OpEd, Politics

Pleading for a pardon, my dear sister

I perceived you inferior to myself. I remember how I used to shout at you. I thought I was more important than you. I thought you were a lesser human.

I thought you were born to be under my command. With that mind-set, I mistreated you. I remember those days when you used to cry because of my beatings. I was proving myself as someone superior to you. I got that education from our parents. They used to teach me to discipline you very well. They told me it would be a weakness to see a sister misbehaving without giving her punishment. I used to misbehave too but why could they not expect you to correct me too?

Apart from our parents teaching me to treat you as an inferior being, our community also teaches it to the youth. Young boys are expected to beat young girls. The society expects girls to behave well than boys. I always ask myself why things have been that way. A father calls his son a fool when he doesn’t have a girlfriend, but a girl is killed when she is suspected to have a boyfriend. I regret those nights when I didn’t used to sleep just making sure you didn’t go to meet your boyfriend! I had girlfriends. I could go and have good times with them. I didn’t want you to have a boyfriend. I condemn our community in this. I don’t see any wisdom in it. Why should girls be protected and not boys? If all the parents protect their daughters, where will boys get girlfriends? I remember many girls beaten to death by their parents and brothers because of being impregnated. I don’t remember even a single boy being beaten to death by the father because of impregnating a girl. Our father used to tell me that I must prove I was a man by impregnating a girl but would also tell me to look after you to make sure you are not impregnated. Pardon me, dear sister! I was so selfish! I thought I deserved more than you deserve! I thought I was born superior and you inferior! I have just learned that we are equal beings. What I should do is what you should do. What you should not do is what I should not do.  If having a boyfriend is evil. Having a girlfriend is evil too. If sex before marriage is bad for you, it is also bad for me.  I have understood I can advise you if you go the wrong way as you can advise me if I go the wrong.

Pardon me, sister! I am so sad about this. When I equate myself, I feel that I have sinned against you and against God. Our parents sent me to school.  I am now very educated. I can write to the nation. I teach students. I train people. I speak good English. I have a job. I have a class. I am respected because of my education. But my sister, you are just a slave of man! You don’t have the privileges I have now! You are just an object to man! You think you don’t deserve formal education. My sister, everyone deserves formal education. It is the culture that believes men deserve more education than women. We all deserve formal education. I am pleading for your pardon today. My eyes have opened. I will make sure my daughters go to school. I also promise to educate your sisters to compensate for you.

I must plead for your pardon again, beloved sister! I hope you will forgive me in this. I know you don’t feel good about it. You were forced to get married at the age of 16; the age you were still a child; the age you had no thought of marriage; the age you hadn’t known anything about men. The age your body wasn’t ready to give birth to a child; the age you couldn’t be a responsible woman to take care of others; the age you couldn’t be a housewife. I am so sad about it dear sister. I always cry when I think about it. I had heard how everyone pushed you to get married. I even heard it wasn’t your interest. You rejected the man when he approached you, but the man went to the parents. I know our father doesn’t talk much. He listened to the advice of other people. I am sorry dear sister. I know you are not happy now. You are frustrated and don’t have any option. Don’t blame our parents, my sister. They are following the culture. The culture says a girl is just for marriage. They take girls for assets. They think girls only function as housewives. Thank God I am now educated. The girls in my generation will not face the same problem. They will grow to a mature age. They will decide when they want to get married. They will choose for themselves the men they love. They must not go for early marriage or forced marriage in our family anymore. Your brother has gone through transformative education and will put things right in our family. I know you question why you should be forced to a man at your young age while I am there, your educated brother. You are right my sister. But remember, we don’t fight in a minute. It takes time to fight what has been the practice in society for thousands of years. I am preparing very well to make sure it doesn’t happen to our younger sisters. They will be free I promise you, my sister. I don’t value girls now because of dowry. I value them because they are human beings. I am now educated. No poverty will force me to sell you to men. I plead for Just a pardon, please.

For years I had thought house duties are meant for women and girls alone. I didn’t know men could cook like women. It was until I went to school and interacted with many people that I learned it. The society teaches that girls are to serve boys. Boys must not even enter a kitchen. Boys discovered to be doing house duties are teased and neglected in the community. I participated in teasing those boys. You suffered alone doing the house chores because of such a culture. My sister, that culture is not true. I cook for myself now! No one cooks for me! I do anything a woman does in the kitchen. But it does no harm to me. I am still a man. People still respect me. I am even better than some men who think it is a sin for a man to do house chores. I will cook with my wife. My boys and girls will do the house chores together. My boys must cook. My boy must wash. I am now very lazy to wash because I wasn’t trained to wash. I left all of you, my sisters in the village. Who should wash for me in the city? This painful lesson must not be faced by my children. They must learn everything. Please, teach your children, both boys and girls to work together at home.

My sister, I have gone to school. I didn’t get any lesson teaching that men should rule over women. Our parents and society taught me to have power over you. I was trained to be a leader. You were trained to be a follower. I thank God for the education I have received. I didn’t know women also are gifted to lead. I was in the village. I had not seen any woman addressing men. They were to do anything decided by men. The culture is not correct. Women are great leaders! By nature, women are kind. A leader must be kind. By nature, women are sympathetic; a leader should be such a kind one. There are very many female leaders in our world today. Some women perform much more than men in leadership. Who does not acknowledge the leadership of the late Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom? What of Angela Merkel, the prime minister of Germany? What of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia? What of Maria Do Carmo Silveira, the prime Minister of Sao Tome and Prince? What of Sabia Suluhu, the President of Tanzania? What of Nunu Kumba, the speaker of our parliament? What of Rebecca Nyadeng, the vice president of our great Nation, South Sudan? My sister, you should be a great leader like the above-mentioned great female leaders.

Beloved sister, I know you have a good heart. You will surely forgive me after my confession.  I have sinned against you. I have sinned against God too. I am now a teacher. I will educate our society about the importance of girls. Girls deserve what boys deserve. They must go to school as boys. They must be leaders as boys. Human beings have the same rights.

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