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I always try to avoid having high expectations, it stems from a fear of being disappointed. I think that’s my greatest fear. The fear of being disappointed of hoping in vain.

My National youth service experience in Zamfara wasn’t something I planned for. Although I didn’t expect to be wowed, I just didn’t expect what came my way. It was a very shocking experience. From the distance, to the weather, to the people.

I had read the account of a young man who served in Zamfara state, and felt every woman should learn from the Zamfara women who were covered from head to toe “moderately dressed” he called them.

The irony of his modesty talk is women are “moderately dressed” and prostituting, some male corps members decided to stay back because there were young girls offering sex. Even if a woman is dressed in concrete men will always find ways to lust after her.

He wrote about the amazing experience he had there. I think I really need to meet that guy and ask what part, ‘cos I was in the capital Gusau and it was no good.

There were so many practices that were the norm that were just as dirty as the environment, Child marriage especially. That was one thing I found the most shocking. The fact that young girls were married and pregnant and the ones that weren’t were aspiring to be. They look at you a youth Corps member in her twenties and are shocked. Wondering what you are doing with your life, because what you should aspire to be as a woman is a mother.

The discrimination there is ridiculous, I had never before then been administered such a heavy dose of discrimination.

I’m on a queue to buy something, and because I’m the only woman not covering my hair I’m not regarded as anything. They pass me by and it’s like there is no one standing.

There were separate queues for women, separate rules too, but it wasn’t because of respect for women. I learnt it was because of the mentality that the woman is less, too fragile to think for herself to stand or withstand certain situations. It struck a chord in me and I knew that wasn’t a place I wanted to be for long.

The loss of my father during my NYSC year did not even help matters.

I noticed that some memories of parts of my service year are lost. I try to remember but I can’t it was probably too traumatic.

I remember coming home for my father’s burial everything else after that was a blur. My mum said I returned to Zamfara but I have no memory of that. I remember I printed my redeployment letter in a cyber café in Zamfara I just can’t remember how I got there.

Maybe there was a bright side but I didn’t see it, it’s not a place you want to be.

I know some really enthusiastic photographers who would like to explore the environment, but there is nothing attractive about the harmattan that splits your lips, dust that covers your hair and makes it look gray even though you are just 22, nothing attractive about the environment that makes you feel like you are less of a human being just because you are a woman.

For the first time in my life I was ashamed to be called a woman. It appeared like as a woman I was helpless, defenseless and weak; for the first time in my life I felt weak.

That’s not an experience one wants to have.

I’m glad there is a bill to end child marriage. The girl child should be given a chance to be.

Don’t go there, even if your life depends on it. It’s better to be with the Lord (now I exaggerate) but still don’t go

We had no light, no water, there was this mentality of mediocrity that people carried around like a flag and displayed like a tattoo. It is okay to be poor, not to have pipe-born water or light, okay to have 20 children and no means to sustain them, to have Almaajiris littering the streets; young boys covered in dust with no food to it.

No.

It’s not okay, there is nothing okay about child labour, there is nothing okay about a culture that permits the destruction of young minds, and there is nothing okay about poverty.

There is nothing okay about the north. They need a fix.

A northern politician once said people make it seem like poverty wears a bold northern face and he made it sound  like a false statement, I wish I could say it was false but I’ve lived in Kano, lived in Kaduna, lived in Zamfara (sadly), I’ve been to Sokoto and quite frankly poverty does wear a bold northern face.

I missed Lagos.

The traffic, the sun the people even crazy bus drivers.

This is not me being tribalistic this is me being factual.  You come to Lagos and you see the desire in people to do more and be more.

You see a bus driver not content, striving to be the owner of the vehicle. People are thinking of the next big thing or how to better themselves but over there it’s okay to go sit at the gate of Gidan* Yerima or some other Gidan to get fed daily.

 

*Gidan is a Hausa word that means house.

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