By Habiba Wakio
On a rainy night, Mrs Huzuni, a dark petite weary woman in a ragged dress and a new khanga delivered her third child. This night was also important because her eldest daughter was going to meet the same fate as hers. As it was custom for a girl of her age, Shida had to go through the “cut” to be considered clean, preserve her virginity, be eligible for marriage, enhance her fertility and sexuality.
A celebration would be thrown afterwards in her honour and the community would welcome her with songs and gifts. Girls who did not embrace this culture suffered rejection from the society. Mrs Huzuni was worried because one of her nieces had passed on due to blood loss after undergoing the same ritual while her cousin who was suffering from obstetric fistula was having depression. She wished for her daughter to have a normal married life enjoying conjugal rights, not experience immense pain every time she had the conjugal act and a normal delivery, not the caesarean section the doctor had advised since her opening was small.
Wishes are not horses, she thought as she turned her teary eyes to her little daughter’s innocent ones, silently wishing for a twist of fate.
When Shida’s father arrived, rain was drizzling away against the window. A strange fear enveloped Shida, forcing her to tighten her grip on her brother’s arm as she quacked with sobs. After hearing about her cousin’s demise and reading somewhere that this practice could cause urinary tract infection and HIV, her fear had heightened. Amani held her with tenderness, his hands stroking her back. When their father pulled her away, Amani took in her sister’s gloomy expression and pleading eyes as he dropped to the ground. Shida cried out his name and his chest tightened.
The darkness outside mirrored Shida’s mind and she wished for the earth to swallow her as they reached their destination. She saw a silhouette behind a mango tree and hope rose inside her. Her brother had come as planned. He was going to help her escape and take her to the woman who was saving young girls that found themselves in a situation like hers. Her father groaned upon feeling a surging pain on his head caused by a stone and he reluctantly released Shida’s hand as he fell to the ground, the world spinning around him.