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What does your culture say about it? Is this still in practice?

Femke is from Burkina Faso and she tells me how she was inherited by her living sister’s husband. Read her intriguing story as she narrates it to me.

I have lived in pain and agony for over 10yrs of my life. I have encountered bitterness and disappointment. I have suffered terribly on account of a set of out-dated and dreadful beliefs still culturally cherished and adored by my people. I have become a woman familiar with sufferings and sorrow. I have looked at life with disdain.

I am Gurunsi, from the Gurunsi tribe in Sampouy in Burkina Faso. The Gurunsi is a big tribe that cuts across even in some parts of Ghana. Though a very big tribe, they have quite distinct practices and not all the same everywhere. However, mine appears to be ‘a peculiar culture’. In my culture, when a man marries a girl and treats her very well, the family can offer him another daughter from the family or find him another wife from elsewhere. This is just as a way of showing gratitude to him for being a good in-law. Sounds weird right? Hmmm, in this same culture, when a girl is unable to bear children for her husband, she can as well request that one of her sisters comes into her matrimonial home to help her raise children and help her preserve her home and marriage. This is done with the consent of the husband and the in-laws. In other words, it is about keeping the husband and helping him beget children from her in-laws. So he does not go outside the family of her in-laws to beget children.

Having described these two cultural practices in marriage in my culture, the latter was my case. My elder sister married a man and after years of unfruitfulness, my family offered me to my brother-in-law, and I came in as a second wife to help him raise children. I reluctantly accepted and moved in with them for fear of being ostracized by my people. We had a civil marriage afterwards to seal the union. Eventually my situation exacerbated; this was for me the beginning of the introduction to hell. I lived with a man I felt nothing for. I was obliged to join my sister in sharing the same conjugal right with the same man just for the sake of raising children. This was unimaginable!

It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I made unrelenting attempts to escape from the marriage to go elsewhere and find refuge and further my studies if possible. All these attempts proved futile and abortive. I suffered wherever I went because no one was willing to either host me or give me any form of support. I began to starve and depreciate; I almost gave up on life. I lost interest in life and the idea appeared like a mystery to me. Life seemed like a mirage of uncertainty.
I was eventually obliged to return to my husband since I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help.

It was a pitiable experience. I returned and eventually bore him two sons and completed my studies. Though not living with him due to the nature of my job in a different town, but I feel empty and disappointed.

Fortunately, with the advancement of civilization and the advent of various social action groups within the country, the culture is beginning to fade off gradually and is no longer strongly practiced as it used to be in the past. Though there are still few who are die hard custodians of these practices till today.

This is my life, this is my story.

Amaka Okoye

Amaka Okoye

A seasoned and an award-journalist who has practiced both in and outside of Nigeria. She has covered varied beats but her forte is Conflict and Crisis Reporting. She majors in reporting terrorism, banditry and abductions in the Northern part of Nigeria.

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