OPEN LETTER TO THE GIRL CHILD
BY MPHO MATHABA
I have seen your struggles and heard your cries and silent pleas for help so trust me when I say that I do understand the reasons for your diffidence. I know your pains and see the beauty behind your flaws. I feel the depth of your sufferings because I am a girl too and I am aware of what we have to pass through every day.
I have realized that our birth is treated like a sin and I, just like you, constantly wonder why our gender is considered so benighted. Our future had already been mapped out the moment our existence began. Look at how we used to play around with dolls and household toys in preparation for a future we are set to have, a future where we are limited to soothing shrieking babies and fighting greasy pans. We have been well-prepared for the future as good mothers and housewives not where we are bosses and lead the men. We have been labeled weak simply because our bodies do not form muscles as defined as men’s and our voices never turn out real deep.
The life we live is not life, it is merely existence. We are not living but surviving; we are just passing through one day to wake up the next one still having to face the same problems and fears of yesterday. We go to school and encounter scary challenges, only to be deprived of excellence later in life. Our lives are like one rehearsed manuscript and every time each girl is born, she follows in the same movie with the same scenes and only a bit of editing done. We are girl children, our souls are destroyed and our hearts are bleeding because we never seem to be getting closer to our freedom. Our cries for help are no different from our silence because society has decided to ignore our pleas.
As a fellow female, I see you and I acknowledge the beauty behind your pain. I realize how tough growing up was for you and how at this age, you have lost all your exuberance and you visage looks so haggard. I see now how everyone stays away from you in an attempt to avoid the misery they have caused. I know how hard life has been and still is for you and I can comprehend your longing for change.
School for you was like a citadel of learning. You had male teachers who considered you a midday snack and constantly attempted to have a taste of your freshness while your female teachers were disgusted at your mere existence and wished to deform your silhouette. You were hated for a curvy figure you never asked for and had old me with their preying eyes scrutinizing you all over, lust evident in them; I know you could not decide which was better the lust or the hate.
I know of how because of your beauty, your feminity was stolen by the favorite uncle who wanted to prove his virility you needed not to know about. I know of how everyone chose not to believe you yet the truth was in front of their eyes and instead of being helped, you were bashed. Instead of wiping your tears and soothing your heart, they threw slights your way and shamed you for wearing an above-knee length dress at fifteen. Could our world get any worse? I know about how your own father considered you a femme fatale and how you let him be because that is who he is, a man whose mission is to destroy women.
As if your life could not get more agonizing, you became enceinte and the paternal figure was none other than the heartless uncle. No one has a right to hate you for having resorted to abortion; after all, the child would have been nothing but a constant remembrance of the vicious felony that you were a victim of. Please do accept my condolences on the death of your mom. I do believe it when you say daddy killed her. I am sorry for all the nights you had to wake from nightmares because the sound of her scream as he ended her life always rang in your head.
I am aware of how your very own father endangered your life and happiness. He planned for sixteen years old you to get married to a man treble your age and forced you into it. I am sorry that you had a pathetic excuse of a man as a father. Your paternal genetics were inherited from a self-centered man who cares about nothing besides his reputation and money. Look at how he set you up with a monster as aggressive as he is. I understand your reasons for attempting suicide, it was never easy having his rough hands strike your soft cheeks and to have your nose broken by his manly fists.
After all the help you got and the masters you managed to attain, you have no job to sustain you. It is yet another man in your way, telling you that you have no right to excel and that you are nothing but a woman and weak. I am ashamed to tell you what our great-grandmothers went through is what we live with still. The patriarchy still exists and society is still carrying out little but strong practices to maintain its survival.
As girl children, we live only to hassle from birth till or demise which is sometimes our euthanasia. We have fought for years but the world has turned a deaf ear to our screams. Women have died and little girls but even with the tears and bloodshed, our sorrows never seem to end. Our beauty is overshadowed by the scars the earth has cast on us. It is high time our pain gets acknowledged and our pleas heard. It is time for our beauty to be seen and for the change we need to occur.