Today, I will not bow! By Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido is a poem about a girl child’s resolve to not bow to the false precept that it is a man’s world.

There are many days yet ahead for bowing.
Many days gone past for crying,
But not today! Today, I will not bow.
Today, I shall be born and my mother will not weep
When she beholds the folds between my thighs
And my father will not stare at her with accusing eyes.
Yes, today, my father will not hunch over,
And hiss out loud, brokenly; ‘It is a girl!’
To the soft hum of my mother’s searing, silent cries
And his half-brother’s pitying glances and mocking sighs.

Today, he will proclaim to his kinsmen,
Hitting his hard warrior chest with pride
That a first-born child is gifted to him,
A child who’ll inherit his history, cattle and farmlands
A girl-child who will be free to love and to learn
The secrets of kings and the traditions of his land, of red earth

Today, I am Queen, cherished and respected
I will not be bartered off to any willing aging groom.
I refuse be beaten or battered,
Stoned with cold rocks and killed,
In honour, by the callused hands
Of beloved brothers and uncles
On whose knees I once bounced with joy
And in whose warm arms I was lovingly rocked

Today, I refuse to be sentenced to a life-prison,
That cold-room of resentment, bitterness, gloom and doom.
Today I will not bow, to the voices telling me hush and stand still
And watch passively as my dreams disintegrate and die before me.
I refuse to live a sham version of life,
Feeling fractured and broken.
Today, I will honour and nurture the seeds
Of my day dreams and night dreams
Today, I choose to bloom.

Today, I will not bow!
Because my spirit is still strong and unshaken
Today, I will not bow!
Not even when I am attacked and maligned
By lost souls, shackled by their own fears,
Who turn my eyes away from the pages of life
Afraid that I may discover new worlds and adventures
-Of Achebe, Adichie, Tennyson, Tagore
-Marie Curie, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti
In citadels of learning, within the sacred halls and walls of life

Today, I will not bow
To the drums of the shriveled village medicine woman
[Drum beats (♪, ♫)]
As she leads the crazed dance,
And at its feverish peak,
They restrain me down and crudely hack off
-the tingling bud of my maidenhead!
They cannot stomach the sensual powers of this woman-child.
How they fear the fires of desires hidden in my shapely hips.
And the heavenly bliss waiting
In the un-suckled milk of my beautiful, budding, bouncing breasts.
They seek to silence my tongue so that I shall not question the ineptitude of the men who ride with no skill.
They seek to strip me of the source of my orgasmic deaths of life, Sentenced to an endless, aching waiting, -that never comes

Today, I will not bow
To the diseased, sick, dirty old village chief
My bridegroom? Stealers of my childhood
Who take me, a mere 13-year old, for wife, -slave?
A child bearing another child
Today, I will not bow
Not in guilt and definitely not in shame
To the cowards (they, who call themselves soldiers of faith and religion), who greedily plucked and sucked away
All the fruits and juices from my plush innocent gardens,
Even when I screamed ‘NO!’
Leaving me there,
By the dusty, dirty roadside dead and dry.

There are many days yet ahead for bowing,
Many days gone past for crying
But not today, no, not today!
Today, I refuse to bow
This is the day that I will not bow
Today, I rise for every woman-child:
Ancestors gone before me
And the unborn, after me
I stand here,
-And hold sacred space in the gap.
And together, with my sisters’ spirit to guide me
I declare that we are all worthy – man, woman and child!
Yes indeed, tomorrow is yet unknown,
And yesterday not yet forgotten
But today? Today is NOT the day I bow!

Today, I cease to hide under the sweeping skirts
of my mother’s fears,
Ma-jestic, a free-spirited stallion chained in life’s choking barn,
a fierce tigress, caged in,
I choose now to awaken, run my race, breathe
And live my dreams instead
Today, I shall stand tall on this stage of life
And be me, authentically me,
Accepting, embracing the
Newness of all I co-create
And when I’m done, I’ll gracefully take my bow.
Yesterday, I was nameless, faceless, dreamless and voiceless
And today? I am re-born anew by an a-ma-zing gr-ace (♪, ♫)
I am Amina of Nigeria,
I am Malala of Pakistan,
I am Rawan of Yemen,
I am Damini of India,
I am a little girl lost in Chibok…
And today I shall not bow
Today I invite you all
And together, we ARISE!



Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido is an international Speaker, Poet-Storyteller, Master-Certified Leadership Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is the author of upcoming books “UN-Locking Your HeART of Leadership”, “Conversations with an African Grandmother” and a collection of poetry: ‘Today, I will not bow”. Her portfolio of poems has been featured across different media platforms and performed live in Canada, USA and in several Africa countries.
Juliet was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria; she immigrated to Canada over a decade ago. And currently splits her time between both her birth and adopted homelands. Her educational and professional backgrounds span multi-disciplinary fields of Electrical Engineering, International Business, Investment and Financial Services, Project Management, Professional Coaching and Training.
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  1. This poetry reflects the deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,” An exccellence piece.

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