By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
â€˜NELLY, sleepy sleepy, wake up.â€ said Comfort pleasantly, as she entered the office she sharesÂ with the former, and found her head down on the table, in front of her computer. â€œDidnâ€™t you sleep last night? Na wao. Sleeping at eight in the morning.â€ â€œGood morning.
Iâ€™m not sleeping. Just relaxing my head before work starts,â€ said Nelly, straightening up and adjusting her keyboard. â€œHow was your weekend? And how are Dave and the kids?â€ â€œEveryone is fine. Thanks. Hey, whatâ€™s that above your left eye? Did you have a fall or what? It looks nasty. You better get it treated downstairs in the clinic, or, better still, why not go to the hospital?â€
â€œIâ€™m alright. Yes, I had a fall this morning as I was about to enter the bathroom.â€ â€œAnother fall? Itâ€™s getting too frequent. It could be a health problem. Sorry about that.Â I hope Clem put ice on it for you and you took some pain killers.â€
â€œEr, yes. Ice was put and I took some aspirin. Iâ€™ll be alright. Thanksâ€ â€œI think you should see a doctor. You shouldnâ€™t be falling and knocking your head so often. Why not just go home, Nelly. You canâ€™t do any meaningful work in this state.â€
â€œIâ€™ll try my best. Thanks Comfort. Maybe Iâ€™ll leave at 1.00 pm and then go pick the kids from school and stay back when I drop them at home.â€
â€œWhat does Clem say about these frequent falls?â€ Nelly kept quiet then suddenly burst into tears. Comfort rushed over to put an arm around her. â€œWhatâ€™s the matter, Nelly?â€ Nelly began to talk. By the time she was through, Comfort was fuming with anger. â€œThis is a Police case, Nelly,â€ she exploded. â€œClem canâ€™t be battering you up as he likes. He shouldnâ€™t even lay a finger on you.
He was retrenched? So what? My husband took a salary cut and I now earn more than he does. Heâ€™s not happy about his plight, but heâ€™s not beating me up. I canâ€™t believe that a highly educated and civilized man like Clem would think like that. If you donâ€™t report these frequent assaults to the Police, heâ€™d kill you one of these days.â€
Assault in marriage
Nelly nodded, but Comfort knew that she wasnâ€™t going to go to the Police, neither would she leave her batterer. She sighed sadly as she began the dayâ€™s work. She too suffers assault in her marriage, but thereâ€™s nothing to report to the Police because itâ€™s mainly verbal abuse. Yes, her husband didnâ€™t blame her for the salary cut at work, but he rains abuses on her and her parents at the least excuse, since it happened. Nothing is right in the house and home anymore.
He criticizes everything about her, calling her a â€˜spent scrawny ugly cowâ€™ whose â€˜sell-by-dateâ€™ period has expired a long time ago. He accused her of using â€˜meansâ€™ to get on at work. Some days he would refuse to answer her greetings and would go several days without speaking to her. On her part she would try to shield their kids from all these; she couldnâ€™t confide in anyone about these cruel verbal assaults which he can easily deny.
She tries to act as if her marriage was in very good shape, but she was silently weeping inwardly, her joy and self-confidence ebbing away. Returning home each day filled her with dreadÂ At times she felt that physical blows would be kinder than the verbal abuse and cruelty. She had thought of leaving, but what would happen to the kids?
They were her life. Each day, she hopes that her prayer would â€˜bring backâ€™ the nice and caring husband that she had married.
Mama Favour had been dreading the end of term report that her first son would bring home. Throughout the term she had been ensuring that he attended classes regularly and did his home work. She even got him a lesson coach, still his reports werenâ€™t improving, and this infuriates the father. Her fears were confirmed when he didnâ€™t make the first twenty in his class.
â€œI donâ€™t know where this imbecile comes from;Â certainly not from my side of the family,â€ raged her husband in the presence of all their five children. â€œHeâ€™s never made the first ten in his class and he seems to be getting worse as he gets older.
Itâ€™s your fault. He came out of you. If a child is not doing well, itâ€™s due to the sins of the mother. Sometimes, these sins are hidden and her children suffer for them. You better repent and mend your ways, you stupid woman, so that your kids can prosper. You virtually sleep in your church and yet your first born is a dullard. Shame.â€
Mama Favour knew better than to protest her husbandâ€™s accusations.Â She used to in the past, and this earned her severe beatings. This yearâ€™s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 25, has come and gone.
The right noises have been made as seminars, conferences, workshops, dramas, television and radio programmes etc., have taken place around the world to create an awareness of this terrible thing in the lives of women, with the hope that peopleâ€™s conscience would be awakened, and the problem would be eradicated.
Unfortunately, all these havenâ€™t had the desired impact as violence against women continue to get worse. Domestic violence in which the woman is so battered physically and verbally that she loses her sense of self-worth, is bad enough, but what about violence on the streets?
At the least provocation out there, even about things which no woman has caused, and which is not about her, women are descended upon at random; beaten and their bodies violated. If thereâ€™s a war, a riot, or a grievance against the authorities, women are attacked in a very bad and degrading manner. It is all a mystery.
When things get this bad, particularly in our society, then it is time for the religious bodies to wake up and do something. The average Nigerian believes in a superior being that he worships. Let us make use of this to reach all nooks and corners of the country.
There should be a national conference of religious organizations and traditional rulers on the elimination of violence against women.Â I havenâ€™t heard of any religious organization or traditional domain which condones this odious act which debases the society.
When our women, who are peopleâ€™s wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and female friends and relatives, are treated in a degrading manner, itâ€™s the whole society which is debased. If you batter or abuse, physically or verbally, your spouse, youâ€™re debasing yourself.
On a daily basis, let our religious leaders seriously preach against violence against women. NGOs working at grassroots level should add it to their agenda.
This habit of attributing any misfortune in a manâ€™s life to his wife is rooted in our superstitious beliefs, so, our
traditional rulers should re-educate those in their domain.
The entertainment world should put out stuff which elevates womanhood. Most videos and films portray women as screaming, cheating and debased creatures. Songs with lyrics that abuse and debase women are popular. You wonder if the women in the lives of those who put out such stuff are like these women they portray.
If possible, let there be jingles in most Nigerian languages, urging people to remember that they are born of women and therefore, should respect the women around them.
All children should be brought up to respect the female-folk, and the girl child, at home and at school, should be encouraged to do things which would uplift womanhood, from an early age.