On rites of passage.
I was 11 when it happened. I woke up to go and pee and the brand new white panties that Maami, my grandmother had just bought for me was soaked with blood. MAAAMIIII! I screamed! MO TI SE RA MI LESE! I HAVE INJURED MYSELF! My poor loving grandmother ran to come to me in the toilet. I showed her my bloodied panties. Mo ti se ra mi lese I sobbed. Mammi took one look at my panties and started laughing. Mammi? E’n rerin ni? Maami? You are laughing? Ehn she replied. Yes. Oko mi. My husband. In Yoruba culture, your oko or husband is supposed to be the ultimate love so, calling your child your oko is a term of affection. Oko mi she said, o ti di obirin nisiyi niyen. My husband, now you are a woman. I was confused. You mean I was a man before I wondered. Ki le mean Maami? What do you mean Maami?
And that was when I had my s:e;x education. Ehen she said, Shey o ri Taofi? Ati Tomi? Ehn… gbogbo won ni obirin. Do you see Taofi and Tomi (My friend and my cousin who were a couple of years older than me), they are now women. Iwo na ti di obirin bi’i won. You are now a woman, just like them. And then, she gave me ‘the talk’. Ti okunrin ba fi le fi owo kan e bayi, o ma loyun ni. If a man should just touch you, you will get pregnant. If that did not put the fear of being touched by a man in me, nothing else would.
And so, began my tortuous journey of going to and from school on the Danfo without being touched. I would shrink to the furthest corner of the Danfo and keep praying that the ever so slight touch of the man or boy sitting next to me would not result in me getting pregnant. That day that I became a woman, Maami killed a chicken, made delicious chicken stew and Jollof rice in my honour and gave me my favorite parts – the two thighs. Yoruba culture dictates that you do that when a girl becomes a woman
Do you know how becoming a woman celebrated is in your tribe? Tell us if you do.