From Foetus to Woman

We were foetuses when they mapped out our lives

some of us would glide through birth canals

break open wombs

announce our arrival in bold wails

we were born protesting

then to be shushed at entry

and later made to believe our voices mattered little

some of us in luckless transit

trips cut short in detour to non-existence

ubiquitous culture guards

denying our admittance

and barring our descent with sex-selected foeticides

we were infants when they dressed us in expectations

some of us showered in a labyrinth of pastels

coaxed to carry subdued flags

or coated in pinks, glittery sequins and lace

that would later grace our wedding trails

some of us never made it to toddler-hood

swaddled in acrylic blankets

our tender bones and marrow crushed in dumpsters

through sanctioned infanticides

we were girls when they told us

to cross our legs and lock our thighs

till our “beloved” found the key

or a thief broke in to steal the prize

we were still girls when they warned us

to laugh in small doses

to walk on tip toes

shrink and fit

into crevices where spiders could not hide

we were still girls when

some of us brushed the hairs of dolls

where some of us braided responsibility in neat cornrows

upon our younger sister’s crown

while we fed, and bathed the boys

lathering away our childhood into

the roles we were forced to assume

because we are “nurturers”;

we are “carriers”;

we are vessels for humanity;

we are “caretakers”

we are told

some of us were probed and poked

without our consent

by those who told us to cross our legs and lock our thighs

and when we asked why

they hushed us once again

covered our mouths with stinging nettle

and sewed the gaps with thorns

to later penetrate it with force

We are not born

rather we have become women

riddled with the fallacies of ‘ought’ and ‘should’

continuously knitted into a fabric of archaic norms

that some of us remain shackled

to the fate of female foetuses

agreed in our absence

drawn without our sanction

stencilled before we were conceived

and yet we are forced to carry its weight

some of us chisel away

the heavy granite covering who we were born to be

wishing we were alabaster

but we are caked in years of conditioning


many cracks and fissures

demanding strenuous effort

to carve out an exquisite piece of art

but now that we have grown into

now that we have taken the role

now that we have become women

we are the sole bearers of what that becoming can mean

we can rewrite our stories

transform the landscapes of our narratives

define and redefine

what it means

to be a Woman!


Billene Seyoum is the Managing Director of Earuyan Solutions and also writes at www.africanfeminism.com.