My mother told me stories
When I was four
Told me
That the prince took the princess’s hands
And led her to the castle

Told me
My life would be the same as the princess
And someone would take my hands too
But it was different from
What she told me

While I was his daughter
Instead of coddling me
With all the love he had in his hands
He beat me
With all the power they had

While I was his sister
With the hands that he should have used
To lead me to school
Instead he forced me with those hands
To an unknown home

While I was his wife
Instead of defending me against lies
He deprived me and locked me
In a dark world apart from my rights

I was his mother
Waiting to hear sweet things from him
He said the cruelest things instead
Which hurt me to death

And even now
They think of me as a machine
Which produces boys
Instead of a human who is the same as them

Instead of thinking of me
As a daughter, sister, mother, and partner
I am the victim of tradition
In the past, present, and future

by Arifa, age 14

Photo of Mont Saint-Michel Castle, Normandy, by Nicolas Raymond.