weep.
_ David Olusanya.
The Struggles of the African Girl Child
Unquestionably, the African girl child goes through a lot of struggles as each day goes by ranging from gender discrimination, gender based labour divison, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, lack of education, early marriage. Of all these things, early marriage which is being practiced in Northern and even Eastern Nigeria calls for great concern. Childhood is being taken away from the girl child. She is left alone to fend for herself, take good care of herself and act as an adult even when all she wants to do is play with toys. The moment she hits her teenage years, she is sent off to her husband’s house. A man who has asked for her hand in marriage even before gaining full consciousness of her environment, a man old enough to be her father!
On the night she is brought to her husband’s house and introduced as the new wife, she is ripped off of her only virtue – her virginity mostly through rape. As a wife, she is expected to learn in the process and follow the footsteps of her co-wives. She is taught how to cook and do every other house chore but most importantly, how to take care of her husband. All of this, against her will!
The Pain of the African Girl Child
The result of the ‘the previous night’ comes to fruition and she gets pregnant, she embarks on another journey entirely as her body system goes through a lot of changes. To top it all, she is prohibited from visiting the primary healthcare center in her local community. She is not allowed to attend antenatal classes but visits an old woman in her community who knows nothing about how the human body works when she feels any form of discomfort at any point in time. When she goes into labour, she is without any form of medical help and when there are complications like obstructed labour, she is circumcised. If it still does not work, she is tagged a witch.
After delivery, while still in so much pain and agony, she begins to notice very strange changes within her, one she has neither seen nor heard of. She is seen as a stinky running tap. She is neglected and chased out by her husband, rejected by her own family and stigmatized by the society. Finally, she wanders about the streets, hoping that help will come even if it were in her wildest dreams and that she would be repaired of this strange condition.
Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF)
The World Health Organization [W.H.O] described this strange condition as the single most dramatic aftermath of neglected childbirth. This condition is a type of obstetric fistula – the vesicovaginal fistula. A fistula is an unwanted opening that develops between two parts of the human body. Therefore, vesicovaginal fistula usually acronymed VVF is an abnormal connection between the bladder and vagina causing leakage of urine. This medical condition has various causes and impact but it can be prevented and treated.
The Causes of Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF)
In this part of the world, the causes of vesicovaginal fistula are not farfetched. One of the major causes of vesicovaginal fistula is obstructed labour. Basically, obstructed labour is when there is a misfit between the fetal head and the birth canal. That is, the baby does not exit the pelvis during childbirth and this could be due to the fact that the teenage girl’s pelvic bone is still undergrown. Usually, during childbirth, the community midwife does a circumcision for the girl child hoping that the incision would enlarge the birth canal but instead create more room for complications such as still birth and post partum bleeding.
Also, abdominal surgeries that results in the bladder being injured especially during operative vagina deliveries or the bladder being caught in sutures during abdominal surgeries lead to the formation of vesico-vaginal fistula. Other factors that can lead to the formation of this fistula are advanced cancer of the genital tract, bladder and rectum as well as pelvic trauma.
The Impact of Vesicovaginal (VVF)
The impact of vesicovaginal fistula is deep rooted in the physical and mental wellbeing of the girl child. As she is being stigmatized, depression sets in. If she is not treated and psychologically evaluated, she could commit suicide. Apart from that, most of these girls begin to develop extremely low self-esteem due to insults from people around them. If the rate at which VVF occurs in a country is on the increase, then the future of the country is at stake as the saying “to train a girl child is to train a nation” cannot be gainsaid. This can only take place in a country that has girls that are in a complete state of physical and mental wellbeing.
However, VVF can be prevented and even treated. Formulating and implementing laws against child marriage as well as prosecuting the law breakers will serve as a deterrent to others. It would help curb the high incidence of VVF in the country. Also, giving proper education to the people, letting them know the consequences of their action. It will go a long way in curbing this condition. More often than not, the provision of basic obstetric care like building VVF clinics across the country and training of medical personnels will help in the treatment of VVF patients.
My Dream for the African Girl Child
The African girl child has to be free , free from this condition and fine. She should live her dreams and not always live in regret of coming to this world. She should be helped and saved from this plague that has befallen her. You are the help, I am the help! Let us stand against child marriages, organize outreaches and speak in one voice to eradicate this plague from our land.
writes from UNIMED, Ondo State, Nigeria
FIRDAWS ALAGA is a Medical laboratory science student at the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo. She is currently in her third year. She has an interest in writing. Her hobby includes reading. She is on the path to discovering herself.