© Folakemi Emem-Akpan


I am fifteen years old, a wife, a mother, a leaker.

Were I to script the story of my life, I would not write it this way. Instead of marriage, I would have my childhood back. Instead of a baby, I’d have a school diploma. And instead of the unrelenting ammonia perfume surrounding me, I’d smell nice, powdery, fresh.

My breasts ache with unshed milk. It has been four weeks, yet time has not lessened the production of milk, nor the pain that comes with it unsuckled. I want to hold my baby so bad that my arms ache, and the tears I’ve been trying to restrain finally spill out.

Sniffling, I feel water running down my thighs, in between my legs, soaking the wad of rags on which I sit.

Thoughts, heavier than the stench of urine that terrorizes the room, rise up to torment me. Ripping the baby from me, my forty-year-old husband hissing disgustedly at the sight of her female parts, my mother bathing my face in cool water, the first sneeze that brought with it an avalanche of urine.

The next morning, they took my daughter away, made my room my prison. My mother left, my husband went back to his primary businesses of goat rearing and fathering even more children with his remaining three wives, life went on as usual.

My head aches and pounds away as if a hammer is secreted away inside. Praying for respite, finding none, I regress and go way back in thoughts.

Five years old, innocent to the ways of the world. Then that day when they separated Ahmad and me. My twin brother would receive an education at the village school where boys from prosperous homes learnt to do sums and read the Koran. I would be groomed in the art of womanhood, would be engaged at nine, married at thirteen.

A soft knock at the door rouses me out of the deep well. Nobody knocks at my door in the afternoon. In the morning and evening, Khadijat brings my meals, opens the door just a crack, pushes the bowl through, flees.

Pulling my shawl across my face, pushing myself to my feet even though it hurts like a thousand hells, I approach the door and swing it open.

A woman stands there, a stranger clad in white. My first thought is that she must be stupid to wear white on such a dusty afternoon. Already, moon circles of sweat have formed underneath her armpits.

But she has a lovely face, not unlike that of an angel.

“Are you Halimat?” She asks. Her voice is lilting and interesting.


“I came to see you.” She says and steps into the small dark room. To her credit, she does not scrunch her face at the strong smell, finds a dry edge of the mat and sits.

“I am a nurse,” She says. “From Kaduna. Yesterday I visited Beiro and your mother told me to come see you, that you have a problem.”

I nod because I don’t know what else to do.

“Will your husband allow you come to Kaduna with me so that we can fix the problem?”

I close my eyes and visualize the apoplectic rage Alhaji would fly into if I were to tell him. “No.”

“Can I bring someone tomorrow then? Someone that can work on you here?”

I swallow a huge lump of saliva, force words past my constricted throat. “My problem is that I leak urine without meaning to. Nobody can fix that.”

“Yes we can. It’s a very simple surgical procedure. In less than three days, you should feel better.”

Hope, long buried, rises up in me. I struggle to contain myself, fail, find myself asking. “Is that possible?”

“Yes. If you’d allow us.”

The hope rises afresh. I blink, try to envision myself as free once more. Of course still married, of course still a mother, but perhaps I would be free of my constant noxious smell. I smile at the angel in white and tell her yes.



*Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) is the continuous leaking of urine that cannot be explained, stopped or controlled by the woman affected, usually caused by obstructed labor due to immature pelvic bones. Most communities consider affected women as outcasts.

It affects majority of teenage girls of Hausa ethnicity in Nigeria who are given out in marriage very early. In some cases, it is regarded shameful for a woman to have her first menstruation in her father’s house.

22 thoughts on “Halimat” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. The evils of early marriage…VVF is just one of them Thank God it can be corrected through Surgery

    1. thanks for your comment. and thank God for corrective surgery

      1. Yeah thank God for corrective surgery but what of other ills that can never be corrected esp Psychologically…#childnotbride

  2. Cruel society! Hausa culture tho! sends a girl out for marriage immediately they see a lump-like breast form on her chest. Halima is among the lucky ones. I hrd of a 13yr old who lost the battle.

    1. thanks for your comment, @Shovey. That’s one exciting thing about being a writer. If we can change the mind of at least one person through our stories, then we’ve done something right. That was my aim for writing this story

  3. This is so pathetic! I feel so sad reading this dehumanization of the girl-child!!! Say a big NO NO to child-bride.

  4. Yes, lets all say NO to child-brides. Thanks for your comment

  5. Well, what can I say. You promised not to, but yet you did it again. @Folakemi

    You made me sad again

    But there was hope.

    It was a good piece. But it was a sad one.

    1. Sorry about making you sad, and thanks for your comment

  6. i read this story in pain, child marriage should be outlawed

    1. agreed @kevweodogun. thanks for stopping by

  7. Cold beads all over my arms. I shivered because I refused to cry. O can’t deal with posts like this. I am a very sensitive person wishing I never clicked on this very post.

    Dear lord, be the warm blanket for every child who has been pushed intoacts like this. Remove fear from their hearts.

  8. @ufuomaotebele, now your comments almost made me cry because I am also a very sensitive person. I like to write for fun, but mostly I like to pass along a message with my writing, and I usually have 2 messages: 1) my love for God 2) the issues facing African women.
    Thanks for your prayer for child brides. And I am hoping that stories like this will make at least one person change his/her mind about marrying a little girl or selling one off into marriage.

  9. What a hell? I can’t imagine such terrible actions carried in the 21st Nigeria. This is one of the things that delays us directly or indirectly from joining the train of modernism. I think we need a rethink…

    1. thanks for your comment @innoalifa. These things still happen. Watched a documentary on CNN some years back on the topic.

      1. I fully agree with you, @Folakemi, these things still happen….just hoping for a change…

  10. What a educative and succinct way to pass a message on VVF, exposing “things”. I salute you.

    1. thanks @SamoluExpress for your comments. Appreciated

  11. How a full grown adult can even have sexual urge for a child beats me, I mean, she’s barely old enough 2 take care of herself. I jst wonder if some women vomit their own children. Thank God for all d campaign against child bride and for girl child education

    1. Thanks @Raykeeyah for your comments. cheers

  12. Truely eye-opening. Infact, I am just getting to hear, for the first time that, “in some cases, it is regarded shameful for a woman to have her first menstruation in her father’s house.” Nice job @Folakemi. Nice one!

    1. @stanfuto, it is, especially in societies where children as young as nine are engaged. thanks for reading and commenting

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