Can you imagine that someone who comes from a small community like mine (where one’s business is everyone’s business) can feel estranged from such a community, or even from her or his own family? Well, that is my situation now and if nothing changes about it, I may commit suicide. Yes! You heard me, I want to take my life. If the very people I call family cannot accept me, what is the purpose of being alive? I completed my first degree about eighteen months ago, then six months ago, I won a scholarship to continue my education abroad in a very prestigious university. I was ecstatic. The news spread like a bushfire during the Harmattan, and soon my house became the go-to for the community; they were proud of me, and in one way or another in offered their contributions for my educational endeavor. Some gave foodstuff, money, pieces of advice, just about anything you can think of. It wasn’t just about me, but the feeling of oneness in my community was so strong that no one could go hungry when the neighbor has food in their house.
The day before I left my community to travel abroad, a small durbar was held at the chief’s palace to officially say goodbye to me. It was a bittersweet occasion, they were happy that a daughter of the soil was going to the foreigners’ land and sad that they will miss me. Pieces of advice were aplenty and I became the exemplar for the younger ones. I adjusted quickly when I arrived abroad and was soon swamped with studies and projects, I could barely remember the names of the new people I met every day yet firmly at the back of my mind was this community I had, which I missed and couldn’t wait to go back to. Occasionally I would video call my parents and speak to the visitor present, and a few times, I spoke to the chief and other community members. Everyone had questions but I could never answer all of them. They asked questions like what food do I eat? How are the people in the land like? Do I see snow? I started buying presents that I would take with me when I finally return home.
Then a few months ago, COVID-19 showed its ugly face to the
world and things changed. Unfortunately, I was infected but pulled through. I decided to go home since my people were very worried about me. I wanted them to see that even though I got the virus, I was treated and very healthy now. That turned out to be a wrong move, for as I got to the town where I would take a bus to my community, none of the drivers were willing to give me a ticket. I tried reminding them who I was but they said they know me and they are also aware that I have COVID-19, to which I explained that I did have but I am okay now and very healthy but they would not listen. It took a lot of pleading to have them agree to carry me in one of the buses, and even with that they had to spread materials on the seat and no one was allowed to sit by me.
At the community center where I got down, children who were fetching water at the communal borehole started running away, mothers were pulling their children away and no one even came to help me with my luggage. I headed towards the chief’s palace to announce my arrival but at the entrance, I was told by one of the palace attendants that the chief does not wish to see me. That was shocking because he always stops whatever he is doing to give me audience, I decided to go to my family house but the door was shut in my face. Sadly, I walked home and was expecting my mother at least to leap to her feet when she saw
me, but nope, with her hand in her jaw, she started slowly shaking her head when she noticed me. My father stopped me in my tracks and asked me to follow him, I walked behind him at a distance till we got to the outskirts of the village, a hut had been built and stocked with foodstuff for me, I was not supposed to get near anyone nor go to any of their gatherings, my father said they did not have an option. Once I entered the hut, I wept uncontrollably while clutching my handbag tightly, there was no shoulder to cry on. It was then that I picked up the piece of rope; I could not bear it, I wanted to commit suicide, I just wanted to die. But before I undertake this suicide mission, I needed to tell my story to the world.
COVID-19 is scary because of how fast it is spread around the world and how a lot of people are dying because of it. A lot of education and sensitization have been done about how to prevent getting this virus but little is known about how to handle our family members, neighbors, and friends who get the virus. Do we just cut them off and leave them to their own fate? Much has also not been done about how people who recover from COVID-19 will be socialized back to their communities and most importantly their families so that there would not be any stigmatization shown to them. Maybe the health personnel handling COVID-19 issues are providing some counseling to these patients, if such a thing does not exist, they should think about it and also extend this service to the families of the patients.
A lot of people who are recovering from the virus may not survive the stigma that society will show them. Just imagine that one member of your family has tested positive, has been quarantined and treated and been released to come home, will you welcome her or him with open arms? That is the kind of stigma we are talking about. Let us be opened minded to these people and show compassion to them. We do not want to record suicide cases soon as a result of stigmatization.
Stigmatization is one trait that’s being associated with us for a while now and truth be told, this has made people more miserable than the condition through which they are being stigmatized. Take for example patients who test positive to the HIV virus, though the antiretroviral drugs do work and give them another shot at life, they have to by all possible means keep it a secret so as to avoid public scrutiny and judgment. There have been calls from a portion of the public to government and other stakeholders in the fight against COVID-19 to show visual evidence in the form of pictures and or videos of those infected as prove of infection but were ignored due to fear of the victims being stigmatized. This is a wake-up call on all of us to stop the stigma and show love and support in any way we could to these victims.
Let us continue to avoid touching our faces, washing our hands, using our sanitizers, wear face-mask (the government of Ghana and other governments in some other countries are insisting on wearing of face-masks in public), drinking water, doing exercises, taking vitamins, and all the other things we are advised not to do or do during this period.
This blog post is dedicated to JUSTIN B. ABESIG (JBA). JBA is a second born of seven siblings and a Dagara from Kokoligu in the Nandom Municipal of the upper west region of Ghana 🇬🇭. He is Google Certified Digital Marketer. He is the Hon. Speaker, Nandom Municipal Youth Parliament and works with SOMOCO GH LTD and currently the manager of the upper west branch. His social media handles:
Facebook profile: Jba Justin Abesig
https://www.facebook.com/AbesigBetengtambJustinFacebook page: Jba Justin Abesig
Visit to Like my Page-https://www.facebook.com/109012810734631?referrer=whatsapp linkedIn: J B A (Justin B Abesig Instagram: MarketerJba
https://www.instagram.com/heritage_sheabutter?r=nametag Twitter: @MarketerJba
JBA has been instrumental in education and sensitisation of people in the Upper West region on COVID 19. CHEERS!!!
#Say no to stigmatization, #Stay safe #Mask up, #Sanitize, #Stay at home if you can