The lean, muscular boy lifts his hand and slaps the cute, pudgy girl in the face. Hard.
He’s about seven and she’s less than half his age. For a second she looks at him with her big baby eyes, shocked. Then she starts crying and screaming. It breaks my fucking heart. To shut her up, the boy whips her on the back with some branches used to broom. The girl stops and rubs her shoulder. The wives in the compound ask what is happening, in Dagbani, and I believe that the young boy explains that he’s trying to broom but the toddler is in the way. Satisfied by the explanation, the wives continue their work and the small girl is shoved aside. The boy continues sweeping and life continues moving. I continue to wash my laundry by hand, less satisfied by the dirt out of my clothes and into the water than before.
People in Komoayili love their kids. Children are carried on the back of their mother in a cloth, to be able to give them constant attention. It is a common sight to see a man with a small child on a bench, simply sitting and holding each together. Young children take care of younger children and everyone is a brother and a sister, regardless of family lineage. They play football together, eat together, go to school together, catch bats and fry them on the fire together, sing songs together, plant groundnut seeds together, and even wash each other. It shows that they truly do love each other. Every time a youngling is sick, special attention is paid to him or her, powders and local medication are administered, and prayers are made. People deeply and truly care about each other. It shows, all the time.
Personally, and like the vast majority of the world, I love kids. This seems to be a universal trait hardcoded into the human race and even most, or all, of the animal kingdom. It’s a survival instinct. Plus let’s face it, what’s cuter than a baby or a small child? I don’t understand any context in which physical violence should be a method of discipline. I know it happens in Canada and it happened right in front of me here in Ghana. I understand that life is rough, that every day is filled with hard-work simply to meet basic needs like getting food, water, cooking, farming, washing, and… sweeping. I know that as an outsider it might not be my place to intervene but is the best strategy, to say it bluntly, to simply sweep the issue aside?