“I am 31 years old. I have 5 children, and I am…I was married”
This is a story of a woman from Benin. She is a beneficiary of PACTE, a project by Care International and Equi-Filles, funded by European Union. This is the most emotional moment I have lived since I started this Faces2Hearts adventure, and there was no better way to do this than letting this lady tell you her story, herself”
I am 31 years old. I have 5 children, and I am…I was married. I was born in a family of 5 children. All my siblings died when I was still young, and my father also passed away after them. My mother left our house, and she wanted to take me with her of course. But my father’s family refused, and they instead took me to live with another woman. I spent a horrible childhood in her house, where I was abused, but I am trying not to cry today, so I will not tell you details about that.
I had never had happiness. So when I was 16, I got married. I thought marriage was the only thing that was finally going to make me happy, change my life. I had an amazing husband, and I loved him. But just after we had our first son, he came up with this idea that we could get rich fast if we went to witchcraft. I refused, but he said he wasn’t going to change his mind. So I had no choice other than leaving him, and going back to my grandmother’s.
I didn’t spend a long-time there, since my grandmother never stopped telling that I needed to get a new husband. She then forced me to marry another man, much older than me (in his fifties). He had just chased away his wife, the third one by the way, and so, I was the forth.
Just when I was pregnant with my first baby, he started abusing me. He started beating me up quite many times. And when I told my grandmother, she told me “Come on! That is how men are, it is going to go away” So I kind of got used to that.
We then had 3 more children together, all girls. I then started telling myself that, maybe he is not happy with the fact that I only “give him” girls. Then I was pregnant of my fifth child, and things got even tougher. As I wasn’t working anymore, he started not to bring any food home. He just ignored me completely, like I was not there anymore, yet that is when I needed him most.
The night when I gave birth, he came home and I told him that I really needed to go to the hospital. He didn’t reply me but instead went to his room and locked himself in. I ran to my friend’s house, and told her how things were. She then took me to the hospital. Thank god the delivery went very well. But I had no money and hospital bills needed to be paid. So my friend’s husband went to my husband to tell him that I gave birth to a boy. I was telling myself that, as this time it is a boy, maybe he is going to be happy for me. Maybe things are going to go well with us. But all he did is that he gave money to my friend’s husband, and never even bothered to come to see his baby.
I saw that I needed help from elders of the village. I went to them and asked them to help us solve the problem. They then summoned him and asked him what was going on. According to what they told me, he told them that he just doesn’t want me. They then asked him the reason, and he then asked if the fact that he doesn’t want me wasn’t sufficient. ”I just don’t want her” – he said.
I then had no choice other than just leaving him with all my 5 children with me. I rent a one room house where we stayed for quite some time. I had nothing, and I had no one. An empty room, with my hungry children on my sides. My heart was broken and I thought about suicide so many times. But when I looked at my children, I could not. That is when I went to the “Centre de Promotion Sociale”, which works with the project PACTE. I then described my situation, and they again called upon my husband, and asked him. But as always, he simply said that he doesn’t want me. And just a few days later, he went to my family and told them to come and ask me to come and collect my things from his house, “because he wanted his space”. I heard that he already has a new wife now.
PACTE kept following up on me. They asked me what I would like to do to generate some revenue. As I had sold jewellery and shoes before, I said that I would like to restart selling those. They then bought me my first bulk to sell. That is when life restarted to move forward a little bit.
Staying with 5 children and under such conditions wasn’t easy at all. But with the small business, I knew I had to wisely manage the profit that I was getting. Little by little things started to get better. Now, I am able to satisfy all our primary needs as a family, and last year, I was able to start building my own house, which is in its final stages now.
I have never been any happier in my life than I am now. I will never marry again. I think I have had enough with marriages. My children are my happiness now. I do my best to provide them with what they need. They all go to school now, and my only goal in life now is helping them to become autonomous and important people.
My name is Laina.