‘Praise the  Lord!’

‘Its a girl o!’

Chei! Thank God for safe delivery!’

‘Ah! She don born’

These and many more exclamations could be heard from a distance. It was typical of people in our neighbourhood to celebrate at the top of their voices thereby using the opportunity to inform those who had not yet heard the good news.

Indeed it was a thing of joy to welcome another baby to the neighbourhood. Although babies were generally considered huge financial responsibilities in the tipper neighbourhood, each baby had its one week of special attention before everyone went back to their routines.  Even the baby’s siblings enjoyed unusual attention As the women greeted them with broad smiles and lots of congratulations.

The feeling was different for Oga Sammy as he was popularly called.

‘Another girl?’ he thought to himself,

‘What on earth will I do with all these girls?’… one question after another raced through his mind.

‘Papa! Papa!’ he heard someone calling him as though from a distance.

‘Ehen? What is it Adanne?’ he snapped at his oldest daughter.

‘Ermm, Aunty nurse said you should give me the olive oil and spirit’ Adanne replied her excitement dwindling. The mid wife was still in the room cleaning the new born baby. Adanne was worried about her father. He had been very moody all day.

At first she thought he was worried about her Mother’s prolonged labour But now the baby was born and he still looked sad. Somehow without being told she suspected it was because Mama gave birth to a girl … but was that enough reason for papa to be looking like someone died? Everyone knew Mama should not have gotten pregnant again. Last month Adanne had overhead the pastor’s wife fondly called Iya mission telling her mother that this kind of mistake must never happen again before they started talking about contraceptives in hushed tones.

‘Mistake? Is that what we are?’ she thought to herself. Well, maybe they were not referring to her and her immediate younger sister but that sounded a lot like Nkemdi and Baby, her two younger sisters. The name  Baby brought back fond memories of the last baby in the house before today. It was funny how some pet names stuck for life. Anyway, here they were 6 years down the line and another ‘mistake’ had been added to the family again. Would papa had felt this way if it was a boy? Definitely not! While Iya mission was discouraging Mama from having more children, Papa was encouraging her to have more so that she will bear a son. As if had more economic benefit than a girl.

The cry of the baby interrupted her thoughts and she felt the excitement returning. Very soon she would be allowed to see and carry her youngest sister. It was an experience she looked forward to because babies gave her so much joy despite how demanding they could be. She had been involved in raising two of her younger ones and secretly vowed not to give birth to no more than two children no matter the gender.

What was the big deal in having a boy that Papa would want more children despite our present financial state? She recalled their former neighbour Mama Ifeanyi who had 6 girls and when she finally had a boy, everyone heaved a sigh of relief. It was however very surprising when she became pregnant the next year with the expectation that she would have another boy just in case ‘something’ happened to the first one. Adanne wished someone could come and educate her father and his friends on gender equality and make them understand that all children whether male or female are blessing from God.

Last Christmas when Aunty Felicia came home from Lagos in her new car, all the neighbours welcomed her like a celebrity. Her father threw a party,  grinned from ear to ear and almost burst with pride as people congratulated him for raising such a successful daughter.  It was rumoured that so many years ago, Aunty Felicia’s  father had sent her mother packing from the house because she had 3 children through cesarean section and was advised by the doctor not to have another child.

Secretly Adanne saw Aunty Felicia as her role model. She admired her and respected the way she stood up to the boys and defended her siblings. she was also very intelligent, always coming home with prizes from school and made a first class at the university. Adanne looked forward to a time when she too would finish secondary school, graduate from the university and work in one of those big companies in Victoria Island. Then she would come home in a big car like Aunty Felicia and prove to her father that a girl child is as valuable as any male child he could ever wish for.


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By Liz Ajala

‘Praise the  Lord!’

‘Its a girl o!’


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