Birthed by 2:04am on the 30th of April, 1997 after nine long hours of labour. My mother’s tears told of months of prayers by my father’s spiritual church members; the washing of her protruded belly with "spiritual" coconuts, and the baths with "holy water" mixed with incense, broken candles and palm fronds. Why? To prevent the child from "spiritually" changing from a boy to a girl. Her tears were a reminder of her fifth curse, her fifth child, her fifth daughter.

My father received the news, went home for a change of clothes and never returned. Let me elaborate if you don’t understand what ‘never returned’ means. It means he never came back to the hospital to his sore, exhausted wife and his new-born daughter - he never returned to pay the bills. He left his unemployed wife in the delivery ward for a month. And her crime? Giving birth to me, who happened to be female.

Listening to my Mum and aunties talk about the aforementioned incident as a child caused a certain kind of unrest to settle in my chest (one I am unable to put into words). It's the same unrest I felt every time my teachers asked that I sweep the classroom although I'm allergic to dust, and asked my non allergic male classmates to close the louvers. The same unrest I felt when during menstruation class in J.S.S.2, my female Home Economics teacher said to us, "Our blood stinks because it is dirty."

The same unrest I felt in my chest when my S.S.S2 English teacher said, "A woman doesn’t have a place she belongs, it is given to her either by a father or a husband." The same unrest I felt in my chest when I watched my friend Yetunde get mocked for having red stains on her  white school uniform.

 

16 year-old me watched Emma Watson address the UN and listened attentively as she said, "Feminism isn’t man hating." Feminism - my curious mind ran to the dictionary to learn the meaning of the word. It read: "A belief that women should be allowed the same economic, social and political power and opportunities as men. A person who believes in this movement is called a FEMINIST." I remember thinking; "Finally, I've found the reason for this unrest."

I felt this unrest, when I realised that my mother had birthed my sisters and I more out of duty than choice - duty to prove her "womanhood" by having children. I caught this unrest in my sister’s eyes when she called herself "Mrs Ujunwa,," as though she had lost something, a loss she could never admit to anyone. Worst of all, I felt this unrest when I read Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and 1st Corinthians 14:33-35. I remember asking myself, "God too?"

The list goes on and on.

16 year-old me watched Emma Watson address the UN and listened attentively as she said, "Feminism isn’t man hating." Feminism - my curious mind ran to the dictionary to learn the meaning of the word. It read: "A belief that women should be allowed the same economic, social and political power and opportunities as men. A person who believes in this movement is called a FEMINIST." I remember thinking; "Finally, I've found the reason for this unrest." I read up on feminist history. I'd always been a lover of books, so it wasn’t difficult. I read about the three waves of feminism, women’s suffrage, and the Ogu Umunwayi. I fell in love with the works of Bolanle Awe, Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwankpa, the life of Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti, and much later, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Still, I found it difficult to call myself a feminist until the day 17 year-old me got into an argument with a male course mate of mine concerning a statement he made about women and cooking. After minutes of throwing questions at him - questions he was unable to respond to, he blurted out, "Oh so you are a feminist?" and without thinking I replied, "Yes I am."

He laughed dismissively.

Again, I have no words to describe exactly how I felt after those words left my mouth. It was like a baptism, a spiritual cleansing of my mind, brain and body. A final acceptance that my monthly flow gave life, that the softness and curve of my body was no weakness; that my curious mind and sharp brain wasn’t a foreign attribute of my gender. I remember repeating those words under my breath for weeks, “Yes, I am Feminist" as though I had found a long lost mother-tongue.

With feminism, I realised that I will pull through this world. I will conquer it, and I will fight so my sons and daughters do not have to experience this madness. For some, feminism is just a movement. For, me it is the only defence for my existence.

With every repeat came forgiveness, for every man that groped me in Yaba market against my will, for every time I hated my body and its biological processes. I forgave my Home Economics teacher too. Most importantly, I began to understand the unspoken apology my Dad made when he refused to receive bride price from my sisters’ husbands, and when he encouraged me to read voraciously. I forgave him too. I realised we all were just victims of the absurd mentality society has rigidly harboured and passed down from generation to generation.

With feminism, I realised that I will pull through this world. I will conquer it, and I will fight so my sons and daughters do not have to experience this madness. For some, feminism is just a movement. For, me it is the only defence for my existence. The unrest in my chest began to fade away as I repeated those words, "Yes, I am feminist" and realised it was okay to be the fifth daughter, the fifth child, the fifth curse birthed by 2:04am on the 30th of April 1997, after nine long hours of labour.