Genetic condition: How different are we from the rest of the world?

Strange memory, one event triggers long time memory to help put confusion to rest. I am grateful for this more ‘open’ world where I learn almost daily that under our very many different shades of skin colour, we are not too different.

It was enlightening reading about Jacqui Beck where she talked about living with MRKH syndrome, a condition where one is born with no womb, cervix or vaginal opening.

What was even more enduring was the way she handles it all, after dealing the initial shock and the community effort that helped her to deal with this condition.

With MRKH, external genitalia is normal so possible to live with the condition to adulthood without suspecting. Most detect they had it due to absence of period or inability to have sex due to shallow vaginal carnal.

Then I remember, we do have that condition in Nigeria too, women with such condition are called Akiribótó in Yoruba. Like any unusual condition, the stigma is worse than the condition itself.

When I was little, there was a woman who has a fruit stall in the local market, her birth name was only used when addressing her directly, her name any other time was Akiribótó.

I want to remember what was said about this woman and what her status is today,  happy my sister remembers her too, unfortunately we both had no idea what her real name was – shame. My sister still sees the woman occasionally and her name remains the same – very sad. I am glad the woman found a solace in the church – this is when I think church provides a much-needed escape for those that society would not stop picking on.

The lady in my town must be in her late 50s now, apparently her news came to light after she got married, unfortunately, the marriage only lasted for a couple of months.

And of course living in a rural area doesn’t help especially in areas where superstition is easily accepted as explanation for anything unusual. I can only imagine how much this woman must have run from pillar to post in the past, doing all sorts of sacrifices to dispel her condition.

I do hope we continue to learn we are no longer in an isolated world, hopefully people living with this condition can find peace knowing they are not alone.

As it just happens that sometimes women’s worth is measured by her ability to reproduce, well in the case Akiribótó this can not happen, unfortunately, however, at least women living with this type of condition can make peace with the fact that intimate relationship is still very much possible with help of medical interventions. And more importantly to know is that we are in ever connected world where there are lots of community support even if it have to be from across the atlantic.



Categories: Education, Myths I grow up with, Nigeria, Women

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. There is a lot of good in the world. Enjoy the rest of your week dear. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Nomzi for stopping by. You are right, plenty of goodness in the world, it’s incredible!
      Nigeria will fully contribute and participate in the world’s goodness when we are ready to let go of the habits that are pulling us down.

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  2. Yeye MI!! FK thanks for sharing this, up to this time I only know of the word -Akiriboto that’s from Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barry’s song, I never knew the meaning. I’m now enlightened about it and I hope people living with it seek medical attention knowing that there is a solution. Just like in one of your previous post, we need to enlighten people on the ills of seeking spiritual solution to something that needs medical attention.

    However, I will disagree with you that our people are empathic, if this nation of ours have a 20% pop of empathic citizens we might have a different story about stigmatization in this country, we are all mostly guilty of being sympathetic but only want to believe we are empathic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeye, Ese o. Ayinde Barrister of blessed memory, loved his songs.

      Because MRKH is a very rear condition (one in 4,500 births) it means one only get to know about it if someone living with the condition is near by. I only knew about this woman in my town.

      What I have seen that differentiates us from say UK for example is that once a new information about a condition is uncovered, there will be plenty of information circulated using all medium possible including support group.

      In our case everthing and all thing if new and less understood is wrapped under or direct to a religious leader who in most cases has no clue. That is one of the reasons witches and wizards are very popular culprits for all that is not perfect including genetic disorders.

      Information that is meant for public good should be funded by the government and private citizens too, so citizens can be at ease.
      I think our people can be generous understanding other’s plight, my mother benefited enormously from a complete stranger who stood by her during hard time – I still remember Mama Taofiki’s kindness today.

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  3. FK, what you detailed about the local understanding of this condition is more akin to vicious schoolyard behaviour. Calling people names because of one condition or another, except that this is worse, it has now been enshrined in ‘culture’ and as such, this unwarranted anti-social behaviour is considered acceptable.
    Another point is that, if people weren’t so horrid, and’ minded their own business’ , would there be any need for this unfortunate woman to run and find shelter from such unwanted stigma in the church? Suppose everyone was just ‘cool about it’, then she could live her life like a normal being. Rather than hiding behind the church to obtain some degree of protection from the derision that others are only too willing to pour onto her. One could say that the adults in society are somewhat immature, to view differences in such an unempathetic way.
    Once again FK, thank you for showing the way and casting light where darkness reigns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you jco.

      What I have realised to be major problem in developing world in this case Nigeria is lack of education, even in Nigeria it will take us sometime to rationalise many issues rather than just accept the same old baseless explanation.

      Come to think of it, our people as you know can be extremely empathetic toward neighbours and friends, this if the cause of challenges fall into the mainstream that everyone can relate to. Any condition that is rare is stigmatised and the sufferers will have double dosage of issues to deal with.

      You know this is the same case for mental health patients hence we have thousands on our roads sleeping by the roadside even though a few of our hospitals (too few for the population) do offer help now and very affordable medication i.e UCH Ibadan. Most family don’t know this, so they opt to go to church mountains where they are heavily sedated with valium half the time, poor family jubilates that miracle is happening, well until the next episode. I know this because a family member fell victim thankfully found out about UCH.

      Oh, well I only hope that people will reach out now to get comfort.

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      • In the absence of independent thinking by the populace, then it is down to the parents to advise their children, just because you don’t understand a conditon or relate to it, is no grounds for unpleasantness (at best) or outright hostility (at worst). You don’t need to spend years in school to know this simple truth…Just be thankful it wasn’t you (not literally you, but the person concerned).

        Having kids is great (though, that can be abused), but not having kids should be viewed as ‘ok too’. Afterall there is no shortage of people there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ha jco, I think here is more about education beyond the four walls of the classroom. Many who have advanced degree in Nig are the hardest to get any sense into because they are convinced ‘it is our tradition’

          And you are spot on about the lack of independent thinking – this is very obvious in all facets hence in most cases, no one want to take responsibility for just about anything. To me this is the huge drawback of collectivism vs. individualism society.

          Right, no shortage of children, we have plenty. Have you heard about baby factory in Nigeria? Well, that’s a whole other story. Surrogacy is frowned upon, adoption is seeing as buying – got to be yours mentality so folks are pushed to the limit so we have our very own miracle factories specialised in getting young women pregnant by a few men, busy guys they are…

          Now baby factories were raided yet no one sees that is inevitable in a country where everyone is stigmatised for not having children of their own. Ha!

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  4. Folakemi, your posts are filled with such humanity and kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

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