…until my small brother came along
MY NAME is Laripape and I am the first born biological daughter of Harai born on his birthday May 1, 1990.
And just like any other daughter, my father was my world; I loved him with all my heart and to top it all off, we shared the same birthday.
So it was double birthday cakes every year, till I turned seven, in 1997. The previous year, my little brother Melaripi died. And so 1997 was the year God answered my father’s prayer and gave him a son, Kama. But looking back to that joyous day I came to realise that it was also the day when I died.
My father is an accountant and my mum is a house wife. There are three of us; my older sister, me and my younger brother. Growing up, life wasn’t that easy despite my father having a good job. My parents would always help other people, their friends, their church mates, they were very committed Christians who were very active in church but they forgot that God is not only in the church, he is in their home too.
In grade 7, my parents could not afford to buy me uniforms so I had to wear my elder sister’s old uniform which was three sizes too large. The other students would call me ducky! It was embarrassing but God gave me wonderful friends who always stood by me and so I endured the name calling.
I made it to high school but even then I knew what I wanted in life. I told myself I would go to Sogeri National High School, my dad’s old school and one day I would make it to the University of Papua New Guinea and study to become a reporter.
Only a kina for lunch
In high school, I was given K4 for lunch money but instead used that K4 every day to catch bus. So in the end after spending K1.50 in the morning and K1.50 in the afternoon for bus fare I was left with only K1.00 for lunch. By that time, I was a teenager and like all teenagers, I was rebellious. I would go hungry all day, every day to school but I would watch my parents being generous to their church mates and their church, it made me hate church until I stopped going to church altogether. Every request for clothes, foot wear or anything would be met with the common excuse that there was no money.
I would usually borrow clothes from my cousin sister whose father was a security guard. And it would just hurt, that though her father was a security guard, she had good clothes to wear. I started drinking homebrewed beer because it was just too painful.
I made it to Sogeri National High School and couldn’t wait to move out, they left me at Sogeri with a six pack Snax biscuits and a six-pack two-minute noodles and K20. No tissue, no menstruation pads, no nothing.
I took my old clothes with me and my uniform and went to school. But God was good to me, he gave me wonderful friends who would buy me hair cream, a bottle lotion or give me a tissue or buy me clothes when they went to town.
Soon I became a charity case; too ashamed to say my parents were in Port Moresby and my father was working. I would tell my mates that both my parents were subsistence farmers living in the village.
God took that other young girl who drank only 10 tablets but he let you live even though you had drunk 14 tablets. And I can tell you this, One day, you will become somebody great and you will help a lot of people. God has a plan for you, and whatever you think that is hard right now, that is making you give up on life, will seem stupid some 10 years later when you look back.”
I would go home on leave weekends and ask my parents to buy me more things, that I was a girl and I needed stuff to stay at a boarding school. My mum would continue with age old excuse that there was no money. And yet, despite all that, they would continue to buy stuff and help their church mates.
I started smoking marijuana because it was so cheap and affordable in Sogeri and it helped me to get past the pain of knowing that my parents did not care for me.
Every time, I asked for more than K20 allowance, my mother would tell me that I was a daughter who would get married and leave and not take care of her and daddy when they were old.
My brother, on the other hand was given K20 to take to primary school daily. But I loved him with all my heart and I was happy and thankful that he didn’t have to suffer like me.
I made it to the University of Papua New Guinea and they paid for my tuition fee and I bunked up with my best friend in her dormitory room.
I asked my parents to buy my textbooks and the age old excuse again, no money. And yet, they continued to become active members of the church, taking the pastor out for lunch, helping their church mates, it was disgusting. I asked for a phone and was bought a button phone with now internet browser for research while my little brother was given touch screen phones one after another.
So I went from year to year, struggling without textbooks to make it through. At the start of second year, I went home and asked for textbooks; my mother told me there was no money, we had an argument and my father took my mother’s side told me I was just like his sisters and would not take care of them.
To end it all
But how did they know that? The accusations, the hate, the let downs, I just gave up. I drank 14 tablets of chloroquin, what was the point of living. I was rushed to the Port Moresby General Hospital.
I watched a young girl die right before my eyes; she had only taken 10 tablets of the same medicine. I knew I was going to die, and I felt at peace.
But the doctor came in, and he refused to let me die. He pushed a tube in through my nose and just worked on me till I vomited all the medicines, I was given charcoal medicines to fight off the chloroquin in my system.
And when I was stabilised, the doctor spoke to me, and I’ll never forget what he said, “God took that other young girl who drank only 10 tablets but he let you live even though you had drunk 14 tablets. And I can tell you this, One day, you will become somebody great and you will help a lot of people. God has a plan for you, and whatever you think that is hard right now, that is making you give up on life, will seem stupid some 10 years later when you look back.”
I went home, went back to school and never looked back. Today, I am a reporter, with two beautiful children whom I love and provide for equally. It doesn’t matter which one of them grows up and will remember me when I’m old; what matters is I give both the equal opportunity to stand up and archive their dreams.
Ten years later, and I speak to the doctor regularly to get stories but he doesn’t know that I am that same girl who was rushed to emergency some 10 years ago, who turned around and picked up herself and fought for her dreams just because the doctor took five minutes out of his busy schedule to talk to his patient.
Another form of GBV
Gender-based violence is not only when a man beats his wife. Gender-based violence also exists in homes, in family units. When parents choose a son over a daughter that is a form of gender based violence. When a parent provides for one child’s every need but neglects the other because she is a daughter that is a form of gender-based violence too.
Everyone is busy fighting to address gender-based violence, speaking up for the women who are being abused by their husbands that no one is speaking up for the daughters who are abused, who are neglected in their homes by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them.
Sometimes I look back on my life, and though it hurts just a little now, I am glad I went through all that struggle to become the person I am today. I understand that both my parents come from a time where only the men or sons mattered, that daughters were just raised to be wives and were not important.
The abuse continues to this day, where my brother still comes first, is supported through everything he does, no matter how bad it is, they still fight for him.
But I came to realise that family doesn’t always have to be the people you are related to by blood, if you’re family cannot appreciate the wonderful daughter you are, break away and start your own life, build your own family, build your own happiness.
I know it’s hard, I’ve been there. You tolerate it and you live with it because you love them and you cannot imagine life without them but it hurts every time when you know that you’re just a daughter and your parents will never love you like they love their son.
It’s an emotional blackmail. It’s better to walk away from such unhealthy family units, believe in your worth.
You may just be a daughter but you are also special.