By Joan Semanda.
Case in point: Beatrice Achola, age 28. Wife to Moses Olyel. Moses’ mother and father approached a traditional clan court in Oyam district, Uganda, over allegations that Beatrice was a witch-doctor. Upon hearing the accusations, the court sentenced Beatrice to 30 cane strokes in front of the village clan and her four children. On top of that, her property, including a bicycle, three goats, a duck and UGX 80,000, were taken from her.
The next day, Beatrice and her four children were admitted to a local hospital in Oyam; it was discovered that while making their dinner the night before, Beatrice decided to add insecticide to their food. Why? To end their misery.
Two of her children died on the spot and two of them were struggling for their lives when the report was made. Beatrice herself, with the little energy she had left, stated that she could not bear to live with the knowledge that all of her hard earned property was ripped away from her, or the humiliation of being flogged in public. I wonder how much abuse she suffered from Moses before this.
Beatrice lost her life that same day.
Situations like this are too typical of the African culture. “Don’t worry Penny* life goes on.” “Be strong Penny.” “Keep your head up Penny.” “The most important thing, Penny, is that you are the wife.” “Get back in there Penny, do it for your children Penny.”
This brings me to my point. Are you a battered wife? Is there tension between you and your partner? Do you sometimes suffer bouts of abuse, soon followed by the “I love you, I didn’t mean it, and I’ll make it up to you” speech? Get out while you still can. Find someone to talk to about your problem. Realise that you can support yourself and your children outside of these abusive situations, however difficult it may seem to be.
Allowing yourself to reach a mental state of blind fury, driven to kill your partner or your children and yourself to save yourselves from torture, is NOT the solution. I implore you, African women; speak up. There are too many women who suffer in silence.
It’s infuriating to see that murders and homicides get endless PR recognition but an article like this broke in the Ugandan news and soon went flat. I wonder if 16 days of activism can focus on Battered Woman Syndrome, specifically in Africa, and give this growing problem the much needed platform it deserves.
*While Penny is a part of my fiction, the statements made in association to her are not.