“I have started saving my monthly stipend towards my daughter’s education now that I know the girl child has a right to education as well,” twenty-six year-old Nvou emphatically declares to whoever is listening. Nvou is married with 3 children; a set of twin boys and a girl of 4 years and 2 years respectively. Nvou is a shining example of a mother who has overcome domestic violence and community conflict. This is her story:
Nvou has come a long way. As a young school girl with growing ambition, her high school education was short-lived as her parents embraced the notion that it was not profitable to educate the girl child as, traditionally, they leave home after getting married. Nvou opted for marriage. She says, “getting married to my husband is the worst decision I ever made. My expectation of happiness turned to be incessant maltreatment. He over labors me with farm work, selfishly withholds proceeds from the sales of our farm produce, and neglects the children and myself to suffer hunger without any other means livelihood.” The severe hardship she experienced elicited the move into peddling tofu made from soya beans within her community to feed her children and meet their basic needs. Despite many efforts to ensure business growth, it crumbled because she lacked basic business skills.
Through her hard work and sweat, Nvou shouldered the overwhelming weight of providing for her children as well as her parents-in-law. She recounts an incident when she was physically abused. Nvou’s husband claimed that she stayed out late and the food she prepared was not tasty, even though he did not give her money to help pay for it. From a neighbor’s house, where Nvou and her children took refuge for the night, she went to her parent’s house the following day. After several weeks, she was forced to go back to her husband’s house with her children after her husband came pleading with promises to change for the better. Though these promises were not fulfilled, she says “I resolved to stay with him anyway”.
As if hardship and domestic violence were not enough, Nvou was also a victim of religious and ethnic tensions that engulfed her community. She lost her house, unharvested produce, friends and neighbors. She says “We were taken unawares on our way to the farm and before we could raise an alarm some of us were killed. We watched in horror as our farm produce were destroyed. On returning to the community, I found out that my house had been razed to the ground and corpses littered everywhere.” Nvou and her children took refuge in the bush with other survivors using leaves as camouflage and survived by hunting small animals. Starvation was so intense, many from the group died. While in hiding, Nvou vividly recalls a moment their attackers accidently stepped on one of her children and she had to hold her hand over the child’s mouth to prevent him from crying out in pain. They later left the bush and sought refuge in a police station from where they were finally rescued and cared for by the Red Cross before eventually going back to their community to start rebuilding.
“My story changed for good and my life witnessed a drastic change when I enrolled in Women for Women International’s program after I received the information from my church,” Nvou says. She has effectively utilized the skills acquired to generate income from her poultry business, which experienced a boom during Christmas festivities. Her plan is to create multiple streams of income to sustain her family after her graduation from the program. “My one desire is to send my daughter to school. I have already started savings my monthly stipend for this after knowing that the girl child has a right to education as well”. She now lives in relative peace with her husband with the awareness she now has on women’s rights. Her husband now brings food home and treats her with love and respect after attending the Men’s Engagement Program. Nvou is grateful to her sister sponsor who she has exchanged correspondence with twice and she is so excited about what the future holds for her and her children.
Nvou may have struggled in her life, but she has always done what she could to protect and educate her children. This is what mother’s do. We are so proud of Nvou for her strength and her perseverance in the face of difficulty. Happy Mother’s day Nvou! You deserve it.