My name is Dorathy Otegwa. I am from Katele, Cameroon. As a little girl growing up in the village, I used to hear and see people referred to as “Ukwasi Ngoro”. I thought that they, also called “Olambe” (purchased item) was a very good pet name for the “Ukwasi Ngoro’ (money wives), cut out for the best of marital lives as they were regarded as the pride of their husbands.
As I wondered about the ‘glamour’ such position held within a family where one of more wives would have been before the moving in of the husband’s pride, I began also to wonder why I was been referred to as ‘Ukwasi Nkoro’. Could this be a pet name because of the fondness my father had for me?
In all the times I enjoyed such pet name, I also wondered why I was not allowed to join other children at the village school. I was simply told I was special and would be corrupted by education that will ‘open my eyes’. But I loved to see them chant their ‘ABCD’ and I wanted to know that song too. Each attempt to sneak to school was met with sharp rebukes and heavy beatings.
The euphoria of being labeled ‘special’ began to vanish when my father called me into his room and told me I was going to be taken to my husband’s house. “Marriage?” I asked. “Yes my daughter. Someone has already paid for you. He is my brother and I know he will take proper care of you.” The talk did not make sense to me until he mentioned the name of the man whose wife I had already become since my father had collected both money and other items from him. “Father, but you have always said this man was your brother” I asked. “Yes, my daughter, that is why it is good for you; he is my brother “
I tried to fight the thought of being given out in marriage at an early to a man older than my father. I cried and cried, tried to appeal to my father. He painted a fearful picture of what will befall me if I refused to go to my husband:
I will be stripped naked in a broad day light; my hands will be tied to my legs, my legs will be tied to a wood used to separate my two legs; seeds of corn from a native doctor will be inserted in to my private part and possessed fowls will come pick up the seeds of corn from the ground and finally from between my legs. The result? Shame and inability to ever bear a child as a woman.
I have already been sold and do not belong to the family any more. I had no business enjoying rights that do not belong to me.
I will be destined to a cruel and slow death as the gods will ensure I pay dearly for my stubbornness.
My husband has bought me for a purpose; frustrating it will attract all forms of evil against the family- death for me and my father.
He asked me if I wanted him dead. I was so scared.
My fear gave way to confusion and ‘insanity’ when he told me that, this man, my husband, was my grand-uncle (my grand-mother’s younger brother)!
Was this not an abomination?
Nobody gave any ear to my plea and questions or even my age.
I was forcefully taken to Mangblan where ‘my husband’ had migrated to.
IN MY HUSBAND’S HOUSE
At first, he tried to be very nice to me. Broke palm charnels for me to eat, bought grandnuts, give me plenty of meat; he even gave me some economic fruits from his harvest (Ogbonor) to sell in the market…out of the sales, he gave me permission to buy what I liked. All the kind gestures were gravely attacked by his brothers who felt he had already spent money buying me; why should he be wasting money again on me. This was when my woes multiplied.
I couldn’t run away. To whom would I go? I am sold and belong to another man.
When I had my first pregnancy, I had all sorts of pain and fearful experiences. Hospital was not an answer. My husband would hand out twenty or at most Fifty Naira to . Whatever drug he gave me, I would take; I couldn’t tell what drug they were…they were not in parks, no labels…whether they were expired or not, no one knew.
I lost the pregnancy. Most nights, I felt physical hands pressing my stomach. My husband didn’t react when I complained. Any man is free to do whatever he liked with his money wife.
My husband died four years ago. I had always feared that he would die soon; he was old and would always complain of one ache, feeling or another in his body.
Once he died, emptiness and all kinds all frustrations set in. I was never allowed to touch my late husband’s economic fruits. My attempt to make oil from ripe palm fruits to care for my sick child got me a beating such as I have never had from my late husband’s brother. No one, not even one family member from my house showed concern or came to my rescue. I WAS NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO SELL CASSAVA FROM MY OWN FARM TO TAKE CARE OF MY SELF AND MY SON – a FARM I MADE.
Words are not enough to express the troubles I have gone through in this little life.
After the burial, I was transferred to ne of my husband’s sons- I am a lot older than him. He has declined taking in me as wife.
I am not accepted any more in family. My new husband has done well to reject me. I have no help coming from both ends.
God has helped me through the Church. My welfare and that of my son have become their responsibility. I now stay in the Faithouse Missions facility in Ugbakoko village waiting for the plan to send me out to acquire a skill in Abuja to materialize.
I have also begun to learn to read and write the 26 alphabets Knowing Jesus Christ is one of the best things that has happened to me. I now have joy. My head is daily clearing up. I trust God to help me understand His plan for my life in the midst of all that have happened to me.