Every individual on earth has a right to everything the world offers them. The government system has given us a right to make our own decisions whether good or bad, but in some cases, we sometimes look back and say, “I could say no but I didn’t.” In the moment one says those words we just know that it is because of a bad decision made.

I was awakened by the morning sun as it crept in through the slightly open curtain. That was when I realised that my dream was over and I was left with a nightmare as a reality. Lying there in that hospital bed brought me more pain than what had brought me here. Only if I could turn back the time to the day that changed my life forever, only if I could have said no. But I didn’t and this was all in the name of culture and respect.

I was 19 years old when my life started to turn upside down. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday, the very same day that five unknown men entered my father’s compound to ask for my hand in marriage. My father was one of the most respectable men in my village and that could’ve been the reason why they came to him. A few months later, I was given off to my in-laws. The first few days were fine, but things started to take a sharp turn when my husband left me and my children for another woman. I was left with my seven children and we struggled to even afford to buy food, not to mention electricity.

Things stayed like this until my husband lost his job when he got sick. What surprised me was the fact that when he got sick he knew that he had a home, a wife and children whom he had neglected when life was good for him. People in our neighbourhood would mock me because I was poor yet I had a husband who had a good, paying job. The only way we survived was by fetching firewood and doing laundry for people even though that wasn’t enough to support us. During that time, I would go to my father’s house and cry about all my problems. All he would say was, “My dear, this is what marriage is about and all it requires is a strong woman.”

Tears would fall down my face as all that my mouth could come up with was, “For how long do I have to stay strong – how long father?”

My father would look at me with disgust and tell me that this was not how he had raised me. He would tell me that he raised me so that I would become stronger at any circumstance. No matter how many times he would sugarcoat it I knew that nothing would change because he would have to return all their money and all the gifts he had received.

Things became worse and I ended up in hospital because of the constant beatings I got from my husband whenever he got angry or fought with someone. My father stopped visiting me because I told him that I didn’t want to see him ever again and that I was here because of his greed and selfishness. I was in and out of hospital.

I met with Doctor Grey who became my therapist. I still remember his words as if it were yesterday. Those words were just words back then but as I was lying on my deathbed, they were lingering. Words of great importance, words that I could’ve listened to but because I was scared of my husband I kept quiet.

The doctor had just finished examining me when I started to feel an urge to cry so loud that the world would listen to me. Then it hit me that it was too late and my children would be left alone. My mind started to say these words, “You are young and beautiful with a bright future ahead of you and must never let people judge you because of your gender, for no gender is inferior to another.”

As I lay there helplessly, weeping for my children, I said, “I could say no but I didn’t because I was scared.”