An awakening truth sets Agatha free
Agatha Ariwa, 24-year old student of Lagos State Polytechnic believes she now knows the truth. In a chest-thumping manner, the third year Fisheries Technology major says that the truth has set her free. “It’s just the truths that had been hidden by tradition,” she says, explaining that those hidden truths had held her in bondage for most of her life. Her family, particularly her mother was injured, and everybody carried around fresh wounds and the scars of old ones.
Recently, Agatha encountered the Safe Spaces programme organised by Voices for Change. “I learnt a lot in the training, particularly about gender relations,” she says.
Agatha also says she found self-esteem through the programme. She used to see herself as fat, envied slim girls, disliked her teeth, and was self-conscious. “However, Safe Spaces made me realize I am wonderful and perfect in my own way, that God took time to make me what I am.
I can be the best I can even with those imperfections, which I have come to realise some people actually admire,” she explains.
Agatha, grew up in a family of three girls in a community where traditions rule. Children are brought up to believe that everybody has a gender-related role: Mother is a housewife, father the bread winner and decision maker. You are childless without a male. Simple! And she believed it. Her mother went through a lot of adversity for not bearing a male child, and her father resisted pressures to take a second wife.
The wound of an insult from an uncle’s wife remained painful until recently. During a spat with her mother, the woman remarked that she should be ashamed because all she could produce were amachie, an Igbo expression implying that when her girls got married, her home would become desolate. Agatha and her sisters had been contemplating adopting a boy for her parents until she encountered Safe Spaces and came to understand her father’s stance all along: a child is a child.
“The most important thing is not the sex, but the impact a person can make. And life is not worth living if you cannot impact other people,” Agatha argues. She didn’t realise all this before Safe Spaces training, where she learnt, among others, about relationships, decision making, accepting responsibility, and identifying a wrong relationship – sometimes from the start.
Recently, she says she was able to convince a friend that a relationship in which she was battered could do her in, and she agreed to come out of it.
“My benefits from Safe Spaces cannot be over-emphasised. I cannot forget the experience. I want other people to benefit, particularly young women like me,” she says, adding, “I will always find an opportunity to talk to people. I have the urge to do it.”