March 27th, 2019
HART Prize for Human Rights 2019| Girl, Wife and Mother
This year we received a record number of entries from a diverse range of countries, resulting in our toughest competition yet! We were truly impressed by the quality, creativity, and passion for Human Rights demonstrated by our participants, and thoroughly enjoyed all the submissions we received.
Hattie Bunce won the joint 3rd place in our HART Prize for Human Rights Junior Creative Competition 2019 with their entry titled:
Girl, Wife and Mother
This is the first time in my life where I want to bleed.
When I was a child, I used to dread the time of the month where my body insisted upon reminding me that I was a woman now. The time of the month where I’d miss so much of school I couldn’t keep up, and eventually lead to me leaving school entirely. The time of the month where I’d frantically search streets and bins to find as many rags as I could until I stopped leaking blood.
If I stay dry any longer, it can only mean one thing.
I need to bleed.
Dust floats in through the crack in the wall beside my bed, dancing upon my lungs. I turn into the beam of sunlight. It’s hot against my skin, and all I want is for it to burn holes through my flesh until I slip away. My whole world is in pieces, as is my country. I have no idea how I’m supposed to pick up the shattered parts, let alone put them back together.
I need the tools to repair them.
People used to say that once we’d[ had]become our own country, created our own South Sudan, things would be different. Not only different, but better. Yet this war has stolen our future.
I stiffen as he stirs beside me and I decide the only way I might avoid him is to pretend I’m asleep. Perhaps as I’m facing away, he’ll leave me alone.
No such luck.
I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
I need freedom.
His fingers are cold, strange for the time of year yet this is how his hands always seem to be, and they slip underneath my clothing. I bite on my tongue to stop myself from crying out.
He pushes his lips against my ear, sending a chill down me. His beard scratches my face as he says, “Did you go?”
I decide I don’t know. If he’s going to insist on intruding on my privacy, the least he can do is say it.
“The clinic.” he concludes.
All other words jam in my throat.
I can’t be a mother at fourteen. I’m too young, even if he has…
I’m not a child anymore, he’s made that quite clear. I’m his wife, I must let him do to me what all husbands do to their wives.
No one told me it would hurt so much.
No one told me I would bear a child so soon.
How will we afford a child? He doesn’t work, and I missed too much of school to get a job. What will become of us?
I should be at school like my brother, not serving this man who is old enough to be my father, and who has by force taken away any hope I had of a future different to those of my sisters before me.
I need to believe that things will change.
If I have a daughter, I won’t sell her to another man to save my family’s farm. I won’t abandon her as my parents did me.
If I have a son I will make sure he knows how women are to be treated: with respect and care, not sold for cows and then hurt by their husbands. I will teach him to protect his sisters and help them when they fall behind classes at school.
He touches me again, and I do all I can not to squirm at his touch. But I can’t stop a cough erupting as a result of the continuous flow of dust. At least it hides a sob.
I always felt so dirty when I bled, covered in stains that I had nothing to prevent from leaving its mark on my clothing.
I had no idea.
Real dirtiness is when his hands touch my skin, infecting every part of me with his germs.
I need to realise this is my life now.
No one will rescue me. Perhaps, in the future, someone will pick up what’s left of my country and stick the pieces back together. But no one will do this for me. I don’t have the tools to repair.
I am a wife now. I will be a mother.
I am not a child anymore.
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