SHE SHE SHE: The woman in the dock versus women behind bars

Thursday, November 03, 2016

I closed from work late at night, and my mother informed me that “there was a young man looking for you these days.”

“He did not mention your name, but instead he said, ‘I am asking for the journalist that lives here’.”

Luckily for me, the other day, he met me at home and, the moment I saw him, I remembered that we met at the court where I was assigned by my paper to cover a certain case.

This man in his 30s looks pale to me, unlike before when I used to see him. His eyes are red and sunken, and that tells me that he has been crying and suffering in silence, because he is the son of a woman behind bars serving her three-year jail term in silence.

He looked worried, and I said to him: “My mother has been telling me that you have been looking for me, all this while, and I was worried because I think that maybe as a journalist you need my service urgently.”

He looked at me, and said, “I needed to talk to you because you were present, from the day she was taken to court to the day she was convicted.”

I then asked who she is. He told me, “I am talking about my mother, the woman who gave birth to me. I miss her so much and, whenever I pay her a visit at the prisons where she is kept and serving her sentence, I could not bear the pain of seeing her in such a state.”

“I could not bear the pain of leaving her behind, the thought of her being alone in such a place; she has not been able to walk freely and breathe fresh air like me.

“I miss my mother. I miss waking up in the morning and greeting her and watching her pick up her stuff and head to the market, where she earns a decent living that benefits the family.

“I am a man that thinks that there is nothing in this world that can break me down; but living and waking up every day without seeing and feeling the presence of my dear mother breaks me down completely, and I am just like a dead man walking.

“Life is meaningless without her, because she means the world to me.

“So I came here to talk to you, and also ask this question: do you think my mother will see the daylight and walk freely, as she used to, again?”

I looked at him and listened to the suffering and fear that took over his manly voice, and I said to him, “with God everything is possible.”

I was there when the three of them were convicted, and sent to prison. I was there when the mother of the youngest of all of them walked in with lots of foodstuff in her hand.

This woman at every court sitting shopped for her daughter who is married with kids, as if she is shopping for a month-old-baby.

Her eyes glistened with tears, but she stood by her daughter and never for once gave up on her; not even on the day she was condemned to prison for three years.

I was there when a husband, sister, brother, son, mother and father stood helpless and watched their loved one, a woman, being condemned to three years in prison.

I saw the bond that a mother and her child shared, and it is unimaginable. I was there when a mother cried for help, and called on the relevant authorities and whoever cared to listen to please help bring back her daughter to her.

It has been four months or more since they were convicted and sent to prison, and the society seems to have forgotten about them; but a son, mother and husband are still crying out to you, the main character, to please extend your love for Gambian women and pardon their mothers, daughters and loved ones from prison.

They are still hopeful, and every day they go to bed they look forward to being woken up by the news that they had been pardoned and returning home.

For the woman in the dock with her child on her lap, I remember the theme for the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting many years ago: “Let’s play; every child has the right to play.”

It came to my mind when I saw a child taken away from her mother, just because she is playing and speaking her own language, while sitting on her mother’s lap, when she was in the dock answering to charges against her.

An old woman was asked to take her away from her mother, because of the noise the child was making. What future does that child have as at now? He or she is a mere child!

He or she is months old, so innocent and pure in body, mind and soul.

He or she cannot even hurt a fly, and it is not his or her fault that her mother is in such a state; and yet she was not given the chance to play uninterrupted.

The woman in the dock is a mother taking care of a month-old-baby, whose future depends on every minute, hour, day, month and year the child spent with her mother.

 She is a woman in a state of confusion, a single mother taking care of a child whose father was condemned to a three-year jail term.

Why are we not listening to this child? Is it because we cannot speak his or her language? Or is it because we do not care about what the child is saying?

If we pay attention to what the child is putting across to us whilst playing, then we will give this child and her mother an environment conducive for this child to grow in peace and harness his or her potentials.

Let’s listen to the cries, suffering and worries of the woman in the dock and the women convicts behind bars, because no matter how serious their crime is, let’s not forget that they have a very important role to play in shaping the destinies of our future leaders