It’s another Wednesday today and you will finally get to read the concluding part of FALILAT. Last Wednesday till now felt like a whole year. I know I put you in suspense but I was also anticipating today… I really have to let the cat out of the bag, you know. Lol. This concluding part might seem long but I’m sure it will be worth reading. This story is partly nonfiction because some parts has been removed and replaced accordingly by the writer. Please enjoy!
One day at school, Falilat was seen crying at break. Her class teacher, Mrs Alade asked her what was wrong but Falilat couldn’t say anything. I was sent for and while there, I was enquired about why my sister was crying. I told the teacher that I did not know the reason for Fali’s (I used to call her Fali) tears even though she sometimes does the same thing at home.
Surprised by what I said, Mrs Alade summoned some other teachers and finally, Fali said something shocking. “Father has said I will be getting married after my graduation here and I do not want to get married yet. I really want to continue my education. Although, I have always dreamed of becoming a nurse but because of the situation I find myself, I had a rethink. I have decided to become an activist – I want to become a voice for young girls who find themselves in the same situation as mine.” she said amidst tears. I was little then but I sensed marriage for Fali wasn’t a good thing at that time from the reactions of the teachers. They were all surprised until one of them said, “These people are Hausas and early child marriage is like a norm over there” and some teachers agreed. Although Mrs Alade chose to disagree. She promised to visit Father and try to change his mind.
As she promised, Mrs Alade visited our house that very day in the evening, Father was home but Mother wasn’t. Fali and I went into the kitchen where we could properly eavesdrop their conversation. At the same time, Fali was praying and hoping Father would change his mind.
After exchanging pleasantries with Father, she went ahead to explain all that happened earlier in school that day. Clearing his throat, Father said, “Teacher, I really appreciate your coming and I must thank you for your efforts on the children. May Allah reward you greatly. You see on this issue, Falilat and I already settled things. In fact, her husband has been demanding that his wife be released since she was in primary five but Falilat insisted she would finish primary school and so I pleaded with the husband to give her one year more.
The husband had helped my family when we were about to birth Falilat. I had just started my own ‘money changing business‘ then, so I didn’t have enough to foot some bills. He paid all hospital bills and sponsored her naming ceremony. He made us promise that we would give Falilat to him when she’s ripe for marriage and now, he thinks she is ripe for marriage. I am sad she grew up too fast but we must keep to our promise”.
Mrs Alade tried to convince Father but it seemed Father’s mind was already made up and no one could change it. Falilat ran to her room in tears. Months went by, Falilat had her graduation and believe me, she wept all through that day. She wept so much that she was unconsolable and I felt for her.
Weeks after her graduation, Falilat left Lagos for Kaduna after a small wedding. Her husband, a sixty year old man, had three wives already and Fali was to be the fourth. Although she wasn’t happy, she had no choice.
She was faring well and spoke to us over the phone very often. The teachers in my school asked after her almost everyday and soon, Fali adapted to her new life.
One year after her marriage, Fali gave birth to a baby boy at the age of thirteen. We were all happy to hear that she and the baby were doing just fine.
The following year, the worst happened. Fali got pregnant again and this time, she was going to have twins. The delivery went wrong and sadly, Fali lost her life together with her unborn babies at age fourteen. We were all sad, Mother was devastated but Father felt the pain more. He regretted letting Fali go. Even the teachers in school wept when they learnt of her death.
I was ten years old then but I knew I had lost a big part of me and then I made a promise to myself that day that I wouldn’t end up like my sister, Falilat.
Now, I am eighteen years old and already in the University. I am still standing on the promise I made eight years ago, but today, I am redefining it.
I am going to fight not only for myself but for the cause of other girls who are already forced and those who are about to be forced into early child marriage. I am saying ‘NO‘ because it is wrong, unjust and inhumane. Early child marriage must stop not only in the Northern part of Nigeria but other parts of the world where it is still being practiced.
I am Aisha, and I am fighting on behalf and together with every girl child, against EARLY CHILD MARRIAGE and we won’t stop until our voices are heard and our suffering ends.
Rest in peace Falilat, I miss you everyday.
What is your take on EARLY CHILD MARRIAGE? Do you think Falilat’s father did right to have accepted the condition given to him? How do you think early child marriage can be put to halt? Please air your views on this story. Thanks for anticipating and reading FALILAT.
– Victoria Deola Olatunji