She’s my son

Never knowing freedom or bondage after a taste of freedom?

Aisha Mustapha
4 min readMay 20, 2020


A first glance at the above picture, you’ll see a male. Looking at it carefully, you’ll start to see feminine features. She’s what they call a “Bacha Posh”; which means dressed like a boy. T-shirt, muffler, short hair and no ornaments, you may wonder why a girl has decided to “dress like a boy”. Let me take you through my eye opening.

The first time I heard about Bacha Posh was while I was reading Nadia Hashimi’s book : One half from the east. I reckoned it must be a fictional concept, so I brushed it off. But when I saw it again in her book : “The pearl that broke its shell”, I knew I had to check it out. So Google I went and YouTube I landed. I watched a documentary -titled she’s my son- that opened my eyes and mind to a new dimension of life, culture and gender.

It’s no news that Nigeria with its diverse ethnicity and culture share at least one thing in common: Male-centric (ness).

If you don’t have male child, you dont have any children in the eyes of many folks here. A father of 3 girls and 1 boy; upon the death of the boy, he proclaimed he now has only one child left because “infinity ♾ girls = 1 child”.

According to science, a man determines the gender of the child, but to most Nigerians, it’s the woman that decides to give birth to a girl or boy. Hence, the blame of the family’s “inability” to conceive a male child is placed squarely on her shoulders. She starts conceiving after conceiving in a bid to beat the time set by biology, in-laws and society. Sneers, insults, pity; she becomes a consumer thereof. So much that she expects the man to father a son even if it means with another woman.

In fact, Few weeks ago, the man that smashed his female infant on the ground due to his anger of her not being a boy was all over the headlines. The female children amidst all these are stripped of confidence, after years of hearing and being treated as just not enough. So much for a “religious” society. God is the all-giver and all-knower except when it comes to female children, the mother is responsible for that.

The Afghan society, as most societies do, view women as inferior, second class citizens. The women live a covered and secluded life by compulsion. Right to education, movement, work and empowerment are limited for women. “Living life on your terms” is a foreign concept to the women since as a consequence of the restrictions, they must live on the earnings and terms of the bread winners. Owned by their father or brothers and passed on to the husband when they attain puberty.

Since the women are oppressed and the men have immense freedom, a high value is placed on sons. Families without one face societal stigma and lots of disadvantages. But their society found a way to navigate their self-created constraints in a way that is profound to the mind; “Dressing a girl as a boy”. The Bacha Posh can therefore do all a male is free to do. A girl can’t be free but a girl dressed as a boy is. Ironic!

All seems good because the family has one less stigma to face and an earning and female-escorting hand until the Bacha Posh reaches puberty and she’s expected to to live as an Afghan female after a rather brief stay as a male. Never knowing freedom or bondage after a taste of freedom?

Some change back to being female and some choose to remain as a Bacha Posh. It seems freedom in their society must wear a regalia of masculinity.

Growing up, I had the opinion that the society is unfair to women because Africa is backward. Now, more exposed, I realized that societies may be diverse and differ in a lot of ways, but they are unified in its perception of women.

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I’m on Twitter @aisha_mutapha and Instagram @isha_musty.



Aisha Mustapha

I write based on what I read, learn, see and think.🧘‍♀️