In a culture that privileges men, everyone relies on the Somali woman because she is loyal and responsible but there are very few she can rely on - many around her have never developed their sense of responsibility because she is given all the responsibilities.
The Somali woman is dying. Slowly poisoned by 'shame' put up on her from the day she is born. Her heart is bleeding from the tight lid she keeps on her pain because she was told 'complaining' about the abuse she is subjected to is 'shameful'.
She is raised to work for her brothers to a point they become handicapped able bodies unable to take care of themselves on their own or fulfill their responsibilities towards themselves or others around them. When it comes to education, priority is given to little boys while little girls wake up at sunrise to make breakfast for her brothers and helps them get ready for school before going to the market to sell bits and pieces to bring some money for the family.
The Somali woman is dying, betrayed by those who are supposed to love her and protect her because they are more concerned about the reputation of the family and clan than her happiness. She is being killed by the threats such as 'what will people say?' threats thrown at her. Yet, she is the one holding the entire community up. When people see a house that is beautifully looked after, they say that family must have a daughter ‘oo u maqan’ because only the daughters are sending money from the diaspora to sustain their families back home.
But, despite being so useful, she is being suffocated under the tremendous force of patriarchy that subjugate her to serve men - from her father to her husband and then her son. And she is brainwashed into thinking that is normal; her duty and something to be proud of and to teach her daughter too. She is led to believe that there is no other purpose more important than that one. No one tells her that she is an individual that is entitled to have dreams and aspirations that are exclusive to her. And if she rebels against these rules, she is labelled ‘Westernised', ‘anti-Somali’, ‘anti-Islam’. That is all that you need to do to discredit a Somali woman.
The Somali woman is dying inside as she struggles to defend her case to other women, including her own mother, the gatekeepers of patriarchy. They tell her unless the man is beating her or unless he is an alcoholic, there is nothing for her to complain about. She is expected and told to put up with men who are irresponsible and abusive because patience will take her to haven. She is wounded by the emotional blackmail at every corner she tries to turn. The idea that there is nothing more shameful than a divorced woman has been ingrained in her mind. While men can divorce a good woman just because she is unable to produce male children.
The Somali woman is dying of emotional and physical abuse after she has been shot in the mind with a bullet called, 'women who turn away their husbands at night, are cursed by God'. No one tells her that her body belongs to her and no one has the right to violate it.
The Somali woman is dying because she can rarely put herself and her passion first. No, she comes last after her parents, her siblings especially brothers, her larger family, her husband, his family and her children especially her sons.
She is taught that self-sacrifice will warrant her the duco (blessings) of God, of her parents and entourage and that is what being a woman is all about - support and help everyone else to reach their full potential and focusing on her and her passions is selfish. Everyone relies on her because she is loyal and responsible but there are very few she can rely on - many around her have never developed their sense of responsibility because she was given ALL the responsibilities. She is no victim but she is being victimised by a culture that privileges men.
The Somali woman is dying but we can all continue to pretend that everything is fine. After all, we became expert in how to cover up things so we protect our perfect image and reputation.
* Saynab Mahamud is a Somali community activist and campaigner who has lived in the UK for 17 years before moving to Canada. Saynab is very passionate about challenging institutional racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, sexism and gender based violence and discrimination. She has worked with several African organisations based in the UK to promote African unity and self determination." Her twitter address is @zaynabu.
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