I’m the mommy of two boys. I’d love to have a girl, but I’m a bit afraid to give it a try because I’m not sure how to raise a girl. Malagasy women and girls face many challenges, and I’m not sure I’m equipped to teach a girl what to do in order to succeed, or just to survive.
I’m a woman now, but have been a girl too and I know that it’s not easy. I learned this at a very young age while I observed what happened at home. My father (may his soul rest in peace now) had a serious addiction to alcohol, and he used to beat my mother – a lot. My younger brother and I witnessed many fights and abuse. These scenes are printed in my mind forever, though I pretend I’ve forgotten them.
My father drank because he was not happy with his life. He was a skilled musician – he played classical guitar and traverse flute like a god – but he never shined as a recognized virtuoso. He didn’t make much money, and Mom had to work very hard to support our household. I think Dad didn’t like this. He felt emasculated. He felt miserable. Instead of trying to overcome his problems, he drank in order to forget them and took out his anger on my mom.
Violence is such a mystery to me. I was 10 when my parents divorced, and I already knew many things children shouldn’t have to know. My dad died two years after that. He most likely died while drunk. Someone got him to hospital where, because he was unconscious, he couldn’t tell the doctors that he was diabetic. They used inadequate medicines and he died. We only found out the day after. I went to see him at the hospital and when I stared into the empty bed where he was supposed to be, the nurse just told me “The guy who was there died this morning,” without any other comment. Well, okay… Something broke inside of me.
I will not share more details, because I want to spare my mom and my brother. But I will say that the three of us are all survivors of addiction – a silent war millions of people suffer around the world, every day. We all found different ways to overcome it. For me it is hard work and activism, with a particular focus on promoting and defending women’s rights. Adversity shapes our personality in ways we don’t expect. All we have to do is to find enough strength in our hardship in order to rise again.
Now, back to my boys. I would like to find a way to teach them how to respect girls and to grow up to be gentlemen, but I’m not sure I am getting it right. My mind is full of doubt. I’m not self-confident. Motherhood is an amazing, yet terrifying, adventure. Am I a good model for them? Should I tell them this horrible story of growing up affected by addiction, so that they can understand what I mean? How do we raise good boys and girls? I don’t have the answers but expect some from you, fellow mothers….
It feels good to share my story, sad though it may be. Writing is like therapy for me. Girls deserve better and everyone must do their part in order to improve the situation. Silence is not a solution. We have to stand against injustice at every opportunity. Whatever your fight is, and whoever you are, I m standing with you to say RESIST, HOLD ON, better days are ahead!
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ketakandriana Rafitoson, our new contributor from Madagascar.