I lived a decent life until I was seven. Looking back at it, I should have thought I lived like a queen. So innocent, so unaware and unconscious of the cruel world outside. At the age of five, I longed for the children that went walking to pre-school, laughing and gossiping all together. So my parents decided that I was to attend school at the age of seven. Those two years passed as slowly as a snail slithers. A day wouldn't pass without me yearning for that first day of school to start. Little did I know that those two years were the 'best' years, and most importantly the last years of my childhood, before I learnt the awful truth...
"Ruth!" I turned around and saw my best friend, Daina, running towards me, dust entering her eyes from the grit in the ground. It was another sunny and dry day in the town of Mayoko, Congo. " Perfect for another day of school" I thought. Me and Daina ran to school, in our usual routine, but quicker, because we were running late. We eagerly conversed about how the first month of school was going, running through the soil track, when it happened. The passage we were walking through was surrounded by trees, so that the men couldn't see us, but we could see them. They proceeded towards the school in large camouflage trucks, all the men covered in white turbans. Me and Daina didn't say a word to each other, but we both clearly knew what was happening. Our spines shivered in fear as we huddled together behind a thick tree stump, immobile. We tried to hide and ignore what was happening, but curiosity had the better of us. Slowly, we watched young girls be hauled out of the school and into the trucks. It was like torture watching it, even though we knew the girls experiencing it were feeling much worse. One thing we noticed was that only the female classmates were being kidnapped, in fact, one of the men high-fived one of our male classmates, much to our horror. Then they left, with the poor girls in the trucks, as if nothing had happened. We looked at each other, tears in our eyes, and realized how lucky we were for being late to school.
We stayed there, traumatized, for about two hours, trembling. We didn't speak a word, but that didn't matter. Slowly, leaning on each other, we managed to get up. Both of us started walking back, seeing the world from a perspective none of us ever had. "Look at that man! He looks suspicious, better run fast!" This is what our minds were up to while we raced back to our village. We both ran into the arms of our mothers, tears of rushing down our faces. Reluctantly, we tell our story, words coming out of our mouths that we'd never thought to use. We sit there, motionless, as the story spreads fast. Parents, siblings, and relatives start crying, most of the children who attended the school lived in this village. Soon, the awful news had arrived to our chief leader, to which he proceeded to arrange a meeting. When all of us were assembled, he started to speak. " As you all probably know, a horrible tragedy has occurred at the local school of Mayoko" Me and Daina looked at each other, disturbing flashbacks passing through our eyes. " All the young women who have attended this school have been kidnapped, except for our precious daughters Ruth and Daina, by an association still unknown. We-" he continued to talk but I didn't listen, I blacked out. The only thing I managed to pick up was that I, or any girl, was obliged to remain home and help her parents. The boys were still allowed to go.
Once my family had arrived home, the sun was setting, as we entered our cosy hut. My parents started arguing as soon as I went to bed. They thought I couldn't hear them, when I could.
"We should of never let her go to school you know"
"But why? Yes, that atrocious thing happened, but it certainly wasn't her fault!"
"Women are made only to have children and serve for their husbands, trust me, I should know
from my experience!"
"Honey, you know I think so much of you than that! And any woman for that matter! When
we had Ruth, she was a girl, and many villagers consoled us, telling us 'don't worry, the next child will be a boy' That's outrageous! The gender that brings a human to life is undermined ?!"
"Well, that's just how it is"
"You're a woman yourself, how can you say those things?"
"That's how we were taught and that's they way it will remain"
The argument finished there. My mother moved out a week later. No goodbyes, nothing. I
never saw her again.
Meanwhile, my dad and I started to think. I was eight, but well beyond my years. We reached the consensus that nothing would change if we stayed there, and most importantly, my future would
already be determined. So we moved out of Congo to South Africa. We had enough money, my father had found a job there, and we would soon move into a respectable apartment. The only problem was leaving my best friend, Daina. I wished she could of come with us, I knew she was just as smart as me and deserved the same opportunity. Looking through the airplane window, I knew I had to change something.
In South Africa, I pursued my educated future until my graduation day. That was the first time I saw my dad cry. Even when my mother left he hadn't shed a tear. He was immensely proud of me, as I was of him. I had gotten a scholarship in one of South Africa's best colleges, to continue my career as a teacher. Throughout my studies, it had become obvious that education really was the only solution to a better, more equal society. This was the goal. My mother was never to be seen again, but that was fine. My dad got remarried with a woman that could replace the emptiness in my heart that came from lacking a mother. After four years, I went back to my home village, Mayoko. I glanced over to see my old friend. Daina was radiant, older, wiser. We caught up with each others' lives, I told her my story, she told me hers. The values and ideas we both prioritized were the same, this had come from the same horrible experience we lived through. The girls kidnapped were never found, but the same school remained open, only to boys. We decided to open a school together, where every child was welcomed, where one would learn the values that are correct. We wouldn't be influenced by the propaganda that was inserted into one's brain at a young age. Overtime, in the course of 10 years, our village became accustomed to the idea. The local school Mayoko re-opened, accepting girls and boys, influenced and inspired from our school. Of course, this took away some business, but me and Daina knew that this is why we opened the school in the first place, and not for the superficial reason of business. Students who graduated from our school continued to spread these ideas, even if they lived in the middle of the dessert. Not only being better educated generally made them a better person, but it also helped them get a job.
Now, I'm forty, but I won't tell you if by 2050 we will be a better world, with no wars and major conflicts, and, most importantly, a world where everyone is treated equally.
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