If I was a girl child born in a poor country in Africa, my birth would create more problems for my family. My mother’s health would be compromised by the pregnancy and delivery. Already undernourished, she would have to nurse me as long as possible. Soon I would be one more mouth to feed in a family without enough.
If I lived to become a girl, I might go to school for a few years. But my family would not be able to pay for the school fees or uniform. I might have to walk for miles to get to my school. I would be hungry all day, making it hard to learn. I would be told that girls do not really need school.
If I became an adolescent girl living in poverty, my life would change. I would be expected to take care of my younger brothers and sisters, even if it meant not going to school. I would now cook and clean for the family. I would notice that men became interested in my body. Sometimes I would hear about my friends being sent to live with an “uncle” who would take care of them so they would no longer be a
burden to their family. Some of my friends would become afraid of their own fathers.
If I became a teenager living in poverty, school would become a luxury. My family couldn’t pay the school fees and the closest secondary school would be miles from my house. If I wanted to go to school I could find an older man to pay my fees if I would sleep with him and keep his house. I would be told that if a man gets drunk and rapes me, it was likely my fault. If I were a teenage girl living in poverty, chances
are, I would get pregnant and one third of my friends would be infected with HIV.
If I were a woman living in poverty and a man asked to marry me, my family would have to pay a dowry they couldn’t afford. Before my marriage, I would go through an initiation with my friends and future mother-in-law, in which I would be degraded, reminded that I had no rights, and told that if my husband becomes unhappy it is my fault. My family would remind me that I could no longer come to them for help and nothing my husband does to me is his fault. Even if I made it to my marriage as a virgin, I would most likely become HIV-infected by my husband.
If I were a woman living in poverty in Africa, I would want more for my daughters.