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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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The value of a child

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With Aisha Jallow

In my last essay, called ”Stop! It’s my body!” I asked if a child has its value in just being a child, or if we value the child for what it can achieve. Not all of us can choose between having children, or not, but we can choose how we value our children. For those of you who are overwhelmed with the burdens of having a big family, you might say that you don’t have the time to consider these things. You are too occupied with trying to put food on the table and to pay your bills. Spending time thinking about your situation might be considered as a luxury for the wealthy. I understand that point of view, but our thoughts are not heavy to carry. They are always with us, so we must make a choice between constructive thoughts and destructive thoughts.

The first time I heard someone say that it is possible to choose how you think, I thought it was more or less a joke. Before that I had always thought that what is on my mind cannot be changed. It is like my thoughts live a life of their own and I just have to come along and live with them. A wise person once said that negative thoughts are like having a tenant who occupies the space, but never pays the rent. Kick them out! Don’t allow them to stay! You don’t allow a tenant to stay in your apartment if that person doesn’t pay its rent. Why then should you allow your negative thoughts to stay in your mind? Kick them out and invite new and better thoughts!

With the right mindset we can change the world! We can give our children the best conditions for their future, but we can’t do that on our own. Some of the conditions our children need are not up to us to influence. We can encourage our children to do their best. We can be good rolemodels and through our actions show them how we wish our children to behave. We can feed them and clothe them, show love and compassion, but there are limits even for us. What we also need is a society that cares about all the children in The Gambia. A society that values all the children, no matter their tribe or where they live.

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An equal society is not only about giving men and women the same rights and possibilities. Equality is also about giving all children the best start in life. We must begin to protect our children even before they are born, as the fetus in the womb is very vulnerable. So many times I have seen the young mothers sitting by the road side, selling peanuts or fruit. The pregnant mother breathe in the polluted air, the same air that the fetus is breathing through the umbilical cord. All the pollutions in the air, the water and the food is affecting the fetus. The baby is born too early, it has a low birth weight and its inner organs are damaged due to the pollutions. The poor mother, sitting by the road side, doesn’t have any option but to sit there to sell her produce. She must be where there is a lot of people, but there are also a lot of vehicles at the same place and that is the problem.

Too many young women are damaged by FGM, Female Genital Mutilation. They were robbed on their dignity, their innocence and sometimes their lives. When the female body has been abused in this way, there is no going back. The woman was abused as a young child, and even if her wounds have healed, she will never forget the humiliation. She will always be reminded of it when she is in labour and she struggles more than normally. God created women in a certain way. When a woman is giving birth, her body goes through large and painful changes. If the end of her birth canal is too narrow, because of the FGM, it is extremly hard for her to give birth. Her skin will break and the damages can be severe. It can even cause her to no be able to hold either pee or poop back. Imagine the embarrassment!

These damages can be operated by skilled surgeons, but we don’t have these in The Gambia. Why are we deliberately causing all this pain and humiliation to women? Are the traditions worth more than the health and wellbeing of our women? It is about time that our government begins to show that they value all women and children higher than they have done before. We can’t take anyone for granted, but those who are vulnerable must be more protected than others. We have a lot of well educated men and women in the government, so what are they waiting for? If there is a genuine intention to make The Gambia a true democracy, then we must act in a democratic way.

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The ancient Greeks were the first to create a democracy. The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words that mean people (demos) and rule (kratos). Democracy is the idea that the citizens of a country should take an active role in the government of their country and manage it directly or through elected representatives. These elected representatives are supposed to act in the interest of the electors, not in their own interest. It takes time to build a democracy, but nowadays we all have access to the internet and can learn from others. When I speak about changing one’s mindset, I mean that we can’t possibly go on the same way as before. It is stupid to behave in the same way as before, and expect some other result. The internet is a great resource for those who wish to learn new things. All of us have a responsibility to improve our lives as well the lives of others.

Still we have too many children, in The Gambia, who don’t go to school. These children will hardly become parts of a modern society, as they don’t have the skills for it. We have children who work in the fields, who walk along the streets trying to sell napkins or other items. Other children are carrying large trays of fruit, and what unites all these kids are that they are in a risky environment. They breath in the toxic air among all the vehicles. They risk to become robbed, abused and even killed. Young girls are more vulnerable than the boys, and they risk to become preys for pedophiles.

We can’t close our eyes and pretend that all these awful things don’t happen. The government has a responsibility for all the citizens of The Gambia! They must care about all the children and show that they value the kids. Our children are our future and if we don’t care about them, we can’t expect that they will care about us. No-one can live forever. We will become old and vulnerable, depending on the younger generations. Have we treated them in a way that they will take care of us gladly, or have we shown that we didn’t care about them? If so; why should they care about us? Do we deserve it? Food for thought!

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