Two weeks ago I wrote an article called ”Mirror, mirror on the wall” where I told you of a wellknown fairytale about the beautiful princess Snow white and the evil Witch.
Today’s article will begin with a daydream, imagining how it would be if that dream would have come true and I would have become – not a princess but almost – a First Lady.
As usual I will not remain in this fairytale but follow me along the road and we will see where it ends.
If someone would ask me what I would love to be, most of all in the world, I would answer: a First Lady!
Imagine to be a First Lady, not just any lady but the First!
Everytime anyone would mention my name the word First would be written with a capital F.
Wow! I would love that!
I would be practising writing my name in many different ways, one more beautiful than the other, and the letter F would be tremendous.
Being a First Lady must be wonderful.
I would be the hostess at dinnerparties, have chosen the food, made flower arrangements, chosen what dress to wear, made my makeup, brushed my hair and painted my nails.
The problem is that I’m rather good at cooking and I love flowers – but makeup and nailpolish?!
Well, maybe I would get used to it in time, I am the First Lady after all so I have to do some sacrifices.
As a First lady I never, never again have to cook or wash or clean or sweep floors or take out the trashes or buy groceries or make tea for my husband, the President.
I would occupy myself with chosing the colour of my nailpolish or complaining about the food because it was not as good as it would have been if I had made it.
I would have forced my husband, the President, to agree because he doesn’t have anything more important to think about there and then.
I would have all the time in the world to care about myself, reading magazines, gossiping, chosing material for new dresses and all the duties a First Lady has to endure.
Oh dear, oh dear, I would do my best to make the days roll by and I’m sure I would make it but….. I would get so bored so I would explode!
No, after one week I would tell my husband that I would love to have a secretary of my own and then I would begin to work.
I would invite people from different kind of areas in the society and listen to them.
I would ask them to tell me about their problems.
I would visit hospitals, daycare centres, the University and I would meet environmentalists, inventors, educationists, people from all areas that concern me.
I would listen, ask questions and see what I could do to help my people.
None of the citizens are helped by the colour of my nails or the style of my newest dress.
Of course they would expect their First Lady to look as good as she can but first of all they would expect her to be the First Mother of her country.
A mother cares about all her children.
A mother listens to their troubles and tries to help them.
A mother shares the joy and tries to comfort when someone is sad.
A mother wants her children to be safe, fed, dressed and cared for.
That is what I would do as a First Lady; I would like to be the First Mother instead.
I would speak to my husband, the President, and expect him to listen to his children because if I am the First Mother he would be the First Father.
We would share the concerns about our children, our people.
That would be our first and most important duty – to care for and about our people.
Well, this is just a fairytale about myself, but I rather like it.
I don’t know how this story will end but I kind of liked the beginning so I will keep on dreaming.
I spoke about sacrificing before, like in putting more effort in chosing dresses or colour of the nailpolish, but that was a joke which I hope you all understood.
I think one of the greatest sacrifices as a First Lady might be the lack of privacy with a lot of people around you who have a lot of opinions about your looks or your actions.
It must be hard to not be able to come and go as you wish and always be followed by life guards but hopefull there has been a discussion about this within the spouses so they have agreed on it.
Being a spouse to the President is a life changing experience and the couple must be strong together.
The president must always be able to know that if there is no one in the world he can trust completely at least he can trust his wife.
The privacy the couple has sacrificed is also affecting their marriage so therefore they must not only be husband and wife but also comrades so they know that they can rely on the other part to cover their back.
There are different kinds of sacrifices and I found this quote from one of the former presidents of USA, Harry Truman.
The quote is this:
”Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid.
They have earned our undying gratitude.
America will never forget their sacrifices.”
Take out the name America and replace it with the Gambia and we will truly feel that this quote concerns us and that it goes to our hearts.
The men and women who fought for the Gambia in many different ways sacrificed their lives in the battle.
They knew they took a risk but the cause was more important.
Some of our freedom fighters managed to flee their mother land and have suffered abroad, far away from their loved ones.
Some of them died abroad and were not allowed to be buried in the Gambia as long as Jammeh was in power.
I know how it is not to have a grave to visit, to not know where your nearest relative is buried.
My father is in one of these graves, somewhere in Finland and he died because of the trauma he had experienced during the war when Russia invaded Finland.
These memories never left his mind, they made him abuse alcohol and with time this alcohol killed him.
The last time I saw my father was when I was 8 years old and we visited Finland, one year after we had moved from there to Sweden.
My father had heard that we were visiting some frinds of my mother so he came there.
I never got to know the reason why he came because he was thrown out of the house we visited.
The only thing I remember from his visit is that he looked at me, as I was alone in the first room he looked in to, and he didn’t recognize me.
I will never forget what I felt at that moment and I think I have been searching for my father in every man I have met after that in my life.
The feeling of a loss, not knowing if that person is dead or alive, not know if there is a decent grave dug for this person is a feeling so many of us can relate to.
It took two years before my sister and I got to know that our father was dead, before then at least I had always hoped that one day I would meet him again and speak to him.
I used to dream of what I should tell him but at the same time I was sad because I had forgotten my mother tongue so even if my father and I would have met, it would have been impossible to communicate.
Maybe some of you who are reading this have a similar experience.
Maybe you were forced to flee to some other country and you were so young so you began to forget your mother tongue.
Losing your language is making you lose your roots.
I didn’t flee a war but I fled poverty.
Most of my relatives in Finland are poor, they don’t have much of an education, have underpaid factory jobs and I and one of my cousins are the only ones who have studied at the university.
If my mother hadn’t decided that she, my older sister and I should move to Sweden only God knows how our lives would have been.
Throughout history strong women have made hard decisions and you men call us the weaker sex?
So many women have sacrificed a lot to save their children from matters that men have caused.
Women don’t start wars, most women believe that life is sacred and as the bearer of life we protect our children, no matter the cost.
It is easier for men to flee the home when life is getting tough.
A nagging wife who is asking for money to feed their kids, who asks him to help her for a while, who is asking why he is coming home late and without money – no man with his dignity intact can endure that, or can he?
For us women a real man is the one who is taking as much responsability for his family as his wife does.
A real man is able to tell his wife where he has been if he comes home late one night because he has nothing to hide.
I know that deep down in his soul my father was a good and kind man but he was weak.
He listened more to the other men who told him not to be under his wife’s slipper, that he should show that he was the man of the house and if he wanted to get drunk in the weekends it was his right as a man.
That was the tradition, that was what people expected from men in the society where they lived.
The women took care of the homes, the kids and sacrificed every little money they were able to make to support their children.
This is nothing new and maybe it will always remain like that.
Hopefully this will change in time when people get more educated and they have broadened their minds.
Societies are changing, some a bit slower than others, but people get more influences now than before not only by internet but by education.
Education is teaching us to think independently and to listen to our minds and not only follow traditions.
Traditions can be good, as long as they are not restricting our lives, but when we come to restricton we must let go of the tradition.
Some of the traditions are so old so we don’t even know where they started and why.
I believe that if my father had lived in a different kind of society where he wasn’t forced in to something just to prove that he was a ”man” he would have been a great father.
I have only one photo of him but I can see that we have the same smile.
I remember that he smoked pipe, and even if I still hate cigarette smoke, I do love the smell of the pipe smoke.
That smell and the smell of coffee in the mornings are my favourite smells, they make me feel secure.
Speaking about bad traditions which can be stopped by education is FGM, Female Genital Mutilation.
I know that this is forbidden in the Gambia but still we need to keep on spreading information about this awful tradition.
How many of you men are aware of how FGM is done?
Imagine using an old and unsharp razorblade and cut off pieces of your private parts with that.
I will give you no further details because I don’t believe this column is the right forum for that, I will leave you to your imagination instead.
The detail I can give you is that if FGM is done completely there left only a small hole big enough to urinate through.
The girl’s private parts have been sewn together and this is not done in a clinic where you have anaesthesia and sanitized tools.
This operation has killed a lot of girls and left others with a pain you could never imagine.
You men might protest and say that you have also been circumcised and I agree but you still have your private parts intact – except from the small part taken away.
Your parts are functioning as they should but it is different for the girls.
In villages where there has been information and education about FGM people have stopped this tradition when they have realised how awful it is.
I know some say that it is the women, the older women, who don’t want to stop the tradition because the girls are considered as unpure and have no chances to get married but men and women can stop this together.
There is no need for these brutal actions and they are causing too large problems to be justified.
When a young woman is giving birth she is actually sacrificing her life every time.
She has to be cut so the baby can come out and then she will get new stitches.
First she has to endure the pain of giving birth, then the pain of getting new stitches.
To follow is the risk for infections especially if the woman is living somewhere far away from a clinic and also fresh water.
How many women’s lives are we willing to sacrifice for a stupid tradition?
No, as I said before; the only way of getting rid of bad traditions is by information and education.
Together we can fight the good battle; the battle for a better future without any unnecessary sacrifices just because of traditions that have no relevance in our time.