I barely knew that there was a civil war in Sierra Leone until it was declared over in 2002. I remember seeing an episode of “Oprah” about the horrors women were suffering there: rape, murder, AIDS, extreme poverty. I knew as horrific as it was, I needed to know more. So I will definitely be reading the new memoir Bite of the Mango that tells the excruciating details of Sierra Leone survivor, Mariatu Kamara, who was 11 when her village was raided by rebel forces who took her prisoner. Her story is so unbelievable that you would swear it was fiction.
After months, Mariatu’s captors finally released her, but not before they inflicted one last injury. They told her she must choose a punishment—which hand she wanted cut off. When Mariatu refused to choose, the boys—ironically, the same age as her—chopped off both of her hands. When she finally came to, she ran in searing pain to another village and she was eventually taken to a hospital in Freetown. While in the hospital, Mariatu received another shock—she was pregnant by an older man in her village that had raped her before her capture. Still, Mariatu had to learn how to do basic things again—like washing and feeding herself. Miraculously, she was reunited with her three cousins at the hospital who had also lost limbs when rebel soldiers attacked them.
Having nowhere to go after the hospital, Mariatu and her remaining family members went to live in a tent camp for amputees where they earned money by begging. When it was time for Mariatu to give birth, there were complications and she had to have a C-section. Ten months later, her baby, Abdul, died of malnutrition. Just when Mariatu thought there was no reason left to live, she received word from the camp that a man from Canada had seen her in a newspaper article written by foreign journalists and wanted to give Mariatu money for food and clothes. Eventually the Canadian man and his family wanted to bring her to Canada to visit them.
In 2002, her dreams came true when she went to Toronto. After a short stay with the Canadian family, a Sierra Leoneon family took Mariatu in for good. Encouraged by her new adoptive parents, she was determined to get an education and help the rest of her family back in Sierra Leone. Without hands but with a lot of heart and determination, she did just that.
I can’t wait to read more about her journey. And if that doesn’t inspire you to be an advocate of women’s rights world-wide, I don’t know what will. I am so glad that she lived to tell the tale. [Daily Mail]