My mother had me when she was 19. From the stories I’ve heard, my father denied the pregnancy. At 19 the burden of a child was too much for her to bear so my grandparents took me in. They took care of me as though they birthed me themselves. Sadly, for our family, my grandmother passed away when I was 2. My grandpa didn’t know how to care for me so he took me to his mistress. Later he married her so she became my stepgrandmother.
My new grandma and I lived in a town separate from the rest of my family. My memory dates back to when I was four years old. That’s when I remember living with her in her family house. Every day she left me in the care of her relations to go to her sewing shop. One of her brothers who lived in the house took a shine to me. He often sent me on errands and asked me to sweep his room. One day I was in the house playing with the other kids when he came out of his room. He gave them money to go and buy toffees and left me out. The kids were so excited that they run out of the house.
This man told me to come and sweep his room. When I went he started playing with my body. He said, “You are very respectful that’s why I like you. I will give you different types of toffees but don’t tell anyone okay.” I nodded in agreement. Then he put his hands down there. When I tried to protest, he said, “Shhh… I want to see something.”
I was terrified of what he was doing but I was more terrified of him so I kept quiet. He didn’t only use his fingers. He used his thing, he broke into my body and stole my innocence. He cleaned the blood with a rag and showed it to me, “Don’t tell anyone what I did to you. You see this bloody rag, it’s a spirit. If you tell someone I’ll burn it and you will die. Do you understand?” I nodded.
I was in pain. I cried but I made sure no one saw me.
Another time he cornered me and did it again. It continued until one day I decided I would rather die. I went to my grandma and I told her everything. She got angry and beat me mercilessly; “Don’t let me hear you repeat what you just told me. You are a child, you don’t know what that thing is, do you hear me?”
I understood. Things like that were meant to be kept in the dark. It was too hideous a tale to be told. Luckily, my grandfather came for me after that. When I turned 8, my grandfather and his wife were living together in our hometown. She was no longer sewing so she sold at the market. One market day, I came home from school and was changing into normal clothes so I could join the entire household at the market. While I was changing, one of my cousins walked into the room and started touching me. I fought him and escaped.
It didn’t stop there, he tried it again but I made sure he never succeeded in getting between my legs. The next time he came he had a knife. He held it to my face; “If you fight me, I’ll cut you into pieces.” He was older and stronger. I couldn’t fight him. The knife was enough to make me drop my defenses. He held the knife in his hand until he finished what he wanted to do. That was a turning point in my life.
I was only eight, but I came to the conclusion that men were cruel beings whose only interest is to hurt me. I despised men.
Things were really hard at home. There was barely enough food to feed everyone. Sometimes, I starved. When I was ten years old, men in the neighborhood started ogling me. I was a child but I understood what their look meant. I saw it on my uncle’s face when he broke me. I saw it on my cousin’s face when he caught me at knifepoint. It was predatory. I didn’t know there was a name for such people until I grew up. Pedophiles, that’s what they are. Grown men who delight in children, disgusting monsters.
I cringed every time I saw the look. But then I thought to myself, “These men will have their way with me if they are determined to. Why don’t I play their game? I will warm up to one of them and he will protect me from the others. If I’m even lucky he will feed me in addition. So, I chose the one closest to me in age. He was in his twenties and I was only ten years old and in class 3. He had been calling me “My wife” and groping me when no one was looking. He had also asked me to be his girlfriend. I went to him and I accepted his proposal. As I suspected, he protected me from the others. He even gave me money for school books among other needs my grandpa couldn’t provide. He didn’t touch me until I got to class 6.
After a while, my grandpa’s friend who was around his age also started trying to get into my pants. I allowed him. I felt if I didn’t do it willingly he would force me. At that point, I really hated men and couldn’t stand them. My relationships with these men continued till I completed JHS and left for Accra to live with my mum.
In Accra, my mum told me, “This is not a place where you sit and wait to be fed. Find work to do so you can contribute to the bills.” I went out and got a job as a mobile money vendor. On my second day at work, I left some chairs out and it got stolen. I had to go meet my boss for the first time. I expected him to fire me but he didn’t. He wanted a piece of me in payment for what I lost. I considered what he said and I was about to do it but I got another job and that saved me.
My new boss was a lady but I had men show up at the shop because of me. They brought me breakfast, lunch, and supper. I accepted all of it even though I knew what they wanted in return. I decided that I would no longer be anyone’s victim. My body was the currency I traded for basic necessities. That was me owning my power and using it for my own benefit.
When my BECE results were released I went to live with an uncle in Sunyani. He paid my fees but I had to feed myself in school. I used my currency and never went hungry. Gradually I completed SHS in 2011. After completion, I moved from Sunyani to Accra and entered full “ashawo” mode. It was during this season that I met a guy and fell in love for the first time.
He took all the negative thoughts I had about men and dismantled them till I learned that there was such a thing called good men.
He and I dated for a while before we eventually had shuperu. That one time I had shuperu with him I got pregnant. He brought his family to see my family. They performed the knocking rites and I moved in with him. We’ve been together for nine years and we have three children. I have cheated on him twice.
The first time was after our first child. Things were hard. Having a baby wasn’t part of my plans but it happened. To make matters worse, it happened between me and a guy who was always broke. I had men who hovered around me and showered me with gifts. I slept with one of them for money. The money helped us stay afloat for a while. I felt guilty and tried to leave him but he wouldn’t let me go. My husband saw my chats with the man but there was nothing to show that we slept together so I lied that I didn’t sleep with him.
The second time I cheated, I needed money to write exams. He didn’t have it and I had used up my salary for the house. I used my currency and got the money for the exams. There was enough left to pay the children’s school fees and stock the house with foodstuff. When he asked where I got the money I said, “My uncle and my cousins sent me money.” He believed me.
I know what I did was wrong but I comforted myself in the knowledge that the money was used to take care of my family.
Sometimes when things get hard, I want to go out there and feed myself to those thirsty men on the street. I want to do it so that my family will be comfortable. The only reason I don’t do it is because of him. The thought of hurting him is restricting me. It’s a good restriction, I must confess. He mostly doesn’t have money and I am a trained teacher now. I don’t earn much for my family to survive.
Currently, I still accept money and gifts from men but I don’t sleep with them. I block them when they start giving me pressure for shuperu. Men are like mushrooms around me. I block one and tens sprout out. They are usually rich too. It makes the temptation to cheat harder to resist. I don’t know how long I can resist these temptations. I don’t know how I would go before I break down and allow them in.
I am sharing this story because I don’t have anyone to talk to. I really don’t trust anyone, not even my husband.