When I found out I was expecting a girl, I immediately felt anxious. Not that I wasn’t happy, but it’s almost as if a part of me was comfortable with the idea that raising a boy in today’s society would be easier. For some reasons, I unconsciously nurtured this belief over the years: bringing a boy into this world would be much less of a challenging task. Why? How did I come to this conclusion? There are so many reasons. Firstly, I have two young brothers I took care of from a young age, so it’s something that comes naturally to me. Secondly, I’m a woman in her late twenties who witnesses the different challenges young women of my generation face across the world through my work – challenges that were even bigger for my mother and grandmother’s generation. Thirdly, I came to realize that we are in 2017 yet still have to fight/march for women’s rights and advancement in society, even in the so-called developed countries. And finally, because gender inequalities do exist, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. They always did and will probably do for quite some time. I’m not talking about the recurring debate among some of my peers about whether or not women and men are different in nature, because to me, being equal doesn’t mean being identical. I’m talking about basic human rights that all individuals should equally have access to, no matter what their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or social status is. But the deepest reason of my anxiety and slight moment of panic, the one that made me the most uncomfortable, is the fact that I was scared. Scared that my child would face more challenges because she was born a girl. Because a part of me somehow internalized men’s privilege in society and oppression as something “normal”, so hearing my doctor says “It’s a girl, congrats!” resonated like an electroshock and left me with tons of questions.
Ten years ago, I did not have the words to define my wounds. The inexplicable pain, sadness and anger that lived inside of me, those moments when I sank into the darkness of my soul. To this was added an obsessive fear of abandonment, and a conflictual relationship to my body, to men and my sexuality. I did not have the words because no one around me seemed to experience the same things, and in my environment, we simply did not talk about mental health. I strove to believe that I was perhaps the problem, and the only one responsible and victim of my pain. So I suffered in silence for years. An emotional distress that I tried to conceal. It was cyclic, going and coming according to my experiences, my victories or failures; But in all circumstances it remained invisible. From my adolescence to my young adult life, the mantra that guided my life was “Be strong and under no circumstances, show your weaknesses.” It had become an obsession, a reflex of survival, but also a deeply dangerous and perverse illusion. Creating a solid shell to hide your fragility and protect yourself can be a temporary solution. A “quick fix” that works until the carapace falls and you find yourself at the mercy of everything, including yourself.
Dear [fatherless] daughter, Your life may never be the same again, The void your father left seems to grow bigger over time. You may not have had the best relationship with him, Yet you still find yourself begging him in your head to come back. Perhaps you were too young to remember him, Perhaps […]
I lost my father when I was 11. He died of a heart attack. The pre-teen girl I was had to grow at a very high speed. My life changed completely as my family moved to another city, my mother became a single mom who had to care for 4 children while I had […]
Antoinette Botti is a Norway-based social entrepreneur from Ivory Coast. Owner of the brand Ging founded in 2012, she works with rural women in Ivory Coast to produce, sell and market a healthy ginger drink made from natural ingredients and inspired by a traditional West African recipe: “Gnamakoudji”, a powerful drink made of ginger root that is often used as an expectorant, pain reliever and body warmer.
Conversation with Marie Tamoifo, an environmental activist from Cameroon, President and founder of “Jeunesse Verte du Cameroon”.
In a workshop located in a suburb of Yaounde, a group of seamstresses produce washable and reusable cloth menstrual pads with cotton sourced locally. These pads will then be distributed in supermarkets, pharmacies and donated in rural communities across Cameroon. Olivia Mvondo Boum is the founder of KmerPad, a cooperative whose mission is to improve […]
Olivia Mvondo Boum is the co-founder and operations director of KmerPad, a Cameroon-based organization whose mission is to improve the lives and health of thousands of young African girls and women through reusable and washable menstrual pads and awareness workshops.
Interview with Mère Jah, educator and activist living in the middle of the Pahou forest, near Ouidah in the Republic of Benin.