This blog post is a collaboration between Winifred Ahupa and Ala Oueslati

Something tugs me here

In my belly

Like the strings of a banjo

Struck by hands or legs

Your might defies what

A child possesses

Your birthsong of love

Filters in, slowly at first

Like the emergence of

A baby lunar crescent

Then with a suddenness

You kick the walls of me

Sending jolts of lyrics-

That dispels silence

As fact does a myth

This moment heals me

Of every pain, locked away

Seeing you cupped here

Like a shy flower in August

Does nothing, but nurture me.


Doshima Skander had always been overwhelmed by the desire to have a baby since she got married. The idea of breastfeeding her own child gave her Goosebumps. When she got pregnant she felt like she had finally begun to own her life. She cared too much about what she would eat, drink and do in her free time – she wanted to have a healthy pregnancy and a perfect baby. Like any mom, she felt very protective and so much love for the life growing in her womb.

She knew her story could be told through the joyful images of her family and baby girl. She also knew that nobody would understand the special bond that existed between her and her baby. The unintelligible gurgles her child made sounded to her like an angelic choir, a bird song – like the pitter patter of raindrops in a grassy meadow. She had always heard people talk about maternal love, now she knew exactly how it feels like, a feeling so real and pure, so true and engulfing. She knew she would do anything for her beautiful baby girl.

It was her baby’s naming ceremony – eight days after her child was born. As it is customary in every naming ceremony, her baby was given names by her, her husband, her parents, her parents-in law and her baby’s godmother. By the time the naming ceremony was over, her baby had over seven names – names they all believed could frame her baby’s life.

Doshima watched as her baby grew, she wanted to be the only one to experience the special moments she and her baby had. She didn’t appreciate very much friends and family lifting her child up in the air and giving her endless kisses on her soft little cheeks. She believed that would make her sick. But it wasn’t for her to decide- to have a child in her community is to allow the child to be raised by every elder. When the time came for her to breastfeed, she always did that in the privacy of her quarters.

Before her daughter turned five, she had begun to tell her stories about monkeys, lions and tortoises. She told her stories of her childhood, the first time she met her husband, the cooking lessons her mother gave her. She also told her how their house was built, how she worked in the farm, day and night, and how she had named every single pigeon that would fly over her when she grinded wheat with a hand mill in front of the house. She told her baby stories of Africa, stories that shaped her identity. She told her stories that made her cry, others that made her laugh.

Doshima taught her daughter the core values and traditions of her people. She made sure her daughter knew what it meant to be honest and generous, to treat people around her – her peers and elders alike – with respect and love. She taught her child about the importance of family. She wasn’t privileged to have a good education, but she made sure her child went to school.

Doshima’s daughter was not the most famous girl in Africa. She was barely known in her village. In her school however, she was very well known, because she had the best grades. She was a healthy clever girl who already spoke three languages and knew how to braid her hair into a ponytail. She did not wear the fanciest clothes or eat the tastiest meals. She did not always have a coin in her pocket but she was a happy child who belonged to a happy family.

She was not called “African”. Because unlike the rest of the world, in Africa, being African was not out of the ordinary. She was not pitied, because there was nothing to pity about her. She just needed support, like any other child in other parts of the world. She loved and was loved. she laughed and cried and learned things that inspired her and made her more courageous.

She was grateful for everything around her and she shone, like a proud African child.

This blog post was originally created for UNICEF’s Voices of Youth. The post is shared through a partnership with the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth to further amplify the voices of young people.

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