THE GIRL CHILD – By Victor Ilo

“If you don’t want a daughter, then I’ll give you a son”. This was the only line that stuck to Mercy’s lips as she listened to Emeli Sande’s “Shakes”. The song had finished but she kept muttering the line. It wasn’t her favourite even though it was on repeat. It had played for the umpteenth time. A normal person would have been irritated, not Mercy. She was already losing connection with reality. Her life has been a mess since she got married to Emeka.

She was warned. Especially by her elder sister, Ada. Ada never supported the idea. She categorically said, “Mercy, I’ll rather not. I’ll rather not go into this marriage. You know what you’re going into, don’t you?” But Mercy wouldn’t listen. She loved Papa. She would never let him down. Papa had insisted that she marry Emeka. “His family have the highest number of estates in the village”. “His wealth is good for the family”. “The family will be set up for life”. “We will use the money from your marriage to send the boys to school.”

Ada had the most education in the family but had to see herself through college. Papa never supported her. “Girls don’t need school”, he would say. “We still have your brothers’ fees to pay”, Mama would add. Brothers that never appreciated the opportunity they had. Not that they weren’t good at what they did. It just didn’t please Papa. Chidi wanted to be a footballer, and Chuma, a musician. Chidi had used his school fees to buy sports paraphernalia countless times. Chuma did likewise. He used his to pay for studio sessions. They missed school with the slightest opportunity. Same as the other boys. Still, Papa did not let them pursue their dreams. They were doomed to fail in education, but Papa didn’t budge.

Mercy looked up to her elder sister because she had the brains. Teachers even joked that Ada deprived her siblings of the brains they should have had. She used to be the hero in the family, especially to the girls. Her fame reduced by the day as she got nearer to 30, still single. Nobody listened to her again. Papa would say to Ada, “If a fool at 40 is a fool forever, a single at 40 will be a single forever”. And Mama would laugh. Even though she brought the bulk of the money into the house, to them she had failed as a woman. Even though she had almost all the degree she could have, she had failed to secure a man. She had failed in the utmost duties of a woman. Getting a husband was the utmost battle of the woman in this part of the world. And this battle had to be won, at most, before one is 25. She was years late already. It was rumoured that all her suitors fled because she “knew it all”. She wouldn’t let the man be superior because of her education.

Storried The Girl Child 1

That Ada had not married at the “right” age sent the “girl dream” in the family crashing. Papa had regained his patriarchal self. “Women were not made for education. They were made for husbands, family, and chores.” Papa became more vocal when Emeka registered his interest in Mercy with him. Papa’s pocket never remained the same whenever Emeka visited, and he seemed to visit more frequent those days. Papa had told Mercy that this was her opportunity, and could be her last. She was advised to not let her fate be like that of her elder sister. “You’re almost 20. You’re overripe already.” Papa had said. She asked about her education. She was in her sophomore year, studying Biological Science. “Forget education! Where has it taken your sister too? Look at her, still without a husband at this age. Tufiakwa!” Papa replied. “Waste of investment.” He spat, Mama too. That was it. Mercy was going to marry him, even though she would be meeting him for the first time. She agreed to Papa’s decision. She always gave in to Papa’s wish. She didn’t realise she was literally being sold. She was just 19!

It’s not that Mercy was barren. She had given birth to 3 children and was pregnant with the 4th, in 5yrs. The problem was that they were all girls. This caused a heavy rift at her home. Her husband and his family were demanding a boy. She had once tried to explain to him that she had no hand in deciding the baby to be born. And that the blame is supposed to be on him since he produces the male chromosome. She received the beating that Papa and Mama had never given her, ever since she was born. When she reported to them, Papa said, “He’s your husband. He’s not owing any bride price. The best you can do is be there for him. Serve him well”. Mama muttered a pathetic “sorry”.


As I watch my sister cry on her bed listening to the same song over and over, I think of my own life. I am the last daughter. I am 20 already and in my penultimate year studying Arts. I have rejected the three suitors Papa has brought for me. I’m confused, totally. I don’t want to be single when I’m over 30 like Ada. In the same vain, I don’t want to wish to end my life like Mercy in a home like a prison. I envy Ada’s career. I want to be a career woman, but she admits to me that she feels very lonely most times. I envy that Mercy has a husband, but I don’t want this kind of husband. She confesses that she regrets her decision. I don’t want to marry and feel like a slave too. I wish to have a bit of both. A career woman with a loving husband. But I guess wishes have to be horses for me to ride. As these thoughts run through my head, I ponder on which is my best option. I lay my pen, still in the abyss of confusion.

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By Victor Ilo

“If you don’t want a daughter, then I’ll give you a son”. This was the only line that stuck to Mercy’s lips as she listened to Emeli Sande’s “Shakes”. The song had finished but she kept muttering the line. It wasn’t her favourite even though it was on repeat. It had played for


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