I stared at the glass of wine in front of me thinking of how to meet “Mr Right”. I was running through a list of potential husbands in my head. Maybe I could say yes to Fii the guy Emy introduced me to at the cinema. It was my first time having an intense conversation with a man I barely knew. He is fine, he is a gentleman and he is well to do so I would not be the news on everyone’s lips about him coming into my life just for my money.
Almost everyone had danced with the bride-to-be. I sat alone at the special table Oduma had set up for her bridal team. I was still faking smiles so I would not be the centre of attention. It took me a moment to get myself back from my scattered thoughts before dancing with Oduma. I felt like this was me enjoying my bachelorette party. I’m 32 years without a trace of a man in my life. It was as though I wasn’t lucky when it comes to finding true love or perhaps it was simply that I didn’t know how to treat a man. My last boyfriend, Ike, woke up one day and said it was over without any tangible reason.
In a moment, I was away with my thoughts again thinking of how far we had come as friends. Oduma is the third among us to get hitched up. Emy, Timaa, Oduma, Vera and I have been friends for the past years. We met at the university and have since maintained our friendship and we are more like sisters now. I was imagining Oduma’s wedding. She is the extravagant type but gets everything she wants genuinely. She is not the type of girl who would sleep with men for money, cars, and houses or for promotion. Her fair complexion, her rounded cat eyes, cute mouth with her curved body made men bid over her. But her theory was simple, “I use my brain to get what I want.” Unlike Teni, who uses her body to get what she wants. I wonder if Teni ever felt remorseful for her actions. She was always embarrassed by one married woman to another at the University. To her, everything about life is having it all through every possible means and would do everything for her comfort. I wasn’t surprised when I heard she got married to a polygamist. She didn’t invite any of us to her wedding. Perhaps it was because she was the 4th wife. The last time I met with her at the mall, I was shopping for Oduma’s Bachelorette party with Emy. For the first time, she spoke with us in a broken voice. “I don’t have the strength to endure my marriage anymore. I want a divorce.” I turned to look at Emy as though I could find the reason written on her face.
“What’s happening to you Teni?” Emy asked staring at the frustrated Teni. She looked a bit messy. She had notably lost weight and I didn’t notice her as she approached until she mentioned my name. Her voice was still silky but she had lost her curves to the troubles of her marriage. She was the curviest of us.
She was silent for a minute as she mumbled. Then she began to speak immediately as if she had been waiting to be asked.
“My husband sexually assaults me; he rapes and physically abuses me the night I refuse to sleep with him. I only get to be with him when it’s my turn to satisfy him sexually.” Aside from that, “he lacks regard for me.” She added.
I wondered why a beautiful young woman like her will endure all this pain because of money. No man should force his wife for sex-Period. Teni is really young, twenty-five or so. When you see her outside driving in her lavish car with her extravagant living, you would assume all is well with her. How a master’s degree holder would allow sexual assault and domestic violence without speaking up still surprises me.
In my mind was a ridiculous picture of Vera. The last time we went on our usual ladies’ trip, she learned her husband had a girlfriend. ” Your husband just entered the hotel with her” I heard a friend telling her over the phone. “Thanks for telling me,” she said. We had to leave Aqua Safari the next day. We never saw her again in a long while after that incidence. We could not reach her by phone either. We were told by her gateman she had travelled when we went looking for her. I knew something was wrong because the Vee I know wouldn’t travel without telling us. Then one night, out of nowhere, she banged on my door. It was past 10 pm. I couldn’t recognise her. She couldn’t utter a word that night. All she did was to cry. I thought something bad had happened to her husband or son. I walked into the kitchen and poured her a glass of water, she left it on the table. “My husband beats me all day.” That is all she could say when she finally spoke. She managed to sip the glass of water I offered her earlier. She said nothing further but kept crying.
The other day she passed out for almost a week, her husband almost killed her. I never taught Vera would go through something like that. She was beautifully married with a son. Vera has a smooth chocolate skin with a very pretty face. Her face was always the prettiest.
It all started when she was pregnant with JJ. Her husband complained about almost everything about her. He said she had become fat, spits everywhere and had become unkempt. It was the early days of her pregnancy. And to make matters worse, her husband had stopped her from keeping in touch with us. She was virtually under house arrest. As first I thought she had gone to Canada to have her baby because she was married into the league of rich Ghanaian men who sent their wives to Canada to have their babies.
I wondered how people especially women would be enduring abuse and domestic violence and refuse to speak up when I thought about these two. Abusive relationships should not be tolerated by anyone. People must be encouraged to speak up; whether a man or a woman. I thought.
“Have you reported him to the police or DOVVSU?” I asked Teni. I knew she never expected me to ask such a question because she believed in the “I’m nothing without a man” theory and nothing we said could convince her to report the case. Unlike Vera who was courageous enough to report her case to DOVVSU.
I didn’t realise I had been staring at Oduma for a while until I noticed her smile. She looked very happy. I did not want to think Mike would treat her like how the other men treat their wives. I wanted us to talk about domestic violence so she would be empowered to speak up if it should happen but I didn’t want it to look as if I was wishing her bad luck.
Emy sighed. “Oduma tell Mike to hook me up to any of his rich friends. I need to marry a rich man like him.” She said. Maybe Emy did not understand the concept of marriage. All she cared about is a rich man who will solve all her problems. She works in a bank and she makes quite good money. But I don’t understand where her money goes to. She believes in the Ghanaian woman’s idea of money; “my money is my money and his money is our money.”
I don’t understand why a lot of women in society today believe marriage is a means to financial gain. Most young women I meet are eager to get married but are not eager for success. When women are financially independent, they will be able to contribute their quota to foster development but this mindset for marriage is preventing a lot from striving for ultimate success.
“Marrying a rich man is good but I would advise you to first have a source of income. Having your own money is better than sharing someone’s money with them.” Vera said, probable reminiscing her experience. In her mind, she was probably taking thought of how Emy’s supposed rich husband will determine when and how she uses his money if she does not become financially independent before marriage.
“Emy, you are too beautiful to be disrespected by a man, you need to have a stable source of income. The day he is unable to provide, you could afford to provide.” I added.
I knew I was in trouble for saying that. I wanted to get up and probably assist the other girls to serve so I could avoid Emy’s reply.
“What happened to you? You are successful without a man that is why you can say that.” For once I felt Emy finally got the chance to say what she had always wanted to tell me. I knew I was supposed to have been married by now; with my second child at least like my mom always says. Emy was the last person I wanted to hear this from. I poured my third glass of wine and starred at Emy for awhile. The last time her friend Fii wanted to approach me, he felt insecure because of my successes. To her, a woman should not strive for ultimate success because men would be afraid to approach.
I was still wondering why society refuses to celebrate the success of a woman just because she is not married. I always tell my mom my time is not up for marriage. Besides, I won’t allow them to pressure me into marriage. I have always believed I’m good enough without a husband or child although my mom does not even appreciate what I have fought to become. I will someday marry when the time is right.
“I think you should be proud of me.” I turned to face Emy. All my life I have fought against all odds to change the narrative of women in business and finance. “I’m raising the next generation of female Dangotes, Bill Gates, Alibabas, Kwame Despites and the likes.” I said sipping my wine. Emy laughed almost hitting her head on the table filled with Bloomberg and more.
“Can you say this to your mom? If I were you, I would run to Mike’s bachelor’s party to look for a husband”. I felt insulted. For the past week, I had begun to stand in front of the mirror to examine myself to see if there was anything on my body that was pushing men away. I was not bad I thought. My curves still looked good, I looked even younger for my age and the beauty was not lacking.
“You know Auntie Boatemaa will not allow you have your peace of mind until the day you finally get married.” Emy added. They all burst into laughter. I gave a silly giggle just to feel relaxed but I wasn’t happy with her comment about my marriage. She even wanted Oduma to hook me up to Mike’s best man, Ken. Ken owned one of the famous real estate companies in Ghana and he is good looking. Well, it won’t be a bad idea though. Maybe if I had the guts, I would have approached him myself.
The party was over. It was around 11 pm.I had to drop Emy and Vera off before heading home. I thought about Timaa and why she didn’t come to the party. She knew it was Oduma’s Bachelorette party. Vera tried calling her but she didn’t pick up. “Yes, I have not seen her in a while. And she has not been picking up my calls.” I said when Oduma called to ask of her. I was wondering where she could have been and whether she was safe. Her fiancé Laud was the next person to come in mind but I didn’t have access to him either.
I went straight to the shower to freshen up. It was 1 pm or so. I was worried about Teni too – I couldn’t tell what she was going through at the moment. I mean why should Teni continue to endure the pain all in the name of good living? What is good living when one has to suffer abuse? Months have passed without us been able to convince her to report the issue to DOVSU. I felt guilty and sad at the same time. What a pity.
For the first time, I had to resort to sleeping pills. It was 2 am in the morning. I was still not able to get over all these thoughts and decided to go through a wedding gown magazine I found on my table. Oduma might have left it the day before. She spent the night at my place. We had to pick up Mike at the airport on a business trip. I could not sleep. My mind was filled with thoughts of looking for “Mr Right” and making my mother happy. The last few days have been difficult for me. Years have passed after my last relationship and I have still not been able to start a new one.
My phone rang and I knew it was my Mom. Nobody calls this early. It was past 3:30 in the morning and I had slept for barely an hour. “Hello, Mom.” She sounded her usual self. “I see everything is alright with you for you to be sleeping by now? Instead of you to be making babies, all you do is to sleep . Give me a grandchild” She said and started weeping. She didn’t allow me to say a word. I was angry. I struggled to find sleep and my mom just woke me up with all this bickering. She talked as if I could walk to the supermarket and buy one. I wanted to hang up but it meant me being called before the Sanhedrin for questioning. “Mom you woke me up to request for a grandson?” I asked angrily with a harsh tone. I faked a wide yawn and hoped mummy would stop talking.
“Stop yawning on me!”She shouted. “You would have woken up by now if you were married with children. I think I need to be waking you up early so you get used to it.” She paused. “Eno are you are still living in that big house alone?” What again are you looking for in life?” A woman’s crown is her husband. You can have everything as a woman but your womanhood is incomplete without a husband.” She paused then I heard her weeping again. Her tone made me say sorry although I didn’t know what I was apologizing for. The last time Mom and Auntie Akosua visited me at my 3-bedroom apartment at Botwe, they freaked out because they didn’t understand why a 32year old woman would live alone in a 3bedroom apartment without at least a husband. “Mom, please stop crying. I have told you, I will marry when the time is right. You always question me about marriage. When was the last time you questioned Ekow about marriage? He is a man with no wife or child. What do you tell him? You tell him absolutely nothing.” I knew I had triggered her anger.
Ekow owns “F&F”; one of the biggest gyms in Accra. He travels all the time and that’s probably the reason he doesn’t want to be committed to any woman. I often picked him up from the airport anytime he travels. My friend Odumaa almost started a relationship with him because is very good looking but it didn’t work out because Ekow was often busy with work.
“Shut up! Ekow is a man and he can wait till whatever age he wants. Look at her. You want to compare yourself to a man. I even heard now menopause begins at 40. Eno, you are 32years and that means you have common 8years to go. Eno, you have just 8years more.” Mummy feels because she gave birth to Ekow at 20, I must also give birth at an early age. She used to tell me this every day when I was 22.
“Mom I will marry when the time is up,” I said.
“I need you to come to the village today,” she said.
I hope she is not arranging a marriage for me like how some Ghanaian mothers do for their daughters in their prime. I thought. I know my Mom in her desperation is capable of that. She once helped Auntie Afumwaa arrange a marriage for her daughter in America. The lady had to marry the man because her mother threatened to disown her if she refused the arranged marriage.
“What time are you waiting to get married? Is it when you are 40 or when I’m 100 and can’t carry nor see your children? For once I felt sad. I knew mommy was worried. She was waiting for the day I would call so she could ask about my children and husband and probably talk to them and smile through the phone. Or the day her grandchildren will visit her in the village for holidays like how Auntie Afumwaa’s grandchildren visit her from America. Well I wish for that too but not to be married under pressure. Mummy hanged up. I knew she was upset. She thinks my life revolves around my work the reason I’m still unmarried. I’m worried about her but she should at least appreciate my hard work. I’m suffering too. Sometimes, I feel I don’t have the strength to continue. God has given me everything I ever prayed for. I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur and He made me one. But I never said I don’t want a husband. I can’t handle this pressure anymore. I broke down and wept.
I awoke again around 10:30 am or so. I did not even know the time I drifted into sleep again. I’ve had a rough night, felt severe pains all over my body. I needed to take a warm shower and then go to the spa. I do that every Saturday. I tried calling Timaa. Her phone was off. I rushed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I was sad. Maybe I would have been proudly excited if I was preparing breakfast for my husband and kids. I’m not the “get a house help type”. I’m just imagining how stressful my life would be.
I heard a knock on my door. At first, I thought it was my Mom. “Hold on I’m coming”. I said.
“I have had a difficult time”. That is all she said when I opened the door. She looked skinny. “Why did you cut your hair?” I shouted. The Timaa I knew would never cut her hair for anything in this world. She looked depressed. “What happened to you Timaa?” I asked. “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to pick up your calls”. I saw tears rolling down her cheeks. She has bruises on her face and body. She was wearing sunglasses. I wanted to take it off because I knew she was hiding something. The Timaa I know hates sunglasses.
“I’m wearing the glasses to cover my bruises.” She was still crying.
“Did you fall?” I asked.
“No! I’m suffering in my marriage. He used to hit me when we were dating. I thought marriage would change him.” I was disappointed in her but I didn’t want to cause her more pain by commenting. How can you tickle yourself and laugh. I thought.
“He would hit me and the next day he would come begging me like a child. I thought he would change because he was always feeling remorseful. The other time he slapped me because I broke a glass. I told my pastor I wanted a divorce but he said divorce is not for a Christian.”
“Your pastor is waiting for your mortal remains to be laid before him so he could come and say you died believing in the Lord right?” I was upset. Christianity is not ignorance. I wasn’t expecting Timaa to accept that conspiracy theory.
This is what happened. Timaa had quit her job three months after marriage. His husband Edward told her he would pay her to double her salary plus monthly allowances for her upkeep. At first, she told me she was quitting her job because her husband wanted to make her a branch manageress in one of his microfinance companies. She knew I wouldn’t accept his husband’s decision so she had to come up with a lie. Timaa was not allowed to move out of the house. The driver takes the children to school and picks them up. She got to know her husband was having an affair when she caught her husband having sex in the guest room with a lady he introduced as a cousin and when Timaa talked about it, she was beaten mercilessly.
I rushed to change my clothes. “Let’s go”
“Where to” She asked.
“We are going to DOVVSU. We need to report the case”.
I was wondering the number of people who are enduring abuse and are going through domestic violence without speaking up.
Timaa reported Edward with my assistance, and she divorced him. He gave Timaa and their son what was due them. Teni, unfortunately, died from abuse in her husband’s home: her husband hit her head against the wall. We were able to speak to Odumaa on domestic violence so it wouldn’t happen to her. Emy changed her mindset on financial independence. As for me, I’m still busy about my own business waiting for “Mr Right” I do hope he shows up soon.
Domestic Violence Statistics
Report on UNwomen.com estimated that 35 per cent of women in the world today have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at a point in their lives. Some national studies also show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared to women who have not
in a survey done across 27 universities in the United States in 2015 shows that 23 per cent of female undergraduate university students reported they have experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct rates of reporting to campus officials, law enforcement or others ranged from five to 28 per cent, depending on the specific type of behaviour .
The issue is not different in Ghana where I come from, according to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) conducted in Ghana in 2008, 38.7 per cent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 years reported they have experienced physical, psychological or sexual violence by a husband or partner at some point in their lives. Over a quarter (27.6 per cent) of Ghanaian males reported having experienced physical or psychological violence by their wife or partner (GSS et al., 2009).
The main results show that 27.7 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men in Ghana have experienced at least one type of domestic violence in the 12 months prior to the survey. The most common form of domestic violence reported by women in the 12 months prior to the survey was economic violence (12.8 per cent), followed by social violence (11.6 per cent), psychological violence (9.3 per cent), physical violence (6.0 per cent) and sexual violence (2.5 per cent).
According to the findings, domestic violence cases were generally lower among men than among women. The most common form of domestic violence experienced by men was psychological violence (7.9 per cent), followed by social violence (7.7 per cent), economic violence (7.3per cent), physical violence (2.1 per cent) and sexual violence (1.4 per cent).
Source: DV, Ghana Report
My name is Afrakuma, I encourage you to speak up today!!
I stand with you
The writer is Ethel Nanayaa Amoako Baffoe a Gender Advocate
Email: [email protected]