Chioma, 27, the unmenstruating girl - CVIEW NEWS

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Chioma, 27, the unmenstruating girl

By Yetunde Arebi
In the course of my writing on human experiences, not just about love and relationships but also all spheres of human life, I come in contact with all manner of people that cut across age, class and sex. We share stories, experiences, problems, challenges, some good, some with happy endings, some filled with hope, motivation and inspiration, and some full of pain, despair and hopelessness.
girl relaxing on the beachI feel happy and accomplished when I am able to contribute my little knowledge, contact and sometimes widow’s might to help sort out issues and bring succour to the aggrieved, just as I rejoice in their success stories too.
Because most of these stories are told in first person narratives, I get to meet many people physically. Many others are however told by those close to the subjects. Often times, I also receive stories by mail which means I may never get to meet the characters.
However, once a while, one does come across stories or persons that will touch the core of one’s heart and soul and leave one with many unanswered questions. I came across one of such stories about four years ago when I received an SMS on my cell phone. The numbers are usually published on the adolescence and youth page, my contribution in the monthly Vanguard Kiddies Magazine.
I am usually very impatient and quick to discard vague messages. But there was something in the text which called to something deep inside me. Something told me it was a cry for help and that it was a serious problem. The text was simple, the English was not so good but it was clear.
The writer requested to speak with me on a personal problem but gave me a specific time frame to respond to the request as the phone through which the text was sent was not her own and the owner would be leaving later that Sunday evening. So, I quickly responded and told her I was available for whatever she wanted to discuss.
Then she told me she could not talk to me on that same phone but will call me sometime later in the week when we would be able to discuss. I was very disappointed. I knew I had hit a very good story and somehow, it was slipping through my fingers even before I knew what it was. What if she changed her mind and decided not to share this great story anymore. But I had no choice but to wait.
I kept my phone beside me always and even took it to bed with me   so I would not miss any opportunity to talk to this young lady who I assumed was a teenager at the time. When it eventually came one afternoon, I wasted no time in offering to pay for the call. So, I called the number back. Her story left me with mixed feelings but more with anger with everyone connected with the gross negligence and selfishness.
According to the girl who gave her name as Chioma, she was 27 and had never had a menstruation in her life. She came across my article on girl puberty and menstruation and wanted to know if something was wrong with her. I was lost for a few seconds because she did not come across as a 27 year old lady. She sounded like a child with a small, frightened voice and not so good English.
No, she could not be 27. A 27 year old girl anywhere ought to be smarter than this. But after hearing the whole story, I concluded that almost anything in life is possible depending on the circumstance. Chioma told me that she lives in an Estate in Lekki and had recently started learning fashion designing after she finished secondary school.
She had been sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle several years ago after they got married by her father. This was after the demise of her mother whom she now only remembers vaguely as she was very young at the time. The aunt is her father’s relative. So, all the couple’s four children were born into her hands, nursed and cared for by her while she waited hand and foot on them.
In return, she was sent to public schools grudgingly while their own children attended the best schools and two were already in the university at the time. She said she became worried when the first girl of the couple began menstruation about three years prior to our contact, while she was yet to even experience a manache (first menstrual flow).
She said despite calling her aunt’s attention to the situation severally, she was only told that it would eventually come and that it does happen to some people. Really?  My first response was to ask if she was sure she is a girl. Does she have boobs and other female organs? She confirmed. Has she had sex before? She said yes.
Has she been pregnant before? She said no. Did she use protection? She also said no that the guy told her he was using something that would not make her pregnant (oh my God!) I told her I was sure that she had a medical condition and would need to seek serious medical attention as it was not normal for a female of her age not to menstruate.
She said she did not have access to a hospital. (What, for someone living in Lekki?) She told me it’s the couple and their children who visit the doctors when they fall ill. Her aunt only gives her medications at home when she falls sick as they said it’s a company hospital meant only for them and their children.
At this point, the picture began falling into place. It was clear that though living with a relative, Chioma was no better than a slave living on charity. She was worse than a housemaid as the later would at least, be entitled to some financial payment at the end of the month.
The couple simply just struck gold by deception as they have merely been able to hoodwink Chioma and her father that they were doing them a favour by keeping her in Lagos and helping to train her. I felt torn inside. I really wanted to help. So, I told her that she could go to a government hospital and that I could help her arrange it.
This was where I hit a brick wall. Chioma told me this would be impossible as she was not allowed to go out. She was only allowed to go to her mistress’ shop which is on the same street where she lives and return home. Her mistress is her aunt’s friend and would report any strange movement by her.
Well, I could come and talk to her aunt and we’ll take it from there, I suggested. At this point, Chioma informed me that this was impossible as she would be killed (literally, of course) by her aunt. She said the aunt would accuse her of exposing her to the world and plans to ruin her home.
So what to do? I told her to think about it and get in touch with me since it was clear we would not achieve much that day. That was the last time I spoke with Chioma. But despite our brief contact and the years between, I have never forgotten her. I keep hoping that she would call again one day to give me the good news that all is now well with her.
However, I see Chioma in my subconscious every time I come across a shabbily dressed young girl backing, carrying or holding a well kept child while an equally well groomed madam walks behind. I see Chioma in every teenager walking the streets during official school hours.
I see Chioma is every little girl turned maid or slave for the benefit of a handful of individuals under the guise that they are helping to care for them.
My grouse when I see cases like this is not really with the parents of these children but with their adopting parents or rather, supposed carers. There is very little a parent can do once they discover they cannot provide adequately for their child. Once a child is born, it automatically has a right to grow and be integrated into society.
Parents cannot on their own kill their children because they are financially handicapped, what is done is done. But why would anyone lie and make promises to helpless parents and vulnerable and impressionable children of a better life in the city only to turn around to take advantage of their circumstance to abuse and enslave them?
If Chioma’s aunt was insensitive, was her husband also blind to happenings in his own household too? If the madams are wicked, what are the ogas doing to correct them? I recall a lady who came under serious scrutiny and criticism in my former neighbourhood in Iju area of Lagos State over the ill treatment of her husband’s nephew who lived with them.
Story had it that the boy was never allowed to sit on their chairs and had to sit on the floor whenever he was permitted to watch TV with the family. He was not allowed to sit at the dining table to eat but in the kitchen and to cap it all, he ate from different pot of stew.
The uncle’s wife would tell anyone who cared to listen that the boy was destructive as anything he touched got spoiled and she could not allow him destroy her home. But this same destructive boy was an expert in washing the family clothes, doing all the house chores, waiting hand and foot on their little children and their mother (his uncle worked on the rigs with an oil company) as well as run errands until late every night.
She never stopped to think of what might become of the boy in future, after all, God remains the ultimate deciding factor of all men. Two years after moving into their newly built personal home, this lady died from complications after   heart attack, leaving her young children in the hands of the “destructive” slave relative.
There is no doubt that we are all created differently by God. Not everyone is blessed with a heart large enough to accommodate or tolerate the excesses of others who are not their biological children or direct blood line. Not all of us are blessed with the milk of human sympathy flowing in our veins. But we are all students of history.
We have all heard stories of slave children who grew up to become successful citizens and even courted kings and queens. Stories of grass to grace abound all across the world just as there are, the other way around too. No one prays for misfortune for anyone, but it is important that the rich and successful do not play God over other less fortunate creatures of God.
If you cannot treat your ward with the love and care you desire for your own children, at least, you must show some level of decency and human decorum. Otherwise, let these poor children be. I still look forward to hearing from Chioma some day. This time, hopefully with a happy story to share with me

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